The Fujifilm X-H2S—which since its introduction has been joined by the higher-resolution X-H2—is a fascinating successor to 2018’s X-H1. At that time, the Fujifilm X-H1 was an outlier in the Fujifilm X Series lineup. The camera was larger, featured a bigger grip and sported a large information display on top. It looked like a hybrid between the GFX series and the X Series.
“Hybrid” is a fitting word since the X-H1 was also Fujifilm’s most “hybrid” camera yet. The new flagship camera was the first X Series camera to include in-body image stabilization and the first to record DCI 4K video with internal log (F-log) recording.
Enter the Fujifilm X-H2S ($2499), Fujifilm’s highest-performance X Series camera ever. Speed is the name of the game with the X-H2S. Inside its SLR-style body is a brand-new 26.1-megapixel stacked X-Trans CMOS 5 HS image sensor, super-fast X-Processor 5, AI-powered autofocus and much more. If the new X-H2 is all about resolution, the X-H2S is all about agility. This camera shoots at up to 40 frames per second at full resolution with full AF/AE. It’s fast.
There’s no doubt that on paper, the Fuji X-H2S is an absolute beast of a camera. It lives up to every bit of its flagship billing. But is it worth its $2,500 price point, which puts it well into full-frame camera territory? Let’s take a closer look in this hands-on review.
Design & Handling
There’s a lot to like about the Fujifilm X-H2S. Some aspects of the camera are universally praised. However, concerning the camera’s design, this is where the X-H2S and subsequent X-H2 are a bit polarizing. A big part of the X Series’ appeal has been camera design and handling, and cameras with dedicated dials for shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation have been the norm.
The X-H2S takes a departure from this. You’ll find a typical dial to control shooting mode and buttons you use alongside the command dials to control ISO and exposure compensation. Is something of value lost with this approach? I think so. However, is it a bad tradeoff? Absolutely not. What good is a camera that shoots at 40 fps if you’re wasting valuable time fiddling with dials?
If you’ve never shot with the X-H1, the X-H2S may initially strike you as slightly large for a Fujifilm X Series camera. The height and width aren’t so different from other X Series models, but the X-H2S’s depth is quite a bit larger. This is almost entirely because of the X-H2S’s prominent front grip. The beefy grip makes the camera a bit more voluminous, but it’s worth it because it’s an excellent grip. I was especially grateful for the large front grip when shooting with the new, reasonably large XF 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens.
Alongside a great front grip, the X-H2S also includes a large e-ink information panel. I’m used to a display like this from my time using Fujifilm GFX series cameras, but it’s something absent from the X-T4. Instead of a top display, that camera includes ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials. Tradeoffs. I prefer the X-H2S’s overall control approach, but I understand why some photographers prefer physical dials.
There are a couple more important displays to discuss. The X-H2S’s rear panel is 3 inches and has 1.62M dots. It’s sharp and bright. It’s also a vari-angle display, which works very well for stills and video. The display can be flipped entirely around to use as a self-facing display or to protect the screen when the camera is packed away, which is a nice touch.
The camera’s electronic viewfinder is also excellent. It’s an all-new EVF with 5.76M dots (up from 3.69M on the original X-H1). The X-H2S’s EVF has 0.8x magnification, which is an improvement over 0.75x. In use, the EVF is excellent. The camera also does a good job in most situations of automatically switching between the EVF and rear display, something Fujifilm says it’s improved with the X-H2S. The EVF can refresh at 120 fps when using the camera in its “Boost” performance mode, which is super smooth. It’s a very nice EVF, and I think it’s Fujifilm’s best yet in the X Series.
Overall, the X-H2S is a well-designed camera. Its controls are intelligently placed and easy to use. Controlling the camera is swift, which is especially important given that it’s a flagship, pro-level camera.
At the heart of the X-H2S is a new image sensor. While it may not represent a megapixel improvement over the X-T4’s sensor, the new sensor is significantly different thanks to its stacked design. The X-Trans CMOS 5 HS is Fujifilm’s first stacked image sensor, and the impressive architecture unlocks serious performance. We’ll discuss performance further a bit later.
As for image quality, it’s excellent. The camera’s native ISO range of 160-51,200 delivers impressive image quality across much of its range. Considering low ISO performance, RAW and JPEG images are sharp and detailed, with impressive dynamic range and great color. There’s a lot to gain by shooting in RAW. At low ISO settings, the files offer a lot of latitude for making extensive adjustments to shadows and highlights. As you increase shadow detail, you do introduce a bit of visible noise, but it’s generally fine-grained and not distracting.
As you increase ISO, image quality remains quite nice. Considering JPEG images straight from the camera, the X-H2S applies reasonably good noise reduction in the camera. You lose a bit more detail than if you processed raw files yourself, but the results look good and aren’t overly “digital” or muddy looking.
When working with RAW image files, you can process high-ISO shots to have an impressive amount of detail without accepting a lot of noise. I prefer more detail, even if it comes at the cost of additional visible noise. The extra noise isn’t distracting most of the time, especially when viewing images online or when making prints.
Importantly, even though noise levels increase alongside the ISO speed, color rendition and dynamic range remain quite impressive, as expected. You lose some dynamic range as you increase ISO, as is always true, but image quality remains very usable up through ISO 12,800. If you need to push the ISO further, you can, although it comes with a rather high cost.
Overall, the X-H2S delivers great all-around image quality. In-camera JPEG images look excellent and are highly tunable to your preferences, thanks to Fujifilm’s industry-leading Film Simulations. RAW images are similarly impressive, offering good dynamic range, significant flexibility during post-processing and great tonality. It will be very interesting to see how the X-H2’s 40MP sensor compares to the X-H2S’s 26MP stacked sensor, but if you’re worried about 26MP coming up short concerning sharpness or detail, it’s a misplaced worry.
With the X-H2S, Fujifilm has joined its competitors in the AI arms race. The X-H2S utilizes “deep learning technology” to recognize different subjects, including humans, animals, automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, airplanes and trains. You can cycle through different subjects in the camera’s quick menu—the X-H2S won’t automatically detect the subject otherwise.
However, it’s worth noting that there’s an additional setting for face/eye detection for human subjects, as there have been for prior X Series cameras. The AI AF will also detect the face/eye of animals, and there are two categories for animal AF: mammal and bird. Interestingly, the bird AF worked for me when photographing insects and amphibians, and I’ve heard that it works for reptiles, too, which is a nice bonus.
The overall autofocus system isn’t much different from the one featured in the X-T4, although the improved sensor readout speed and more powerful processor result in significantly faster AF performance. However, the introduction of AI subject detection is critical. It’s a highlight feature of the X-H2S. So how well does it work?
Considering it’s the first iteration, I think it works well. When using it for wildlife, the camera accurately identified the subject most of the time, even in low-light situations. However, performance dipped a bit when a bird or mammal wasn’t facing the camera.
There were also occasional situations where a subject was obvious to me in the frame, but the camera didn’t pick it up quickly. It’s not the best AI AF I’ve seen in a camera, but it’s still very good. In most situations, it works better and quicker than I could if I manually moved the point around, especially when photographing moving subjects.
The AI system works with existing AF settings, so you can combine spot AF for manual precision and AI for subject detection if you want. For example, if using spot AF with AI subject detection enabled, the camera will still focus on a detected subject, even if it’s outside the selected autofocus area.
Overall, the autofocus performance is excellent. The X-H2S features Fujifilm’s best AF technology to date, and it’s a noticeable improvement in speed and accuracy compared to Fujifilm’s previous high-end cameras, which were no slouches.
The stacked sensor affects autofocus and also plays a major role in the X-H2S’s overall performance. The X-H2S can shoot full-resolution RAW images at up to 40 frames per second with full AF/AE. Yes, 40 fps. That’s fast.
There are a couple of caveats. The X-H2S’s autofocus system doesn’t always keep pace with the camera’s shooting speed, depending on the situation and the lens you use. And you must use the electronic shutter to achieve these speeds.
Neither of these realities is surprising. The camera’s electronic shutter is quite good. The sensor’s fast readout speed allows for reduced rolling shutter, and I didn’t have any noticeable issues with rolling shutter artifacts during my time with the camera.
If you don’t want to use the electronic shutter for whatever reason, you can use the camera’s mechanical shutter. Using the mechanical shutter, the X-H2S still shoots at up to 15 frames per second, which is plenty fast for many situations. When using the mechanical shutter at 15 fps, you also benefit from increased buffer depth, so that’s an interesting tradeoff.
That said, buffer depths are impressive, especially when using a CFexpress Type B card like I did. With a fast card, you can capture around 200 RAW images before the camera slows down at 40 fps. As for JPEG images, you can capture slightly more, although the bigger advantage here is that the buffer clears in just a few seconds versus about 10 seconds for RAW+JPEG.
If you slow the camera down to 30 fps, which is still very fast, the buffer depth increases by around 50 percent for RAW images, and the JPEG buffer is practically endless (greater than 1,000 shots). At 15 fps, the RAW buffer is more than 400, by the way. The buffer depth performance is really impressive.
Overall, the Fujifilm X-H2S’s performance is stellar. The electronic shutter is well-implemented, and the performance it allows is excellent. I wish the AF could keep up with the camera’s top shooting speed more reliably, but 40 fps is a very tall order.
The Fujifilm X-H2S is the best choice in the Fujifilm X Series for wildlife and action photographers. If you need high-res shooting, the new X-H2 might be more up your alley. However, if you want speed, the X-H2S is for you. Buy it here for $2499.
Jeremy Gray is the reviews editor of our sibling website, Imaging Resource. Read an extended version of this review and check out additional sample images at imaging-resource.com.