181112 XH - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

It's a sad truth, but when I have nothing better to talk about, I talk about cameras. Here, at work, and socially. But the happy truth is that I like talking about cameras – way too much, in fact – so here it is. In my Hibernation post I mentioned that the Fujifilm X-H line will, with luck, be my body of choice going forward. That's a pretty drastic change of opinion for me, so here's why it happened.

There are two ways that I use my cameras: handheld or on a tripod. Let's look at those in order.

The XH isn't small, but it's a camera-sized camera, and is still easier to live with than the SLRs that I used to use. But the grip is fantastic, which is what the bigger bulk buys you. And the shutter sound is sublime – there's no need to use the electronic shutter when I'm taking family/baby photos. That quietness alone was enough reason for me to borrow one from Fuji for a long weekend, and that time completely reversed my opinion of the camera. Add in the useful image stabilization and it's a significant upgrade for hand-held photography. All it needs is a tripod plate across the base of the camera to even out some ergonomic oddness where it's meant to integrate with the battery pack and it'll be perfect. Bulky, but tough and perfect. I'll keep my family-oriented X-T100 for when I want a carry-around camera that probably won't get used.

The other way I use a camera, and the way I take most of my better photos recently, is on a tripod. And when I do this I'm usually working in manual mode for long exposures, often in the dark, so swapping the exposure compensation dial for a backlit status LCD is a major win. I'd still like to be able set the back dial for EV Comp without needing the +/- button, Nikon-style, but maybe they'll get there eventually. For tripod work the size of the camera hardly matters at all, and weighing more doesn't matter if it dampens shutter shock. So while the size and control layout of the XH1 isn't as good as the XT2 for general photography, I've come to realize that I don't actually do General Photography. Or, if I do, I do it with the X-T100 or X100F because the X-T2 is already too big to carry around all day for no particular reason.

So as it stands right now the X-H1 is a major upgrade over my X-T2 with practical improvements for what I actually do.

But I'm not going to buy one,* because I've seen the X-T3.

And I'm not going to buy one of those, either, because I've used an X-H1. 


Having seen what the X-T3 can do I'm going to wait, and hope that the XT3 internals and design improvements make it into an XH body. And I'm going to do that because Fujifilm listens to me and cares what I think.

Honest.

I've loathed the click-turn back dial since Fuji started using it – actually, since before then. I hated it way back in 2009 on my Panasonic GH1, and would fight people over it if they said otherwise. Including the late and sorely missed Michael Reichmann, in person. So you can trust that I've made my feelings known to Fujifilm Canada's people at every chance I've had. Well, the X-T100's "coin slot" dial is immune to the click-turn continuum by design, and the new X-T3's dial is so stiff that it's practically impossible for it to misconstrue enthusiasm. I'm going to count that as a personal victory.

Next up: making the Q menu selection and adjustment interface consistent with the main menus, and getting their exposure compensation dials (when present) able to be zeroed out by feel. I've been working on those for a year or five, as well.

But I digress.


Oddly, the main things that should appeal to me on the X-T3 – night-red menus and iso160 – aren't really what I care about for an X-H upgrade. Yes, the red mode would be nice, especially if there was a way to enable it without navigating a half-dozen daylight-bright menu commands. Setting iso160 would get a bit more stretch for daylight long exposures, but at night I'm usually in the middle-hundreds anyway. I'll still happily take a new sensor, though, and an autofocus system that's even better in the dark. But those have never really been shortcomings with my older XT2.

Nope, what I really like from the XT3 is that the 2.5mm cable release port has moved from the left-hand fuse box panel to having its own port cover on the right side of the body. More compatible with an L-bracket, better for weather sealing, and easier to find in the dark. It's a little thing that can make a big difference. 

I also like that the new X-T3 and current X-H1 turn off the EVF sensor when the LCD is folded out. (My Olympus Stylus 1s P&S theoretically also does this, but the LCD position sensor broke almost immediately. I sent it in for warranty repair, and then it broke again almost immediately.) This eye sensor is too useful to disable completely, but leaving it on is a nagging hassle with my X-T2 – shoot with the LCD, reach for the playback button to review, and trip the eye sensor, turning off the LCD. I've learned to sneak up on the playback button with a wide left hook. That I should need to learn this is just plain silly.

And, of course, I want a control dial that doesn't click and turn at the same time.


But since Fujifilm listens to me and cares what I think, I'll also start lobbying for some real flagship pie-in-the-sky stuff. 

I'm not sure how a sensor-shift super-resolution system would work with the XTrans layout, but I'd like to see one anyway. Everyone else with in-body stabilization who isn't Nikon has this by now. Even if it only works for static compositions I'd be very happy. I do like macro photography, and occasionally want more oomph, even if I don't strictly need it.

If Fuji can be the first to add a smarter system of intrinsically DOF-aware focus bracketing I'd be even very happier. Seriously, the camera knows the focusing distance and the lens aperture, why am I guessing at the correct value for an arbitrary 1-to-10 scale of how much to shift the focus, and how many shots near-to-far will take? I'm fine with merge-stacking them myself, but that shooting math is something the camera should be able to handle better than I can.

The other really big thing that I want is a tilting EVF. It can be built in, the way Panasonic has done with less expensive cameras than this one, or it can be with the (rather pricy) tilt-swivel accessory made for the GFX50s. Either one is fine by me, even the spendy adapter presuming they don't do a Panalympus and change the EVF pinouts after everyone has bought the first generation. And unlike my other wish list items, this would genuinely make it a better video camera as well. Not everyone uses a remote monitor or a gimbal. And since I like to have as few lights as possible when I'm working at night, this would let me keep using the EVF even when the camera's not at eye level. And when I step away from the camera an upwards-angled EVF will show a lot less light than an angled LCD.

I also want to be able to turn off the countdown lamp for the two-second self timer. (Actually, there's never a reason to light it for the two-second count, something only the Ricoh GR has realized.) Move the card-write lamp into the card compartment, as Sony has, let me disable the AF confirmation light, and have EVF and LCD brightness settings that go much dimmer. I say a camera designer's success is inversely proportional to how many bits of tape I need to put on the camera. But yes, I also want the function buttons to be backlit when I hit the button to light up the status LCD panel. I'm fickle, I know.

The final things I want is for Fujifilm to really think this next generation through, because I know they'll think of things and make refinements that would never occur to me. And then it would also be great if the new body, kitted with the EVF tilt-swivel adapter, could be had for under $2500 at the quality level I've come to expect from the XT2 and XH1. And I'd like it to be in ready supply by the time the weather starts warming up again in the spring, please.

Thanks very much.


* I should never write "I'm not going to buy one."

You know what always happens next. The 'power of intention' thing just doesn't work with me.