Fujifilm launches a new line of professional APS-C X-cameras

Having read all of the written and almost all of the introductory videos on the advent of the Fuji X-H1, it's become clear to me that the X-H1 is the first model in an entirely new line of of cameras for Fujifilm, hence the designation "1" after the letter H. Everyone thought the "H" stood for "hybrid", but in Fuji's own promotional content, Fuji uses the term "Hyper", Fujilfilm marketing-speak for "High Performance". 



It's important to think about how a camera system is developed from a systems engineering persepctive. The Fuji X/XF line of cameras and lenses has acheived considerable consumer and professional success in a little over 5 years and an represents a very impressive engineering and product development acheivement. 

But, Fuji knew that if it was going to truly be able to penetrate the "hard-core" professonal ranks, it would have to develop a completely new series of products, e.g. "long, fast, prime" telephotos; equivalents the to the 300, 400mm f/2.8, etc. pro telephotos used universally by photojournalists and sports photographers, as well as products able to support professional video applications i.e., with their new line of Fujinon MK Cine lenses. 


Here's an example to put things into context from a systems engineering perspective: when asked back in early 2017 whether they would make a 200mm f/2.0 or f/2.8 lens, Fujifilm engineers replied that specifically making a 200mm  f/2.0 lens would “require an entirely new camera body”. Fujifilm ultimately decided to develop a 200mm f/2 and, as can be seen, this is a big, bad boy:

Fuji XF 200mm.jpg

This meant, as they stated back in early 2017, they would need to develop a considerably more robust and professional stills camera platform, as well as one for suitable for professional video use with their newly launched line of MK Cine lenses (which have been getting rave reviews from videographers). 

The result of that is the X-H1. This engineering diagram (diagram 1) from Fuji shows how much stiffer and stronger the X-H1 body is than an X-T2, while minimizing the impact on increased camera size. 

X-H1 Stiffening.jpg

I would say the operative terms for the Fuji X-H high performance line is "professional, rugged and robust", which is confirmed by this quote from Fujifilm engineers:

The product planner requested the developers to make the body more robust so that new devices could be installed and the expected camera performance could be realized. In order to make the body more robust, the frame, which is made of magnesium alloys, needed to be strengthened by adding extra thickness. The frame is 125% thicker for X-H1, meaning that the frame has almost doubled in volume (1.25 x 1.25 x 1.25 = 1.95). The strength of the frame is almost twice as strong.

In addition to the increase in size to accomodate the IBIS subassembly, Fujifilm engineers additionally increased strength of the frame and mounting area for mounting long, fast prime telephotos also required additional reinforcement to the diagram shown above. As can be seen in the figure below, Fujifilm added ribs for additional torsional stiffening (see bright areas in diagram 2)

X-H1 body.jpg

The additional stiffness that is required cannot be overstated, because as can be seen in diagram 3, the new 200 f/2 will exert a lot of leverage on the camera body and lens mount. 

X-H1 lens.jpg

Its clear that the X-H1 is not a line extension of the Fujifilm X-T seres, but is the first model in Fuji's new fully professional line of cameras. This is why it resembles the GFX more than the X-T series; why the grip is larger: to accommodate larger, heavier telephotos and Cine lenses. It has a completely new leaf-spring based shutter button and mechanism to improve shutter responsiveness, 100 frames/second EVF and an electronic first curtain shutter to reduce viewfinder blackout times when shooting sports or in the studio. It has IBIS to allow stabilization for video and stills photography when using non-OIS pro lenses like the 16-55 f/2.8, etc. It has a submonitor on the top deck in place of the exposure comp dial, just as on the GFX, because in, professional applications and use scenarios, its much more important to have a display that can be specifically configured for stills or video-specific information. Regarding the comment of “only 15 minutes of recording time"; that's true for the base body, but the X-H1 is really designed to be used with its battery grip, which triples the battery capacity and can be configured in Boost mode to considerably increase camera responsiveness and performance (if you've never used an X-T2 with it's Vertical Power Booster grip, you've not experienced at all what that camera is really capable of). 

So, its clear to me now that the X-H1 is not, as originally thought, a "hybrid X-T2”, it is very clearly the Canon 1DX of the Fujifilm mirrorless line. 

Fujfilm has now created three fully differentiated and distinct XF-mount lines of cameras in exactly the same manner as Canon: 

1) the X-H1 is equivalent to Canon 1D series, 

2) the X-T series equivalent to the Canon 5D series

3) the X-T20 equivalent to the Canon 80D series

I don't think that users that like the form factor and features of the X-T series need worry: the line of X-T-series bodies will continue as it has, and X-T3 scheduled to be announced/launched some time in Q3/Q4, 2018. 

In summary: not everyone needs a Canon 1DX-level camera, in fact, most people don't.  But, many professionals do, and the new X-H1 is Fujifilm's new camera line and peripherals solution for "hard-core, working pros".


First impressions of the Fujifilm GFX 50S

Fujifilm reps were at Samy's Cameras in San Francisco today, so I had a chance to play and "shoot" with the much-anticipated medium format (MF) Fujifilm GFX 50S. 

As the camera was a pre-production model, we were not allowed shoot any images on our own cards, but regardless,  I came away with some vey useful first impressions. 

The GFX is everything that you’d expect a medium format professional camera to be; it's clear that its extremely well thought-through and is executed to a very high engineering specification. In the hand, it is about the size of a Nikon D810 or Canon 5D-series. As you may have read, it is surprisingly light, but it is also very well made and robust-feeling; the fit and finish are excellent, The front grip and thumb are comfortable and nicely textured, and provide excellent purchase for a secure grip, and if you're an Fuji X-camera user, the now-classic X-camera knobs and dials will immediately feel right at home. The menu system is clearly-laid out and identical in organization and interface to the X-Pro2/XT-2. In use, given that the sensor supports contrast detection-only autofocus, I found the AF to be surprisingly fast, at least as fast as a Fujifllm X-T1. The EVF and LCD are gorgeous, bright and clear with neutral, accurate color and the EVF has a very fast refresh rate with no perceptual lag.  Having the joystick was very useful not only for AF point selection, but also for scrolling around the LCD when reviewing images or when zoomed in with manual focus to check critical focus. Something that I found notable was the shutter is quite specical:  upon actuation, it is very quiet and smooth and has “feel” that is to die for. Most importantly, it feels very well damped, you can tell that shutter shock is not going to be an issue with this camera.

Given the size of the lenses, they are suprisingly light, bright, and exude a very high level execution and fit and finish. The autofocus performance is fast and quiet with no discernable aperture blade chatter. The aperture rings have just the right amount of stiffness in rotation, and the manual focus and zoom rings feel very nice, smooth but with just the right amount of resistance that allows you to precisely set the adjustment exactly where you want to. The overall impression is that the lenses are extremely well-made with superb functionality. The sales rep said that the next two lenses in the series likely be available in the late Q2 2017 time-frame.

The strongest impression that comes across from using the Fujifilm GFX 50S is that it is a real workhorse and a serious "photographic tool".  This is not a camera, though, to replace Nikon D810, Canon 1D or 5D-series cameras designed for sports, photojournalism, or for the lack of a better term, "general purpose" enthusiast photography. After holding, using, and shooting with the camera, it's clear it’s primarily intended for seriously "hard-core" advertising, portrait, editorial, commercial, automotive, and fashion medium format photography of the highest professional standard, as well as expert enthusiast outdoor, travel, or landscape photographers who truly understand what working with a MF camera really means, and know how to get the camera to deliver it.

Given Fujifilm’s excellent track record of fully “thinking things through” and a very high level of execution, the GFX will become the hub of what looks to evolve into a very, dare I say extremely, capable system for demanding professional and expert photographer applications. While the term "game-changer" is bandied about all to often, in this case, I fully expect it will apply with the new Fujifilm GFX system. 

There was a lot of interest in the new Fujifilm GFX 50S at Samy's Camera, San Francisco