FUJIFILM’s XH-1 is simply a joy to use. I could stop the article right there, but I think some background will help emphasize the true pleasure of using this camera. There have been dozens of articles reviewing the XH-1 5-axis (up and down / right and left pitch, yaw angle and optical axis rotation) IBIS (in-body image stabilization) technology… this article will be different. There is no need to do another deep dive into the technology behind the XH-1, I’d rather talk about the freedom I have found using this amazing camera body. What do I mean by freedom? I mean the ability to walk out of the house and head off on an adventure without even thinking about taking a tripod and knowing the X-H1 IBIS will allow me to adapt to changing conditions. Now granted, if I was going out to shoot long exposure images with an ND filter or night photography of the Milky Way, I would take my tripod with me. But for just about any other circumstance (e.g., street photography or everyday shooting), even in low light, I can finally roam free without the burden of a tripod. This is liberating!
My weakness has always been my inability to hand-hold a camera, even when the lens had stabilization. I would struggle with camera shake whenever the lighting was the slightest bit challenging and, in some instances, even in what others would consider decent light. This forced me to carry a tripod everywhere I went just in case I needed it. When I first purchased the XH-1, I did so with the hopes of being able to shoot an image now and again, hand-held. Boy have I been surprised! I have found that the IBIS is amazing, even in low light. I can now hand-hold to as low as 1/15, when the body is paired with the right lens (e.g., FUJINON 56mm F1.2 or FUJINON 16mm F1.4). Additionally, now I have IBIS I feel comfortable using lenses without built in stabilization, such as the FUJINON 16-55mm F2.8. The correction achieves more than five-stops of image stabilization. Simply extraordinary!
Right after I picked up the XH-1, I jumped in head first, by taking just the XH-1 and one lens (FUJINON 50-140mm F2.8) to an indoor tattoo convention (an event I would never have considered photographing in the past). Conventions are known for their challenging uneven florescent light that barely lights the hall resulting in rather dim shooting conditions on most of the convention floor. I chose the 50-140mm for this shoot, because of its low f/stop and because it would give me some reach to capture the artists and their clients at a distance that would not interfere with their work. I figured that paired with the IBIS, I might have a chance to capture an image or two. I actually captured tons of images of the artists and their canvases, even those artists whose booths were in poorly lit areas of the auditorium. I was so happy with the images, I shared them with the artists on their Instagram pages. Something I would had never done before do to less than stellar results.
Although my first outing was a convention, I really don’t consider myself an event photographer. My true passion is Travel photography and all of its aspects, such as landscapes and street photography. However, always being burdened by a tripod, I often found travel photography can be tiresome and at times, not enjoyable, particularly when traveling to bustling urban areas such as New York, Chicago, Cuba, or Bangkok. I would get back at night exhausted and with aches and pains everywhere from carrying a ton of weight and frustrated because I didn’t even need the tripod I was schlepping around.
For example, last year when I went to Cuba, I lugged a tripod everywhere, because I wasn’t sure when it would be needed. In 90° weather, wearing a backpack to have my hands free of the tripod, I was more uncomfortable than I needed to be. Even at just 5 lbs., the tripod felt like 50 in those conditions! I also had to keep track of it; find a place in the car, in restaurants, in my room… always having to worry about leaving it behind or whacking someone with it from the camera bag. This past February though was different. I took a small tripod to Cuba, but only for a few night shoots that were planned. The rest of the time it stayed in my room. I was able to walk all over Havana, at all times of day, with just a camera and lens! The experience made the photography even more gratifying, because I was able to focus on my work instead of where my gear had gotten too.
As I have said, the possibilities are now endless! The following images are examples of just how freeing the XH-1 IBIS is!
Near sunset and after dark no worries:
Indoors no worries:
On a moving boat in low light, no worries:
Deep in the forest, no worries:
Whether you use a Fujifilm H-1 or some other manufacturer gear, obviously, IBIS can make a huge different. IBIS can’t handle every situation, but I believe it certainly can expand the opportunity to capture images for just about everyone. I can’t imagine buying a body without it at this point. So much so, that I own two. 😉