You can't be serious about motorsport photography if you use a Fuji X series camera....
This comment cropped in a chat I was having with a couple of photographers at Donington Park for the first round of the BSB championship. Its also something I've heard over the last couple of year since I switched to Fuji from Nikon D500/D810. I was at Donington to try out the Fuji X-H1 which I had just got and this blog post is about my experience of shooting Superbikes with the X-H1
Before I start I must admit I have gone from shooting media side for a number of teams including Gearlink Kawasaki under the name of Whitelineimages to doing it for fun but Im still serious about shooting decent images.
Fuji X-T2 and 100-400
I have been happy using the X-T2 along with the 90mm f2 and the 100-400 f4.5-5.6 lenses for shooting the British Superbikes for the last couple of years and generally been happy with the way it performs.
Fuji X-T2 & 90mm f2
Some of the areas that I wished where better are the EVF refresh rate which could be better, Its easily adapted to but every time I started shooting on the first day of a meeting it has always took me a while to get use to it again. The AF especially in poor lighting conditions (which in the UK can happen fairly often) I often have thought could be more consistent and the AF initial lock on could be a tad quicker.
So when the X-H1 was first announced I was interested but my first thought was that I wouldn't be getting one since I was happy with the X-T2. But when the wife was shopping I popped into my local camera shop T4 Cameras, first impressions of picking up the the Fuji X-H1 was the size and weight but the handling felt more natural especially with the Fuji 16-55 f2.8 lens and Fuji 100-400 f4.5 - 5.6. This along with the thought of the IBIS with the primes I have, a very nice trade in price and the £100 trade in bonus from Fuji and I was the unexpected owner of Fuji X-H1.
So after a couple weeks of using the X-H1 and 3 days at the first round of British Superbikes at Donington Park this is a brief summary of my feelings.
The first thing that struck me compared to the X-T2 was the EVF its a real joy to use and a improvement over the X-T2 when shooting action. Donington Park from the spectator side does provide a challenge in quite a few places with the fences around a lot of the track and the weather which was to put it mildly not very nice over the Easter weekend but in most cases I found the AF on the X-H1 up to the task and a step up from the X-T2. In the shot below the bikes pop over the crest at a rate of knots not giving much time for the AF to lock on but I was impressed in the way the camera coped with it.
Fuji X-H1 & 100-400 f4.5-5.6
I have always found the small zone area setting in the AF paired with the AF custom setting 2 (ignore objects) to be the best setting when tracking though the fences and the tracking seemed to be improved here in the X-H1. Another plus for me is the dedicated AF button which I find very useful as the method I use is to follow the bike from an early stage but not to lock the AF on straight away, this way I have found the panning is easier and then lock on the AF when it has more of target to lock on to. This help eliminates the times when the AF locks on to the fence instead of the bike. Using this method the AF for me coped very well the fences even at a fairly oblique angle and any obstruction in the fence where ignored and it kept focus on the bike.
Fuji X-H1 & 100-400 f4.5-5.6
Over the two days I shot approx 1,600 images which I had around a 1,000 which I would describe as keepers a ratio which I am more than happy with. Although these days with a back catalogue of approx 70,000 images I do cull these down to the ones I really like.
The other issue that seem to crop in the same breath as mirrorless is battery life. Its not in the same league as a top end DSLR, but I was using the X-H1 with the grip which holds 2 batteries and I used under 2 batteries per day a ratio I can easily cope with. It does mean I carry a couple of extra batteries to make sure but these are light so its no real problem for me.
Fuji X-H1 & 100-400 f4.5-5.6
So to a couple of questions I have been asked since Donington.
Is it as good as a Nikon D500? The simply answer is no but for me it comes very close especially when you are using something like the 200-500 f5.6 with the Nikon. Personally I find using the Fuji a joy to use and I certainly apprecaite the lighter weight to carry about all day. The main advantage the Nikon system is the 300/400 f2.8 primes, the Fuji 100-400 for me can't match them when it comes to subject isolation and the extra light the f2.8 gathers helps the af on those dismal days. The Fuji 200mm f2 will help close this gap when it does come out. Saying that I can't see myself getting the 200mm since the 100-400 f4.5-5.6 enough for what I want, its sharp wide open and the AF as Donington proved good enough on even dismay days.
Is the X-H1 a worthy upgrade over the X-T2?
That depends its bigger and heavier but for me the improved handling makes up for that.
The EVF is an improvement and is a joy to use.
The AF seems to be better but knowing Fuji most of these improvements will probably be on the X-T2 soon.
I have always loved top LCD but thats just me.
If you want IBIS you need to have a X-H1 because the X-T3 won't have it but if you don't need it you might be better waiting for the X-T3 because the X-T2 still is very capable camera.
For those that are interested a recap of the setting I use
Either single point one size up from smallest or small zone AF area
AF custom setting 2 or 3
Back button AF
Continuous shooting on Medium (approx 6 frames a second)
Power boost mode on