Fujifilm X-T2 i X-H1 – video and power

Actualization – at the end I have added what I discovered the day after πŸ™‚

In the X-T2, and even more in the X-H1, we can find lots of features, allowing for use of these great cameras not only for stills, but also for video. Let’s name just a few: 4K or ability to use external recorder, recording through HDMI interface. And in case of X-H1 in addition F-log, touch screen, allowing for silent operation during recording or IBIS – image stabilization inside the body, what allows for use of plenty of lenses which have no stabilization built-in.

But both bodies have hidden issue, being a huge problem for many film makers: power.

What’s going on with this power? Both bodies need lots of power and at the same time are small. Small body means small battery with small capacity and in turn short recording time. On top of that we have heat generation and dissipation by small body.

So we have two options:

1. Use the battery in the body only. In this case we are facing two limitations: first, total recording time is limited by small battery capacity, what in case of my X-H1 seems to be something about 38 minutes of recording in 4K. And second, length of single clip (single take) is limited to 10 minutes for 4K or 15 minutes for FHD in case of X-T2 and to 15 minutes for 4K or 20 minutes for FHD in case of X-H1.

2. Use of the battery grip. This gives us in total three batteries: one in the body and two in the battery grip. Theoretically now it should be good, as for each of the two bodies now we have for both 4K and FHD duration of a single clip to be 30 minutes. But it is still not good by any mean. Why? Because both X-T2 (software 4.20) and X-H1 (software 1.11), stop recording video as soon as first battery becomes empty. How much time do we have until it happens? As an example: X-H1, XF 50-140, stabilization OFF (camera on the tripod), 4K UHD, 3 x NP-W126S, which are shown by the body as 100% full: first battery becomes empty (left battery in the grip) after 14 minutes and 59 seconds of recording. And recording stopped. Both other batteries show 100%. What is interesting, after the recording stopped, I switched off the camera, removed the memory card, copied files to the PC, inserted the memory card back and switched the body on. You know what? Now the left battery is 60% loaded, while the two others still at 100%! And more: I started recording once again, with no battery loading or replacing and it lasted for next 15 minutes of recording until the left battery again was empty! This time after I switched the camera off and on this battery remained empty for good, while two others were still 100% full. So I started recording once again. This time X-H1 recorded 25 minutes and 26 seconds and stopped recording. Now both grip batteries are shown as empty, while the in-body battery is 100% full. And guess what? Yes, you are right: after switching off and on, the right battery is 60% loaded! The left battery is still empty and the in-body still 100% full. So I started recording once again and now recorded was 15 minutes and 5 seconds, until right battery becomes empty for the second time. And the in-body battery is still 100% full! So next recording – this time I have two empty batteries in the grip and full battery in the body. I would expect that as the body uses now the internal battery, the recording would be limited to the value when no grip is used. But… nothing like that! 30 minutes recorded! And the in-body battery shows 40%. So I started recording again. This time the battery is dead after 8 minutes ans 21 seconds.

There are more gotchas, like for example the one that even if you use power grip, but set in the “Normal” mode, you still are limited to the short time of recording like without the grip at all. If you want to use the full 29 minutes and 59 seconds of recording in single take, you must set the grip to “Boost”.

But coming back to the main topic: this is a serious issue. We don’t buy the power grip, theoretically giving half an hour of recording, to lose the recording in a random moment. And what is this magic “battery reloading” after switching the body off and on?!

Why it is serious? Let’s consider two cases. In the first case we are the vloger. Even if we manage to see the screen, what is not so simple in X-T2 and X-H1, it is hard to keep tracking all the time the recording indicator. Once, when I was recording something what can’t be retaken, I missed the moment when first battery became empty and recording stopped and next minutes I was talking to myself only.

And second case: now we are behind the camera and can monitor the situation all the time. But… when any battery becomes empty, the camera stops recording and writes data. This takes several seconds, during which we are not able to start recording again. Effectively this means at least a few seconds of brake or pause in the recording and in turn several second “jump” of the action.

Is it hopeless situation? Fortunately not. There are at least two workarounds, until Fujifilm fixes this error in the software.

First solution:

Let’s connect external power to the grip. If possible, we can use the power supply which is provided together with the power grip. But this solution is useful in the studio only, and not in the field. So we need external power bank, able to connect to the power grip’s power inlet. Why power grip and not the body, what would be easier as in the body we have a USB socket? Because the body uses the batteries in the grip as first and then switches to the in-body battery. This means that powering the body via USB we still don’t solve the broken recording problem, as the in-body USB port charges the in-body battery only. And one more thing: even with external power supply loading the grip batteries, the grip still must be in theΒ  “Boost” mode, or we are still facing the recording time limitation like without the grip.

Second solution:

Don’t start recording πŸ™‚ No, it is not a joke – just set the camera to never sleep or switch off when inactive and connect an external recorder to the HDMI port of the body. This solution has additional advantage – it overcomes the limitation of single take to 29 minutes and 59 seconds of the photographic equipment, set by European Union. As usual, it is about money – if the camera is capable of recording more than 29 minutes and 59 seconds it no longer a photographic camera, but it becomes a video equipment, what sets higher import duties. But there are also several drawbacks of the external recorder: external recorders are very expensive and they need… next source of power. This way we come back to the problem of battery capacity – but this time for the external recorder πŸ™‚

Time for summary – and this is call to action for Fujifilm:

Guys! Full frame mirrorless by Nikon and Canon are coming very fast! Wake up! Do you really want to lose all the videographers back to one of them?

Update:

A day after the above tests I discovered that NP-W126S batteries do NOT like to be re-charged before they are totally empty. As I wrote above, the recording before the first battery became empty was just 15 minutes. When I finished the above tests and all the batteries were empty, I charged all of them to 100%. This morning I started recording again, with the same settings as above. And now the camera has recorder full 30 minutes, after that the left battery still was at 60% and allowed for next 20 minutes of recording before it was empty (and of course, the recording stopped at this moment, despite the fact that both other batteries were still at 100%). What’s more, there was no “magic recharging” of the empty battery after I switched off and on the camera.

So far I have never discharged fully any of the NP-W126S batteries, always just re-charging when needed. It means that the NP-W126S should be fully discharged before charging.