What Will the Next Fujifilm Sensor Be?
According to Fujirumors, the next Fujifilm APS-C camera will be the X-H2, which won’t be released until early 2022, and it will have a new sensor that’s capable of 8K video. Not a whole lot else is known about it at this point. What will the new sensor be? What specs will it have? Absolutely nobody outside of Fujifilm has any idea, so it’s a fun opportunity to wildly speculate. To be clear, I have no inside information. This isn’t a rumor. What I’ll discuss below is a bad guess at best. I just thought it would be fun to talk about the possibilities.
The assumption is that the next sensor will be X-Trans (X-Trans V), which is logical—most likely it will be. I don’t know what would differentiate X-Trans V from X-Trans IV. The theory is that because Fujifilm has been developing sharper lenses with more resolving power, they’re preparing for a higher-resolution sensor (in fact, they’ve said as much). But how much more? 28-megapixel? 30? 32? 36? 50? Nobody knows, but don’t be surprised if it’s 36-megapixels. Unless you crop steeply or print largely, that extra resolution won’t do much for you. I personally wish that Fujifilm would focus less on megapixels and focus more on other advancements, but that’s just my opinion.
It’s possible that the new sensor inside the X-H2 won’t be X-Trans, or at least not a Sony X-Trans. Fujifilm has partnered with Samsung to create the ISOCELL technology that Samsung uses in their cellphone cameras. In an oversimplified explanation, ISOCELL allows pixels to more accurately capture light, which means that smaller pixels act more like larger pixels. Samsung uses ISOCELL in conjunction with Pixel Binning (“Tetracell”), a technology that uses a group of pixels to act as a singular larger pixel for improved dynamic range and high-ISO performance. This technology allows tiny cellphone sensors to perform better than they should. Why can’t this be applied to larger sensors? Remember when Samsung used to have a highly-acclaimed 28-megapixel APS-C sensor before their NX camera line went suddenly defunct? Maybe Fujifilm and Samsung will partner to bring some of Samsung’s innovative sensor technology to Fujifilm cameras.
I’d be surprised if Fujifilm included a Sony Bayer sensor in the X-H2, but it’s possible. Anything is possible. More likely, if Fujifilm were to move on from X-Trans, the sensor would have to have some unique marketing aspect to it. Fujifilm X cameras are the only cameras with X-Trans sensors, and all other current cameras use Bayer (except for some Sigma models). X-Trans has some advantages and disadvantages, but more importantly it’s unique, which Fujifilm takes advantage of, both in terms of technology and marketing. There’d have to be something especially special about a non-X-Trans sensor for Fujifilm to suddenly abandon what has brought them this far.
Now imagine this: a Fujifilm X-H2 with a 144-megapixel ISOCELL and Pixel Binning sensor, that “normally” captures 36-megapixel images, with the option to capture 144-megapixel images in good light and 9-megapixel images in very low light. That would stir a lot more attention than an ordinary 36-megapixel Bayer sensor, and would also have some advantages over it. It would certainly make headlines!
The way it would work is that under most conditions the camera would capture a 36-megapixel image that would perform, in dynamic range and high-ISO, similar to the 26-megapixel X-Trans IV sensor. When the ISO is set to 320 or lower, the camera would have the option to capture a full 144-megapixel image (with the limitation of DR400 not available). Of course, Fujifilm lenses, while exceptionally sharp, cannot resolve that much detail, so you’d likely get details more in line with 50-megapixel cameras (maybe more, maybe less, depending on the lens). The camera would also have the option at higher ISOs—perhaps ISO 3200 and above—to capture extraordinarily clean 9-megapixel images (and perhaps 1080p video). I know that 9-megapixels are hardly anything to get excited over, but think of this as being sort of like the Sony A7S, which has only 12-megapixels, but is highly regarded for its low-light capabilities. So, yeah, the picture might only have 9-megapixels of resolution, but it was captured at ISO 25,600 and looks as clean as ISO 800. Maybe pixel-shift could even be incorporated into this somehow.
There would be a whole host of issues if Fujifilm incorporated Samsung’s technology into the X-H2, most notably the RAW files. I don’t think my suggestion is likely, but since anything is possible, I thought that I’d wildly speculate, and this is as wild of a speculation as you’ll likely find on this topic. It will definitely be interesting to see what Fujifilm comes up with, and as soon as I know something, I’ll be sure to share it and my ideas about it with you.