Kata seems to think that difference between “normal” position and well but freely placed positions are tiny.
For example with 9 stones, normal fixed placement gives black about 109 point advantage, while 4 shimaris + tengen is worth “only” about 107 points. With less than 9 stones that difference is even lower, assuming that black places those handicaps in a reasonable way.
When comparing the two 8hc positions you posted, kata gives about 99 point lead for black with both of those placements. And for both of those 5hc positions kata gives about 58 point lead for black.
But the thing is, i cant find any set-up what kata considers better than the normal fixed placement, at the very best its worth the same as fixed placement. And there are many possible placement where blacks lead is worse.
So i’d say that free handicap placement can be just as good as the fixed one, but it can also be a lot worse.
ps. If someone is running kata on good hardware and wants to spent the effort on analysing different positions, i would love to know what are the placements which kata considers equal to fixed placement, and if there is indeed something what could be even better.