My favorite Fujifilm film simulation settings

Like so many other Fujifilm users out there, one of the main things that drew me into the X series system was the quality of their jpg files and the film simulations. The colors and details are just stunning, and as someone who grew up with film photography in the 80s, the idea of having film simulations directly in the camera was just perfect!

That being said, as much as I appreciated the quality of the jpgs, I almost always ended up working on the raw files for the added post-processing flexibility and to get a more stylized look. It’s nothing short of amazing the range you get when editing Fujifilm’s raf files, especially when it comes to recovering shadows and highlights. But the greatest thing about working in raw quickly became my biggest problem: the endless possibilities provided by editing in Lightroom means it’s a never-ending task. You can get as many different looks as you want, none necessarily “better” than the others, just different. Choosing between them became an extremely time consuming task and it got to the point where I would sometimes spend over half-an-hour with a single photo going back and forth between different presets.

Earlier this year I realized that I should really spend less time editing and more time shooting, so I decided to start using the jpgs instead of the raw files as much as possible. I started exploring different possibilities with the film simulation settings and found lots of great ideas online. One of the sites I came across during this period was Ritchie Roesch‘s “Fuji X Weekly”, which features some really excellent film simulation recipes inspired by classic films. I’ve tried all of them, but there’s 2 in particular that really stood out and quickly became my go-to color simulations: Vintage Kodachrome and Fuji Superia 800.

Kodachrome to me screams summer vacations photos, so it’s my default film sim for bright sunny days. Superia 800 brings out some more cooler tones, so I use it mostly for cloudy or rainy days. Both settings create stunning jpgs straight out-of-the-camera,but usually I still run them through Lightroom to apply a custom preset to tweak the tone curve slightly and sometimes apply some extra grain (I’m not a fan of the camera’s inbuilt grain effect). This workflow has reduced my editing time dramatically, as in most cases I don’t even need to open each individual photo, I just apply the LR preset to a batch of files.

As for black and white, I use my own custom recipe which I came up with once I upgraded to an X-trans III camera. I’m a fan of contrasty, grainy images when it comes to B&W, so I experimented a bit and discovered that the Acros film sim when shot at high ISOs produces some very film-like grain, which looks much more natural than the fake grain effect in the film sim settings. This simulation works particularly well with older legacy lenses, because of their natural imperfections compared to current lenses.

My settings are:

  • Film sim: Acros Red
  • Dynamic Range: DR200
  • Highlights: +3
  • Shadows: +4
  • Noise reduction: -4
  • Sharpening: -1
  • Grain effect: off
  • ISO: 12800 (in bright sunlight I sometimes have to reduce the ISO, in which case I’ll usually switch to Auto-ISO with a minimum of 2000)

Below are some examples of jpgs taken with each of these film simulations, with only minor adjustments in Lightroom. There are plenty of other great film simulations settings out there, so I encourage everyone to try some and see which ones work best for you.

Fuji Superia 800

Vintage Kodachrome

“Gritty Acros”