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 these files 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 looks.

Earlier in 2018 I realized that I should really spend less time editing and more time shooting, so I decided to use the jpgs instead of the raw files as much as possible. I began exploring different possibilities using the in-camera film simulation settings and came across Ritchie Roesch‘s “Fuji X Weekly” blog, which features some really excellent film simulation recipes inspired by classic films. This site was a real game changer, as it allowed me to emulate directly in the camera many of the looks that I was trying to recreate using Lightroom presets. My favorites so far have been the Kodachrome simulations (both the Vintage Kodachrome and Kodachrome II) and Fuji Superia 800, but they’re really all quite excellent and cover an enormous range of looks.

 

Some jpg examples shot using Ritchie’s Vintage Kodachrome and Fuji Superia 800 recipes

 

One of the things that I was also hoping to achieve by shooting jpg was to get a more consistent look in my photos, but looking back that never really happened because I kept changing back and forth between all of those recipes! So in order to simplify my shooting process and get more consistent results, I decided to stick with just one color simulation and one black & white simulation recipe.

 

Color 

For my color simulation, I took several ideas from Ritchie’s different recipes and mashed them all into one. Something that I realized from using his simulations is that the biggest defining factor in the final look of the jpg is the Auto White Balance shift applied. I’m a big fan of Kodak’s tones – especially in its slide films – so my color simulation is geared towards that warmer look, but you can easily change that just by changing the WB shift. For example, if you prefer Fuji’s classic film tones, you can change the WB shift to -2 Red to enhance the greens.

Originally I came up with this recipe when I was using a X-T20, but since then I’ve also owned a X-Pro1 which didn’t have Classic Chrome available, and now I’m using a X-Pro3 which has the amazing new Classic Negative. So I’ve had to tweak my color recipe a few times along the way to fit each camera generation – they’re not exact matches, of course, but I believe they have the same overall vibe.

Below you’ll find the different iterations of my recipe for the different camera/sensor generations (there is no X-Trans II version, but you can easily use the X-Trans III recipe for those cameras with some minor adjustments).

 

X-Pro3 & x100V (X-trans IV)

Back when the X-Pro3 was announced I was very skeptical on some of the hardware design changes, but one thing that immediately got me excited was the jpg-oriented software updates and specifically the new Classic Negative film simulation.  It was love at first sight as soon as I saw Jonas Rask’s images with this film sim, as it seemed to fit my “film-look” aesthetic right out of the box. It’s no wonder that as soon as I got my own X-pro3, I set it to Classic Negative and pretty much never changed it since!

At first I just replicated the settings from my X-trans III recipe using Classic Negative instead of Classic Chrome, but after using it for a while and playing around with some of the new options like Color Chrome Effect and FX Blue, I’ve mostly settled on the settings below. One setting where I still have some doubts is the grain effect… I feel the new size option is a definite improvement, but somehow I still don’t find it as convincing as the grain from Capture One, let alone real film. But at least for now I’m leaving it on, just so I can get a final image straight out of camera.

  • Film simulation: Classic Negative
  • Dynamic Range: DR200
  • Auto-WB Shift: +4 Red, -4 Blue
  • Highlights: +1
  • Shadows: +0
  • Color: +3
  • Noise reduction: -4
  • Clarity: 0
  • Sharpening: 0
  • Grain effect: Strong
  • Grain size: Large
  • Color chrome fx: Off
  • Color chrome blue: Weak
  • Exposure compensation: typically +1/3

 

Samples:

 

X-trans III

This was my “original” recipe and it still holds a special place in my heart. I love its look and it’s the one I currently use on my x100F:

  • Film simulation: Classic Chrome
  • Dynamic Range: DR200
  • Auto-WB Shift: +4 Red, -5 Blue
  • Highlights: +1
  • Shadows: +1
  • Color: +3
  • Noise reduction: -4
  • Sharpening: 0
  • Grain effect: Off
  • Exposure compensation: typically between +1/3 and +2/3

Samples:

 

X-trans I

Since the first-generation X cameras didn’t have Classic Negative or Classic Chrome, I had to try out different alternatives to get close to the look of my original color recipe. After much trial and error, I settled on the settings below that I used almost exclusively on the X-Pro1 during the time that I had it:

  • Film simulation: Astia
  • Dynamic Range: DR200
  • Auto-WB Shift: +4 Red, -5 Blue
  • Highlights: +1
  • Shadows: +1
  • Color: -2
  • Noise reduction: -2
  • Sharpening: 0
  • Exposure compensation: typically between +1/3 and +2/3

Samples:

 

Black and white

When it comes to monochrome images, I still use the same recipe that I came up with once I upgraded to an X-trans III camera some years years ago. 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 grain effect in the film sim settings. This works particularly well with older legacy lenses, because of their natural imperfections compared to current lenses.

  • Film simulation: Acros Red
  • Dynamic Range: DR200
  • Highlights: +3
  • Shadows: +4
  • Noise reduction: -4
  • Sharpening: -1
  • Grain effect: off
  • Exposure compensation: between +1/3 and +2/3
  • ISO: usually 12800 but sometimes I’ll switch to Auto-ISO with a minimum of 2000 if there’s too much light or if I want less grain

Samples:

 

Post-processing

While most of the times I use the camera jpgs instead of the raw files, I still run them through Capture One to do some quick adjustments. I have a custom user style that I apply upon importing the jpgs, which does the following:

  • adds a slight vignette
  • adds a slight fade on the shadows using the tone curve
  • adds a tiny amount of clarity
  • applies a greenish tint to the shadows.

 

The differences compared to the original jpg are pretty subtle, as you can see on this example (left is the original, edit on the right):

 

And that’s it. This workflow has dramatically reduced my editing time on the computer and also helped me to focus on getting things right in camera, instead of shooting mindlessly and hopping to fix it in post.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not a “jpg fundamentalist” – I still use the raf files sometimes, either when the lightning conditions are more challenging or when I want a crazier look just for fun. And of course there are plenty of situations (especially for those doing professional paid work) where the flexibility of Raw is a must.

But for amateurs like me who use photography to document their everyday life and the world around them, I strongly recommend giving it a try, I think you’ll be surprised with how liberating it is.