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 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 jpgs 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 from now on.
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 White Balance shift that is 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. Be careful not to go overboard with these shifts though, unless you’re intentionally going for a cross-processed look like this!
My current color settings are:
- Film simulation: Classic Chrome
- Dynamic Range: DR200
- WB Shift: +3 Red, -4 Blue
- Highlights: +1
- Shadows: +1
- Color: +4
- Noise reduction: -4
- Sharpening: 0
- Grain effect: Weak
Depending on the lighting conditions, I’ll usually do some adjustments on the highlights, shadows and exposure compensation. In older X series cameras without Classic Chrome, the closest I could get to this look is by using Astia with Color, Highlights and Shadows set to M-High; it’s not an exact match but it’s in the ballpark.
As for black and white, I still use the same recipe that 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 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.
- 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
Below are some examples of images taken with the x100f and X-T20 in different lighting situations, reprocessed with Fujifilm’s X Raw Studio with the settings described above.