An Introduction to Fujifilm’s Film Simulation Modes

10Share

Since the early days of professional color film, Fujifilm has taken pride in its efforts to research, advance, and innovate in the fields of color accuracy and color reproduction. These multi-decade endeavors have led to the present day, wherein Fujifilm has incorporated its findings into six unique film-simulation modes featured in the wildly successful X-series line of fixed-lens and interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras.

We’ll discuss each simulation mode individually in terms of its color reproduction, contrast, and recommended uses. We’ll also review the inspiration for each color palette in relation to the original C-41 and E-6 film stocks from which their names and traits are borrowed. It’s important to note that each simulation mode requires in-camera image processing, which means that raw files will not be affected by the film presets. To take full advantage of the simulation modes, the user must shoot in JPEG, or, for the best of both worlds, raw + JPEG, in the cameras that offer this setting.

Provia: The Jack-of-All-Trades   

Fujifilm’s most popular E-6 slide film is alive and well in today’s X-series lineup. Typically branded as the “Standard” setting for color and contrast, Provia is well suited to almost any task. In terms of color rendition, Provia is neither saturated nor un-saturated, delivering accurate color interpretation for landscapes, family portraits, and candid photographs. The standard mode’s strong suit always seems to lie within the blue-green spectrum, bringing out the natural pop of spring leaves and the flat blue tones of the ocean on a sun-filled afternoon. True to its middle-of-the-road nature, this setting exhibits medium contrast, ideal for separation of individual subjects within a frame, but perhaps a little too strong for a close-up, “head-and-shoulders” portrait. However, due to its fairly accurate interpretation of skin tones, it performs well when used for group portraits or candid “friends and family” shots. It’s worth noting that under certain lighting conditions (normally outdoors on a bright day) Provia may process flatter than expected, making it an ideal choice for those interested in adjusting highlights and shadows in post.

Original

With Provia simulation mode
Photographs © Todd Vorenkamp
 
 

Velvia: Bright. Bold. Brilliant.

To the discerning eye of the veteran film user, the look of Fujifilm’s Velvia preset is an unmistakable simulation. Characterized by its vivid and exaggerated interpretations of the natural world, it walks on the wilder side, enhancing almost every color in its gamut while turning up the contrast to the hyperbolical “11.” Envisioned and commonly used for “magic-hour” landscapes, the film and its simulation lend themselves to the warm glows of orange sunsets and turquoise tropical seas. Almost every color is boldly enhanced, giving sand a yellowish cast, while oranges and reds are brought to near-neon levels and skies, regardless of time of day, appear closer to a “royal” blue than natural “sky” blue. The divisions made readily apparent between these colors are further accented by Velvia’s deep contrast curve, ideal for landscapes and architecture but not commonly intended for faithful reproduction of human skin tones or flattering portraits.


Original With Velvia simulation mode


Astia: A Quieter Sound, A Softer Fury

Designed as Fujifilm’s “portrait” film, Astia is the softer, lighter, and more subdued option within the Fujichrome family. Simply put, it is the “Ying” to Velvia’s “Yang.” Where Velvia goes left, Astia goes right. Where Velvia is vibrant, Astia is soft. Where Velvia is strong, Astia is gentle. You get the picture. In terms of color reproduction, some would say Astia’s palette is “pastel-like” or simply “soft”- as Fujifilm commonly labels it. Blues, greens, yellows, and reds all appear as lighter, softer iterations of their normal selves, while a tempered contrast curve makes a noticeable but unobtrusive appearance. Each one of these well-placed assets intentionally delivers Astia to its final objective—accurate, controlled, natural skin tones. Despite this film stock’s impressive resume, it was the least popular of the Fujichrome line and, after slumping sales, was subsequently discontinued a few years ago. Luckily, those looking to experiment with this extinct “portrait-friendly” film stock can find its modern digital interpretation in the X-series line.

Original With Astia simulation mode

Classic Chrome: Hip to the Whole Scene

The most recent addition to Fujifilm’s simulation stable arrived on most X-series cameras via firmware update in mid-2014. The mode, titled “Classic Chrome”, is the first simulation mode that is not based on a former Fujichrome film stock and was, instead, crafted in the lab utilizing feedback and requests from Fujifilm X-series users. Color-wise, the well-received result sports a retro, unsaturated look, reminiscent of the classic magazine-style documentary photographs it was designed to replicate. According to Fujifilm’s designers, low saturation matched with mild contrast was the defining characteristic of the mode. Careful attention was paid to sky tonality, removing magenta casts to minimize richness, and drawing down the overall saturation response to reds and greens to achieve a muted, chromatically balanced image.

Original With Classic Chrome silmulation mode

PRO Neg STD and PRO Neg HI: Finding the Positive within the Negative

Up until this point, every simulation mode we’ve reviewed has centered on an E-6 stock from the Fujichrome line of iconic color transparency film. However, the final two simulation modes borrow their trademark characteristics from an equally important, yet less commonly known negative print film—160NS. The two PRO Neg modes are intended to share similar interpretations of color, generally resting somewhere between the unsaturated look of Classic Chrome and the standard, natural look of Provia. This color palette was favored by studio photographers who photographed with 160NS regularly and requested a simulation mode that provided needed familiarity, allowing seasoned pros to predict the final exposure before they tripped the shutter. Much like Astia, the PRO Neg mode focuses on skin-tone fidelity while lightly muting colors across the spectrum to balance the final image. The two modes are separated by their unique approach to overall tonality and contrast. PRO Neg Std typically provides the user with a flat image, ideal for sculpting with controlled light sources or post processing. Alternatively, PRO Neg Hi provides a result true to its name, a “Hi-er” and more dynamic approach to contrast, which encourages elemental separation within the frame and minimizes processing time in post.  

Original With PRO Neg STD simulation mode
Original With PRO Neg HI filter simulation mode

Through Fujifilm’s dedication to its legacy users and newest fans, the company has developed a unique set of simulation modes designed to inspire creativity and nostalgia, regardless of personal shooting style. As of the writing of this article, nearly every Fujifilm X-series camera includes some combination of the film-simulation profiles and two of the simulated film stocks, Velvia and Provia, are still available for purchase. So what are you waiting for? Check out all of Fujifilm’s products on our website or head into the B&H SuperStore for some hands-on time with an X-series camera or a few rolls of some non-simulated, real film!

10 Comments

I believe you can use SIlkypix - supplied by Fuji - to get the emulations listed above using the raw files as the starting point.

I tried Lightroom but it won't match the color, saturation or contrast of in-camera jpeg processing which I mostly shoot bypassing the Raw format, I use Capture One for any processing if any needed.

I usually shoot raw and adjust in post but with the information provided in this article I may shoot raw+JPEG more with knowledge of the film simulation results I previously did not know.  Thanks for expalining them.

If you have lightroom you can go to camera calibration and use as a standar profile any of these film modes, it works great!

Excellent!

Thank you for this very helpful overview. It is a great starting point for experimenting with film settings on my XT-10. For me, the article also helps to explain why I invested in a Fujifilm camera and lenses in the first place. During my long research process that included reviews of customer-submitted photos, those taken with Fuji generally appeared more interesting in terms of color and contrast than the "natural" photos from other cameras. If natural was the most important criteria in photography, nobody would use post-processing, lighting effects, or all the effort required to frame and format photographs in the first place. Images are an art form.

Many thanks for the information. Film simulation is one of the main reasons I got into the Fuji world.

In terms of processing, I think it's worth mentioning that film simulation processing is also available through Lightroom. So it's possible to shoot raw only and apply the film simulation in Lightroom later.

Hi Richard,

thank you for your very interesting articel and the usefull comparisons. My question is: What filmsimulation took you for "Original", respectively how did you achieve the look of "Original "?

Thank you,

Christian

Hey Christian,

Thanks for your question. I actually took the photos for this article, so will answer your question.

The "original" photos were shot in Fujifilm RAW format and converted to JPEG on export from Lightroom without any post-processing.

Thanks for reading!

Nice summary of what Fuji offered several years ago. Why not revise this piece to include the several flavors of Fujifilm Acros film simulation?

Close

Close

Close