Your Guide to FUJIFILM Film Simulations

14Share

FUJIFILM continues to lead the digital photography world with its unique and beautiful film simulations that give FUJIFILM X series APS-C interchangeable lens, X series fixed lens, and GFX series medium format shooters an amazing creative tool. While many of today’s digital cameras contain in-camera “picture profiles” that allow you to change the look and feel of your images, FUJIFILM’s film simulations represent the pinnacle of this technology because they are based on nearly a century of analog film color science.

Photographs © Todd Vorenkamp 2021

Classic Chrome

A Brief History of FUJIFILM Digital Film Simulations

FUJIFILM, born as Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd., in 1934, has a storied reputation as a producer of photographic films—many that are still available for 35mm, medium format, sheet film, and instant cameras.

With the FinePix F700 camera in 2003, FUJIFILM started introducing film simulations into its digital cameras. Six years later, the company started aligning the digital film simulations with its popular film stocks. Unlike the tech behind the “picture profiles/film style/picture modes/photo style modes/etc.” of other digital cameras, FUJIFILM employs a team of photographers and engineers who create the in-camera film simulations using the color science and chemistry of their film stocks—taking the digital process to a level that you cannot practically achieve with other in-camera processing or even advanced post-processing skills. Just like when you try (and fail) to emulate your favorite dish from your favorite restaurant, the cooks in the FUJIFILM kitchen are applying their magic ingredients to the images with the camera’s processor and not sharing the recipe(s)!

Speaking of recipes, the executive chef at FUJIFILM for film simulations was Mr. Susumu Minami, who was part of the team that developed the legendary Velvia film, as well as other color film emulations. Minami-san is known as the father of the first FUJIFILM film simulations, and he later became the research and development manager of the Optical Device and Electronic Imaging Division. The division, now headed by Tetsuro Ashida, creates FUJIFILM digital cameras and Fujinon lenses for all of the company’s optical products. To learn more about Minami-san and his FUJIFILM film simulations, check out the video, Create Forever with Susumu Minami and Tetsuro Ashida.

How to Use Your FUJIFILM Film Simulations

There are several methods to apply the FUJIFILM Film Simulations to your images both in-camera and in post-processing. But it is important to know that the actual film stock/color science-based FUJIFILM simulations are only available using in-camera processing—they cannot be replicated without the camera.

Default for JPEGs: FUJIFILM applies the PROVIA film simulations to its JPEG files by default. If you are shooting JPEG frames with your FUJIFILM camera, you are automatically getting the PROVIA film simulation.

You Choose: FUJIFILM currently has 19 different film simulations (some of its cameras feature more than others) that you can apply to your JPEG images during capture. We will take a closer look at some of the more popular ones later in this article.

The simulation you choose is applied to a JPEG image at capture and stays with the JPEG file when the image is exported from the camera or memory card. The chosen film simulation ingredients are “baked” into the JPEG files. Basic adjustments to these JPEG images can be applied in post-processing, but the film simulations cannot be changed or undone. For instance, if you use an ACROS B&W film simulation in your camera at capture, you cannot revert the B&W ACROS JPEG image to a color photo in post-processing.

ACROS

Raw + JPEG: If you are capturing raw + JPEG files simultaneously in your FUJIFILM camera, the film simulation is applied only to the JPEG file. The raw FUJIFILM .RAF image will remain unchanged and fully editable in post-processing. If you want to experiment with film simulations, but not commit to one, this is the best way to shoot.

FUJIFILM cameras have a deserved reputation for having some of the best straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) JPEG images in the business, regardless of film simulation, so you may very well end up chucking the raw files and embracing the SOOC JPEG images.

In-Camera Raw Processing: You may add the true FUJIFILM film simulations to your raw images, in the camera, by using the camera’s built-in raw processor. Once you finish processing and adding the simulation, the camera will save a separate JPEG file on your memory card and keep the raw image.

FUJIFILM X RAW Studio: FUJIFILM has its own post-processing software—X RAW Studio—that uniquely lets you plug your camera into your computer and apply the in-camera raw processing and film simulations to raw FUJIFILM .RAF files on your computer’s hard drive. Basically, you are doing the in-camera raw processing I just mentioned but you are doing it on your desktop computer using the tethered camera’s processor. Pretty cool!

Adding Film Simulations in Post-Processing: Post-processing software like Capture 1 and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom allow you to apply FUJIFILM film simulations to your FUJIFILM raw .RAF images during post-processing. However, these are, in reality, simulations of the in-camera film simulations (yes, simulations of simulations) and do not apply the same depth of simulation that gets applied by the camera’s processor, be it in-camera or using the camera with the X RAW Studio software.

Another Film Simulation Tool in the Toolbox

Even if you are shooting only raw images with your FUJIFILM camera, you can overlay a film simulation mode to your previewed image in the electronic viewfinder and/or LCD. You also see the film simulation applied to the previewed JPEG capture. For example, you can shoot full-color raw images, but simulate ACROS B&W film and see a B&W image as you compose your shot in the electronic viewfinder and review the image on the LCD. Some photographers find that viewing and composing their color images in B&W is advantageous for focusing on composition and evaluating the tonality of a scene. Using this tool when shooting raw images, since you aren’t saving the preview JPEG images in the camera, nor exporting them, the simulations exist only in the viewfinder and/or LCD. The raw files are unaffected.

ETERNA

Tinkering with FUJIFILM’s Film Simulations

Customizability is endless. The FUJIFILM cameras allow you to take the baseline FUJIFILM film simulation offerings and then add in your own ingredients by modifying the simulations. This can be done through the camera’s menus or by using the X RAW Studio software with the camera tethered. You can save your new concoction as a custom film simulation and give it a custom name. Here is your chance to name a film (simulation) after yourself, a loved one, your favorite pet, or whatever you wish!

This flexibility and customizability have allowed artists to create and publish the “recipes” that simulate more than 100 different film stocks from all different film brands—including other FUJIFILM stocks. You can find many of these recipes on the Fuji X Weekly website. Fuji X Weekly also has an app that allows you to carry the recipes into the field on your mobile device.

If you get really into the simulations, a Facebook group—FUJIFILM Film Simulations Facebook Group—created by the Fuji Rumors founders, has more than 17,000 users who share new recipes, ideas, images, inspiration, and support for your new film simulation addiction. When the group was announced, the editors shared their thoughts, saying, “Personally, I am at a point where film simulation is one of the reasons I would not leave the Fuji system. I mean, it’s nice to know I come home from a two-week holiday with many images, and that those lovely film simulations will save me lots of editing time because they give me great results out of the box.”

ASTIA

Why Use FUJIFILM Film Simulations?

I spoke to FUJIFILM’s Justin Stailey about how he applies the film simulations to his work. “In the past, photographers often selected a particular film for how it reproduced colors (or a color palette) for a particular client or job. I think the key is to experiment. Because the cameras have the ability to produce JPEGS internally, you can try out different film simulations and see if there is something that you like. If you shoot landscapes, try Velvia; if you photograph people, try ProNeg Standard or High. For a cinematic look, Eterna gives you another option. If you find something you like, it may just inspire the look and feel of your images,” says Stailey.

Velvia

For me, adding film simulations to JPEG files was never part of my regular digital raw image capture/post-processing workflow, and I struggle with when and where to apply these beautiful simulations. I asked Stailey about this, as well, to see if he had a perspective on how to add the simulations to a workflow. He replied, “In the days of silver photography, a photographer on assignment for a publication like National Geographic was responsible for exposing the film. The film was sent off to the lab, and then would be edited for the story. Today, the photographer is the lab, and controls every part of the process.

“I would recommend going out and shooting raw + JPEG and see what you get. The 85 years of color science that are behind FUJIFILM’s film simulations can offer time savings to today’s photographers, such as a wedding photographer tasked with delivering hundreds of images to his client, or a nature photographer looking to spend more time out in nature, rather than with their nose in a computer, processing raw files.”

Do you have questions about the FUJIFILM film simulations? Let us know below!

Several years ago, B&H’s Brian Reda took a deeper dive into a few of the most popular FUJIFILM film simulations. He discusses each simulation mode individually in terms of its color reproduction, contrast, and recommended uses and also reviews 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.

Provia: The Jack-of-All-Trades

FUJIFILM’s most popular E-6 slide film is alive and well in today’s X series lineup as the default simulation. 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. This 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.

Photographs © Todd Vorenkamp

Original
With Provia simulation mode

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

RO 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

14 Comments

Quick question, does anyone know if the film simulations from the X-pro1 are the same as those in the new X-pro3? I bought an X-pro1 recently; and i don't plan on getting a newer version anytime soon, but i saw a video of the film simulations for the X-pro3 and don't have a good way to compare the 2

Dietrich G.T. wrote:

Quick question, does anyone know if the film simulations from the X-pro1 are the same as those in the new X-pro3? I bought an X-pro1 recently; and i don't plan on getting a newer version anytime soon, but i saw a video of the film simulations for the X-pro3 and don't have a good way to compare the 2

Hi Dietrich,

Both the X-Pro 1 and X-Pro 3 have the same film simulation options, except that the X-Pro 3 has two extra options. Those options are Eterna, which simulates Fuji's movie film and Acros which is their Orthopanchromatic B&W Negative Film.

i recall in the film days i shot a lot of nps, nph, and npz but i don't see these as film simulations in the new fuji's

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