Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Custom Film Simulations on my Fujifilm X-E1

Last post I outlined my switch from the Olympus Pen E-P3 to a Fuji X-E1 as my lightweight, mirrorless travel camera. I've owned it for about a week now, certainly not long enough to form any serious opinions about using it. However, initial impressions have been largely very positive.

One of my main reasons for switching was for 'better' IQ (image quality) from the Fuji X-E1's 16MP APS-C sized X-Trans sensor. Not only is it higher resolution than the Pen E-P3, but also considerably better low-light performance (apparently). I will be putting the X-E1 through its paces at high ISO's at some stage. But that's another post for another time.

The other major reason that I was keen to go the Fuji route was for their film simulations. Of course the history of Fuji is in their name - Fujifilm. So if anyone can make in-camera film simulations work, it has to be them. And indeed, many photographers (both professional and enthusiast) have flocked to the Fuji system so they can shoot jpegs straight out of camera with film simulation modes.

So one of the first things I did when my Fuji X-E1 arrived, was to sit down with it for the first few days and programme some film 'looks' into the camera based on the in-built film simulations. In this post I will go over what I've programmed into the seven custom simulation slots that Fuji allow on the X-E1, and show what they look like with the settings applied.

First off, all the Fujifilm cameras come with pre-set film simulations. The X-E1 has ten: Provia, Velvia, Astia, Pro Neg Hi, Pro Neg Standard, Monochrome, Mono +Y, Mono +R, Mono +G, and Sepia. This is what they look like:

There are differences, but they can be subtle. A simulation like Velvia is obviously more punchy in terms of colour vibrancy and contrast than Astia, whereas Provia looks very similar to Pro Neg Standard. Depending on subject matter, the monochrome filters can also be very subtle, although the differences are there if you look hard enough. Of course it can also be difficult to see the subtle differences in a compressed web file.

Of course all of these film simulation pre-sets are jpeg only. They don't get applied to the RAW file, although they will affect the view through the evf and the preview on the back of the cameras LCD screen. If you shoot RAW + Jpeg then you will get the best of both worlds; a RAW file with all the sensor information in-tact, and a camera-processed jpeg with the film simulation applied.

But the real fun to be had when using the film simulation modes is to create your own flavours. There are quite a few of these 'recipes' floating around the internet and on other blog posts, and most of them are designed to mimick the look of film stocks. I have certain favourite stocks that I enjoy shooting when I use film, so this was going to be my starting point when creating my own.

The slight downside to using the X-E1 is that it uses a first generation X-Trans sensor, which doesn't support the newer Fuji film simulations like Classic Chrome and Acros. Acros just happens to be my favourite b&w film stock, so I was keen to try and replicate this in a film simulation. I had also found a Classic Chrome Recipe which would give a similar effect on the first-gen sensor. So these are my first two recipes.

Classic Chrome
Classic Chrome. Fujifilm X-E1 with 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OIS. f7.1 @ 1/350th, ISO 400
Classic Chrome with grain added in Lightroom
C1 Custom Setting - Classic Chrome Recipe.
A standard colour profile to replicate Fuji's new film simulation.
ISO: Auto up to 6400
Dynamic range: Auto
White Balance: Auto
Noise reduction: -2
Base film simulation: Astia Soft
Highlight: +1
Shadow: -2
Sharpness: -1
Colour: +1
Grain effect added in Lightroom in post:
Amount: 30  Size: 30  Roughness: 30

This is a pleasing colour look, and will probably be my default choice for shooting colour jpegs. The classic chrome film simulation has fast become a favourite for many Fujifilm shooters, and it's not hard to see why. To give the simulations a more film look, I've had to apply some grain in post processing. Again, the newer Fuji cameras allow you to add grain to the film simulations - the X-E1 does not. Click on the grain sample image above for a better view of a 150% crop from the original image.

Acros
Acros. Fujifilm X-E1 with 16-50mm f3.5-5.6. f5.6 @ 1/250th, ISO 200

Acros with grain added in Lightroom
C2 Custom Setting - Acros.
A standard b&w profile to replicate Fuji's new film simulation.
ISO: Auto up to 6400
Dynamic range: 100
White Balance: Auto
Noise reduction: -1
Base film simulation: Mono +Y
Highlight: 0
Shadow: +1
Sharpness: +1
Grain effect added in Lightroom in post:
Amount: 30  Size: 30  Roughness: 30

Again, this is a pleasing b&w look that will become my go-to black and white mode. I guess that the camera will live on either C1 and C2 most of the time. the other custom simulations will be for when I'm feeling in a particular mood. Just like when I shoot with real film I guess?

Also, again, a fairly tight and small grain structure has been added in post later. I would prefer the grain was added in-camera, but I'll have to 'upgrade' to a newer body for that function. I have also just downloaded Capture One Express Fuji Edition (free for Fujifilm camera owners) which has grain effects as well, so I may end up setting up a 'style' of grain that I can apply to the files when they are being imported. That would be the way to go.

Portra 400
Portra 400. Fujifilm X-E1 with 16-50mm f3.5-5.6. f.6.4 @ 1/420th, ISO 400
Portra 400 with grain added in Lightroom
C3 Custom Setting - Kodak Portra 400.
ISO 400 colour film simulation with a muted colour palette suitable for portraits.
ISO: 400
Dynamic range: 200
White Balance: Fine
Noise reduction: -2
Base film simulation: Pro Neg Stnd
Highlight: -1
Shadow: +1
Colour: -2
Sharpness: +1
Grain effect added in Lightroom in post:
Amount: 30  Size: 40  Roughness: 40

Kodak Portra is one of those classic films that I knew I definitely wanted to try and simulate. I don't shoot a lot of portraits normally, and the above shot probably doesn't do it much justice. But I do hope to try this out with some portraits to see if it comes close to replicating the slightly muted, more pastel look of Portra. I may have to 'over-expose' it slightly and see if it holds up with the -1 Highlight setting?

Tri-X
Tri-X. Fujifilm X-E1 with 16-50mm f3.5-5.6. f6.4 @ 1/450th. ISO 400
Tri-X film simulation with grain added in LR
C4 Custom Setting - Tri-X.
Classic higher contrast street/photojournalist b&w film with more grain than Acros.
ISO: Auto - 400 up to 3200
Dynamic range: 200
White Balance: Auto
Noise reduction: -0
Base film simulation: Mono +R
Highlight: +1
Shadow: +2
Sharpness: +1
Grain effect added in Lightroom in post:
Amount: 60  Size: 40  Roughness: 40

For a more contrasty, grainy look to my black and whites I like Kodak Tri-X. This film simulation mode adds the red filter, more grain, and increases the highlight and shadow contrast for a more 'street' grunge black and white look. Will also be good for more moody b&w landscapes (since I don't really shoot any street).

Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar 100. Fujifilm X-E1 with 16-50mm f3.5-5.6. f5.6 @ 1/250th, ISO 200
Ektar 100 film simulation with added grain in Lightroom
C5 Custom Setting - Ektar 100.
Ultra fine grain ISO 100 sharp colour film simulation suitable for landscapes.
ISO: 100 (Low)
Dynamic range: Auto
White Balance: Auto
Noise reduction: -2
Base film simulation: Astia Soft
Highlight: +1
Shadow: +1
Colour: +2
Sharpness: +1
Grain effect added in Lightroom in post:
Amount: 30  Size: 30  Roughness: 30

Kodak Ektar 100 is my favourite go-to medium format 120mm roll film when I shoot with my Bronica ETRS. It's a super-fine grain, contrasty and punchy film - not as punchy as Velvia, which is why the base film simulation is Astia ramped up to +2 colour. Will probably be my landscape film simulation of choice when shooting colour.

Ilford HP5
Ilford HP5. Fujifilm X-E1 with 16-50mm f3.5-5.6. f6.4 @ 1/420th. ISO 400

Ilford HP5 with grain added in Lightroom
C6 Custom Setting - Ilford HP5.
Faster b&w film with more grain than Acros.
ISO: Auto - 400 up to 1600
Dynamic range: 200
White Balance: Auto
Noise reduction: -2
Base film simulation: Mono +G
Highlight: +2
Shadow: +1
Sharpness: 0
Grain effect added in Lightroom in post:
Amount: 50  Size: 40  Roughness: 40

If I'm looking for something with a little more speed than Acros, but not as contrasty or grainy as Tri-X, then I reach for Ilord HP5. It's a do-it-all type of film. This film simulation probably won't get a lot of use, and I may swap it out for something else eventually? I'm really only just starting out with these film simulations, and I'm sure I will 'tweak' them as I go - or change them out completely? But I also like the 3/4 split with b&w/colour, although another colour simulation that's a bit more funky and out-there might eventually replace this HP5 look?

Fuji Superia 800
Fuji Superia 800. Fujifilm X-E1 with 16-50mm f3.5-5.6. f9 @ 1/400th. ISO 800

Fuji Superia 800 with added grain
C7 Custom Setting - Fuji Superia 800.
Fast ISO 800 colour negative film simulation suitable for general photography.
ISO: 800
Dynamic range: 200
White Balance: Auto
Noise reduction: -2
Base film simulation: Pro Neg Stnd
Highlight: 0
Shadow: +1
Colour: +2
Sharpness: +1
Grain effect added in Lightroom in post:
Amount: 60  Size: 40  Roughness: 40

Speaking of colour simulations that are a bit more 'out-there', I had to include an ISO 800 film in the simulations - so why not go for a Fuji 800 film? To be honest, I don't shoot a lot of 800 ISO film, so again, this may be something that makes way for another Recipe later on?

Looking at all these film simulation recipes, you can certainly see obvious colour and tonal differences. Creating, and then tweaking them, is actually a lot of fun. But it's also fairly subjective, and not an exact science. Is my Acros film simulation exactly like Acros film? No, of course it's not. Is it exactly like Fuji's own Acros film simulation setting in the later cameras? Again, probably not. But does it give me something that approaches the feel of Acros when I shoot with it? Hopefully it does.

What the custom film simulations will also do is encourage me to shoot in jpeg, to let the camera do all the processing work at the time of capture. This will 'free me up' to spend less time sitting at the computer post processing - which suits me fine. I spend all day sitting at a computer, I don't really fancy doing it all night as well! Initially, however, I will probably cover my bases and shoot RAW + Jpeg, which is something I never do. Prior to using the X-E1, I was a 100% RAW only shooter and fiercely proud of it! But of course these film simulations are only applied to jpegs, so there's really no point in spending a few days setting these simulations up, and then not actually use them!

I appreciate this is a fairly long post - but hopefully you got something out of it if you're a Fuji X-E1 (or X-Pro 1) owner with the first gen X-Trans sensor? Have you got any film simulation recipes that you use with your X-E1? I'd love to hear what you're using, and how you've set your X-E1 up. I'm still just learning all of this.  

2 comments:

  1. Fascinating discussion...going to play around with this. Didn't really understand Fuji recipes until reading this. LOVE your Classic Chrome recipe result...YUM...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Frank
    Glad you got something out of the post. I've got some more coming soon that go into greater detail on each film simulation recipe. They are a lot of fun...

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your reply. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on this post. I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Thanks again
Wayne