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Fujifilm Film Simulations: More Than A Marketing Gimmick

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I earn a small commission of product sales to keep this website going.

Updated Dec 10 2020 to include Eterna Bleach Bypass.

Why are Fujifilm’s film simulations so trendy? It’s not just trendy – there’s actually a lot of practical photographic utility to using these film simulations, and the first step is to actually understand what they do and when to use them.

Learn more about Fujifilm film simulations in a free online course – click here.

fuji film simulation menu

Why care about Fuji film simulations?

The Fuji film simulations have been called marketing gimmicks, and photographers who praise them have been dismissed as fanboys. But those who have really used and understand them know how valuable they are.

Back in the days of film, you would pick a film stock based on its character, how well it captured the feel of what you were photographing, and your style. This was the baseline, then you could tweak it in the darkroom.

Is digital really that different?

In today’s digital age most photographers shoot a flat RAW file and then sit in front of their computer. Some for hours. Many have styles & presets for faster processing, with each photo individually tweaked after that. But none of this happens until after the photo is captured.

Why can’t we just do the styling part in-camera when capturing the photo? That’s what Fujifilm’s film simulations are for.


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Do you treat your landscapes with bold colors and contrast? Choose Velvia, as I did decades ago for how well it depicted the Arizona landscape.

Do you have RAW styles/presets that produce muted colors and flat contrast? The new Eterna will suit you well, or perhaps PRO NEG STD.

Each of these Fuji film simulations can be further customized to your tastes by making presets that give you far more creative control than other camera manufacturers.

Are these film simulations identical to the real deal? No. But they look and react very similarly. These will always be digital files with their digital drawbacks, but Fujifilm continues to improve on them.

Not sure which film simulation to pick? Read this post to learn about Film Simulation Bracketing mode.


Fujifilm film simulation specifics

I’ve provided comparisons for the color film simulations to PROVIA, which is considered the most neutral. When you look at the comparisons, pay attention to the differences in contrast and how colors are rendered.

I’ll explain the different simulations first and provide image comparisons at the end.


PROVIA (STANDARD)

  • Contrast: Medium
  • Saturation: Medium

Characteristics: True colors with no intended color casts. There is some contrast but it isn’t noticeably strong. It does a good job of not intentionally clipping shadows or highlights, without making them too soft.

Common Uses: This Fuji film simulation can really be used for anything. That’s why you’ll find it called “Standard” in the camera menus. If you’re panicking to figure out which film simulation to use, you really can’t go wrong with PROVIA. And if you’re one of those folks who does minimal post-processing with their photos – no wild contrast, color grading, or saturation shifts – this is the perfect film simulation.


ASTIA (SOFT)

  • Contrast: Medium
  • Saturation: Medium

Characteristics: Astia is called “Soft” in the Fujifilm menus, but that’s kind of a misnomer. The softness mostly only occurs in the skin tones where they’re desaturated, hues are shifted away from red, and highlights are tempered. The image keeps its punch without making everyone’s skin look like it has jaundice or rosacea. If you like blues…blues, on the other hand, are almost neon. I love the way Astia handles blues.

Common Uses: This is a common film stock & simulation for portraits thanks to its rendering of neutral skin tones. It also works well as a general travel film look. If the Pro Neg films don’t have enough saturation for you, try this.


VELVIA (VIVID)

  • Contrast: High
  • Saturation: High

Characteristics: This beloved Fujifilm film simulation is likely to both clip your shadows and highlights at the same time, especially in high-contrast scenes. The saturation is also high, especially in the purples, blues, oranges, and greens – landscape & sky colors. Be careful, it will amplify any color casts, especially in the blues and greens. Blues are slightly shifted towards magenta to produce colorful skies. VELVIA has a very strong highlight curve. Skies look better slightly underexposed.

Common Uses: This is most commonly used for landscapes and nature photography. The vibrance in the greens, blues, and purples, along with the contrast, really bring the scenery to life and gives it depth. I’ve always found this film simulation to look better just slightly underexposed.


CLASSIC CHROME

  • Contrast: Medium-High
  • Saturation: Low

Characteristics: CLASSIC CHROME wasn’t designed to emulate a specific Fuji film stock, but rather a certain look. Color casts are mostly neutralized, desaturating purples and greens, though there is a hue shift towards cyan. Blues stand out against an otherwise gray world, with a little punch in the reds too. The look offers medium contrast for depth despite subtle coloring.

Common Uses: This look was popular in photojournalism back in the day and is a favorite for documentary & street photographers today. It is also used by landscape photographers who want some muted, neutral colors to subdue the scene.


PRO NEG STD

  • Contrast: Low
  • Saturation: Medium-Low

Characteristics: This film simulation is based on Fuji’s Professional Color Negative film and comes in two flavors. Both are optimized for portraits. PRO NEG STD is much more subdued than ASTIA, the other film recommended for portraits. It has lower contrast and the colors are less saturated also, especially in the skin tones.

Common Uses: The soft, subdued look of PRO NEG STD makes it ideal for indoor portraits. It was intended for studio portraits where you can create your own shadows because it doesn’t have a lot of contrast otherwise.


PRO NEG HI

  • Contrast: Medium
  • Saturation: Medium-Low

Characteristics: PRO NEG HI is the higher-contrast version of PRO NEG STD. The increase in contrast also deepens the colors slightly.

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Common Uses: Like ASTIA, this film simulation works great for outdoor portraits. ASTIA, however, can be too saturated for some people, especially in the blues, yellows, and oranges. PRO NEG HI subdues these colors for a more natural look.


CLASSIC NEG

  • Contrast: Medium-High
  • Saturation: Medium

Characteristics: CLASSIC NEG one of the newer Fujifilm film simulations. It’s a bit like CLASSIC CHROME but instead of a “cooler” shift towards cyan, it has a “warmer” shift towards red, particularly in the highlights. The shadows actually move towards a slight green tint. It’s subtle, but a good way to get that vintage look with warmer hues. This is loosely based on Fujicolor Superia films. This is currently only available on the newest cameras like the X-Pro3, X-T4, and X100V.

Common Uses: The CLASSIC NEG film simulation is great for documentary and photojournalism, like CLASSIC CHROME, but when you want “warmer.” This film simulation will also work great for outdoor portraits, keeping deep shadows with natural skin colors. I compare Classic Neg and Classic Chrome with some side-by-side photos here.


ACROS

  • Contrast: Medium
  • Saturation: Medium

Characteristics: ACROS is completely different from “monochrome.” It’s based on Fujifilm’s Acros Neopan black & white film, and the digital rendering is very popular with photographers. You’ll get a lot of texture in the highlights and retain details in the shadows. It does have a higher contrast than film. ACROS also has its own noise reduction algorithm to deal with grain – it adds beautiful digital grain that you’ll need to try out. I dare say the ACROS in-camera grain is better than anything you could add in a post-processor.

You have standard ACROS and three filter options – Green, Red, and Yellow – common in B&W photography and used for different purposes. I’ve dedicated an entire post to the ACROS color filters, what they do, when to use them, and you can read that here: Using ACROS Color Filters.

Comparison of how ACROS renders grain between OFF and STRONG.

ETERNA (CINEMA)

  • Contrast: Low
  • Saturation: Low

Characteristics: Eterna was developed for cinema. It is a very soft film simulation with low contrast. Colors exhibit low saturation and smooth tonal gradations, with a slight blue shift towards cyan. This is currently only available on newer Fujifilm cameras like the X-T3, X-T30, X-Pro3, X100V, and X-H1.

Common Uses: This is a favorite Fuji film simulation for cinematographers though the style also suits a number of still photographers as well. It’s a great simulation to use when the photo is all about “story” rather than the tones and colors since those will be mostly kicked to the curb.


ETERNA BLEACH BYPASS

eterna bleach bypass colors
  • Contrast: High
  • Saturation: Extra-Low

Characteristics: Eterna Bleach Bypass is a different cinema option than Eterna. The saturation is ultra-low, almost to the point where you might think it’s black & white at first. This is currently only available on the newest cameras like the X-T4 and X-S10.

Common Uses: When you still want your images to be about story but need the contrast that Eterna doesn’t offer, Eterna Bleach Bypass is a good option.


Fujifilm film simulation comparisons

And now, the image comparisons. Other than some cropping to save screen room, these are how the JPGs came out of the camera; no other adjustments were done to toning or colors.

To see video demonstrations and learn about the film simulation differences in-depth, you can sign up for my free Fujifilm film simulation course here.

provia vs velvia
Velvia has a higher contrast and saturation than Provia. It’s mostly used for landscapes. The highlights may become clipped; the blues show a magenta shift, apparent in the mountains here.
provia vs astia
Astia is a great choice for environmental portraits. It retains strong, bold colors everywhere except in the skin tones, where the skin appears softer, less saturated, and more pleasant.
provia vs classic chrome
Classic Chrome works well for documentary-style photography, where you don’t want really saturated colors but still need contrast for depth.
Provia vs classic neg
Classic Neg is another good choice for documentary-style photography, but the colors, especially in the highlights, have a warmer shift.
provia vs pro neg std
In a studio where you have full control over the lighting (and shadows), Pro Neg Std works great for portraits, producing a softer, more natural-looking skin.
provia vs pro neg hi
Pro Neg Hi is like the “outdoor version” of Pro Neg Std. It still desaturates everything, especially the skin, but maintains depth and contrast.
provia vs eterna
Eterna softens everything – contrast and saturation – to bring more focus to your story rather than the shapes and colors.
provia vs eterna bleach bypass
Eterna Bleach Bypass adds some strong contrast to your photos while desaturating them nearly to the point of black & white, with a bit of a cooler color cast.
provia vs velvia vs classic chrome vs classic neg
Here the Velvia simulation creates a rich “golden-hour dusk” look with saturated skies and contrast. The others still work, depending on the story you’re trying to tell.
provia vs astia vs velvia vs eterna bleach bypass vs classic neg vs classic chrome
This comparison shows the range of Fujifilm film simulations, from the rich & saturated Velvia to the desaturated Eterna Bleach Bypass

If you’re looking for ACROS and ACROS color filters, I created an entire post dedicated to these comparisons: ACROS Color Filters.

For more Fujifilm film simulation comparisons, a PDF download, film simulation quiz, and in-depth videos, check out my free Fujifilm Film Simulation Course. Yeah, it’s free, and not even spammy like other free stuff!

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Andrew Townsend

Wednesday 2nd of December 2020

Hi John - thanks for the excellent article - really well put together. I have an old X-Pro1 and, although the options are more limited than on the newer cameras, I love experimenting with the film simulations. Messing around with the white balance can produce some really interesting effects too

John Peltier

Wednesday 2nd of December 2020

You're welcome! Glad to hear those first-generation models are still out there and making people happy.

Job de Lange

Wednesday 11th of November 2020

Hi John, great article! I haven't seen a better overview of Fuji film simulations! I think Fuji would do well to provide a fact sheet or small booklet to help us understand how and when to apply them.

John Peltier

Thursday 12th of November 2020

They do have some information on their website, but it's rather spread out and unorganized, and a little more technical in nature. I hope this is a more concise resource for most people :)