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Fujifilm Film Simulations: More Than A Marketing Gimmick

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Updated Nov 12 2022 to include Nostalgic Negative.

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 computers. 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.

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.

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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)

provia color checker
  • 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)

astia color checker
  • 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)

velvia color checker
  • 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 brings the scenery to life and gives it depth. I’ve always found this film simulation to look better just slightly underexposed.


CLASSIC CHROME

classic chrome color checker
  • 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

pro neg std color checker
  • 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

pro neg hi color checker
  • 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.

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

classic neg color checker
  • Contrast: Medium-High
  • Saturation: Medium-Low

Characteristics: CLASSIC NEG is 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 slightly cool tint. It’s subtle but a good way to get that vintage look with warmer hues. This is loosely based on Fujicolor Superia films.

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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.


NOSTALGIC NEG

nostalgic neg color checker
  • Contrast: Medium-Low
  • Saturation: Medium-High

Characteristics: NOSTALGIC NEG is Fujifilm’s newest film simulation. Like CLASSIC CHROME, it’s not based on any particular film stock but rather a look, specifically the New American Color look popularized in the 1970s. NOSTALGIC NEG compared to CLASSIC NEG may look similar at first glance thanks to their warmer tones, but NOSTALGIC NEG is actually more saturated and has softer contrast, particularly in the shadows. Shadow areas really retain their color & texture. This film simulation is currently only available in the newest GFX models, the X-H2 cameras, and the X-T5.

Common Uses: NOSTALGIC NEG is great for documentary photography, portraits, or really any outdoor photo on a sunny day. Any time you want your photos to have a more nostalgic look!


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.

fujifilm acros film grain
Some of the nuances of this grain example were lost in the JPEG compression to upload here to this article; try it for yourself!

ETERNA (CINEMA)

eterna color checker
  • 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 color checker
  • 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.

Common Uses: When you still want your images to be about the 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.

velvia provia comparison
Velvia has a higher contrast and saturation than Provia. It’s mostly used for landscapes & sunsets. The highlights may become clipped; but notice the saturated sky colors.
provia astia comparison
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. I love the shift in the blues in Astia, apparent here.
provia classic chrome
Classic Chrome works well for documentary-style photography, where you don’t want really saturated colors but still need contrast for depth. It can also add a cooler look to set the mood, as we see here on this cold foggy morning.
provia classic neg comparison
Classic Neg is another good choice for documentary-style photography, but the colors, especially in the highlights, have a warmer shift, with more contrast.
provia nostalgic neg comparison
Nostalgic Neg adds warm color shifts like Classic Neg, but the contrast is much softer, and the colors are more vibrant. The contrast is especially softer in the shadows.
provia pro neg standard comparison
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 pro neg high comparison
Pro Neg Hi is like the “outdoor version” of Pro Neg Std. It still desaturates everything, especially the skin, but maintains depth and contrast. Notice the black headscarf loses the blue color cast that it had in Provia.
provia eterna comparison
Eterna softens everything – contrast and saturation – to bring more focus to your story rather than the shapes and colors. The mixed colors here were distracting but less so with Eterna.
provia eterna bleach bypass comparison
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.

A few extra film simulation comparisons…

fuji film simulation comparisons
fuji film simulation comparisons
fuji film simulation comparisons

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, a 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!

Brian

Saturday 19th of November 2022

How do you know what film simulation is used when looking at the photos on a computer. I can't find any information telling me what I shot. Do I need to look at it on my camera and write down what I used just so that I know when I look at it later at my computer? Should I just shoot in RAW and add simulation in Capture One? As a Fuji X owner I'm very confused why everyone plus Fuji is raving about these film simulations but once I have them on my computer I have know idea which one I used! Any help would me much appreciated. Thank you!

John Peltier

Saturday 19th of November 2022

You can use Fujifilm's X RAW Studio software to check the Film Simulation on the computer. This isn't an EXIF field found on any other cameras, so programs like Lightroom and Capture One don't have a display option for it. However, Capture One will read it and apply it to the image if the Base Characteristics "Curve" is set to Auto. It just won't say what it is. If you're going to be processing RAW files in Capture One, then you might as well just apply a film simulation in that Curve menu, so you know which one you're using. If you have a few favorite film simulations that you always use, you'll know which is which just by looking at the images after a while.

Jason

Thursday 17th of November 2022

This is a very well written article and explains the simulations and value of they bring perfectly. I do shoot RAW+JPG just in case I need to something more in depth but typically I don't need to.

John Peltier

Saturday 19th of November 2022

Thank you for the feedback! Yes, I'm always recording RAW+JPG, especially for commissioned work, but I rarely ever process the RAW files for personal work.

GF

Friday 18th of November 2022

If you have an early camera such as an X-Pro1, and you change the exif data on the raw file to say XT3, then with Capture One you can choose any simulation available on the newer XT3.

Richard

Monday 17th of October 2022

Thanks for your really helpful discussion and illustration of the different simulations. It gets to very fine gradations between some of these that I imagine would be very different again depending on lighting, colours and the subject.

James

Sunday 21st of August 2022

I like the fact that I don't have to do much editing and the pictures comes our stylized as if they've been edited in Lightroom - not via some cheap third party filter.

Pro Neg Hi is my favorite. Classic Chrome is a close second.

John Peltier

Tuesday 23rd of August 2022

Amen to that! Yes I find myself using PNH more and more.

david

Monday 28th of March 2022

I have been thinking about what happens after the images are imported to my Mac. The colors are muted and there is a film look. That's my reason for using the film simulations. I did a white balance in Lightroom and photoshop and I did not like the results. The digital look came back. Editing is subjective and each photographer has an idea what a photo will look like. I have edited images to stir the creative juices within, but then I stop and say hey you wanted a film look. John what are your thoughts about editing?

John Peltier

Tuesday 29th of March 2022

Other than being completely subjective like you say? I personally try to process as little as I can. I like to think that most of the "processing" happens prior to pressing the shutter button. I want to be out doing things, not playing with sliders on the computer :)