Why Fujifilm X Cameras are Perfect for Folks Who Just Want the JPGs

Fanboy alert!

At least that’s what I know the “uninitiated” will say. But you all know that my blog isn’t just about being a fan of something. It’s about what helps us express our creativity the way we want to.

And for a small cultish group of people, that’s the Fujifilm X system.

I am not associated with Fujifilm in any way, they’re not paying me to write this, and they’ve never sent me free stuff. I’m just a happy customer, one who has started to enjoy photography again since using their cameras, and I want to share this with you if you’re in the same spot.

Creativity is a Different Process for Everyone

Some folks love post-processing. They prefer to be creative on the computer. And that’s totally cool. I respect that.

But it’s not for everyone. Some people just want good JPGs out of the camera. You should have no shame in not wanting to process RAW files.

Processing files is time-consuming. It requires proficiency in a whole new discipline of post-processing, a discipline that is way larger and more complex than photography itself. And not everyone wants that. Not everyone has the time for that. Not everyone has the patience.

Unfortunately, most digital cameras offer very limited options when it comes to styling your JPGs in the camera. You can alter the saturation, contrast, and sharpness in most cameras, and that’s it. The JPGs all have the same “style,” more or less.

This is why, no matter which corner of the Internet you run to, just about everyone is saying you must be photographing in the RAW file format. Because in-camera styling is so limited, you must do it on the computer, unless you want “vanilla”-looking photos as far as toning & color are concerned. There are a few other reasons, but if you do it right in-camera, it shouldn’t matter.

But Fujifilm cameras are a different beast. Here are a few big reasons why this camera system is perfect for folks who want to be creative, to have photos that say something, but also don’t want to spend time processing photos on a computer.

Ease of Use

One of the things I’ve said in the past is that handling a Fujifilm camera helps me feel like I’m handling a camera. Other brands – especially Sony – made me feel like I was handling a computer.

Does this matter? I certainly think that it does if you’re trying to focus on creativity. Working the controls is part of the process, and if those aren’t very intuitive to you, they’ll only get in the way.

Ergonomics

Often cited as one of the main reasons people love these cameras, the ergonomics are what make Fujifilm cameras so easy to use.

They not only look and feel like “traditional” film cameras, but the controls are very similar. A ring on the lens to control your aperture, a dial up top to control your shutter speed, and another one for your ISO.

Many of their higher-end camera bodies don’t even have a mode dial like you’ll find on other cameras. But it’s perfectly intuitive to go into the different exposure modes using the aperture and shutter controls.

fujifilm xt2 xe3
Lens aperture controls, ISO dial, shutter dial…that’s all you really need

Simple Menus

Oh my God don’t even get me started on Sony…and my experience with Nikon menus from teaching photography lessons are also a total nightmare.

Fujifilm cameras weren’t always perfect either, but their menu system is certainly easier to use than other cameras I’ve had experience with.

One less thing to get in the way of photography. It doesn’t feel like a computer.

In-Camera Presets

This is the meat of it, why Fujifilm cameras are the perfect tools for photographers who don’t want to process RAW files. Their “film simulations” and further styling options.

custom setting
Calling up a “film simulation recipe” with a film simulation further customized with toning & color

Film Simulations

Referred to as “gimmicks” by some, Fujifilm’s film simulations are really what make these cameras unique.

If you look at Fujifilm’s nearly 100-year-old history as a company, they’re all about film. Their FUJICHROME, FUJICOLOR, and NEOPAN films all but dominate the entire film market in Asia, and they also hold a good share of the film market in the rest of the world, especially after some missteps by Kodak.

So Fujifilm knows film. The engineers who have their hands in films such as VELVIA, ASTIA, and SUPERIA were directly involved in “digitizing” these looks for inclusion in Fujifilm X mirrorless cameras. Are they perfect renditions of the real deal? No, but they’re as close as you can get.

Fujifilm cameras now include ten “film simulations”, some based on actual film stocks, and others based on interpretations of other films.

film simulations
Examples of some of the different styling options with built-in film simulations

Just like a landscape photographer would choose VELVIA 50 film to capture the contrast and color of a beautiful sunset or the colors of a mountain lake, so can a digital photographer with these cameras. And then for some outdoor portraits, select ASTIA, as the same photographer would prefer to do with film.

These allow you to control the look and, more importantly, the feel of a photograph to tell the story you want to tell, all based on the lighting and subject you’re photographing. And without any post-processing.

film simulations
Different film simulations give this scene different feelings

Styling Film “Recipes”

But these film simulations can be further customized with several settings.

You can increase or decrease the base saturation of that film simulation. You can increase the contrast in the highlights while decreasing the contrast of the shadows, or vice-versa. You can add a realistic film-style grain. You can further enrich certain colors with the Color Chrome setting. And in newer cameras, you can increase or decrease edge contrast with the Clarity setting, similar to Texture in Lightroom.

Experiment with all of these different combinations of Film Simulations and further tweaks to come up with your own custom “film recipes”, which can be saved to your camera and recalled at any time.

These “film recipes” are similar to processing presets one might save in Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One, etc. The difference here is that you apply them in the camera prior to pressing the shutter, rather than on the computer later on.

x raw studio
Using Fujifilm X RAW Studio software to come up with a “preset” that I can then store in my camera and recall before pressing the shutter

Isn’t that a huge time saver? Isn’t that extremely fulfilling to put your camera to your eye, say “this scene calls for this preset”, get your exposure and framing correct, and then be done with the photo? If you can do that in the camera, why wouldn’t you?

Where in the Process do You Want to be Creative?

If you want to do all of your creativity on the computer, having immense control over toning, coloring, and layered adjustments, that’s cool. I respect that. Hell, I do that too, depending on what my photos are for.

I just ask that those people also have respect for photographers who don’t want to do any of that.

And for those photographers who just want to take care of their creativity in the camera, Fujifilm X cameras will give you the tools to do so in endless ways.

14 Comments

  1. Hi John,
    I have been into photography for over 60 years and having used film for many of those years have never accepted the fact that using Lightroom and RAW et al makes one a better photographer. I only use JPEG having learned to be frugal with one’s shots and compose correctly in camera. I have owned and used many Nikon, Olympus and Canon cameras over the years, all good in their own way, but having read many articles about Fuji and seen how enthusiastic users are, I decided to investigate for my own information. As a result I purchased the much maligned XH1.
    What a great camera, I venture to say that I have never before enjoyed a camera so much, having virtually been taken back to my photographic roots and it has re-aroused my enthusiasm for photography.
    I very rarely use digital correction other than e.g. if I have a slightly out of kilter horizon, to level it up.
    Thanks for a great article.

  2. My photographic journey started (compared to Ron) only about 30 years ago, so I am less experienced in film photography. Having been a student in that time, I only used the budget options, so I was not familiar with any of the films Fuji bases their simulations on when I started using their cameras in 2018.

    Anyway, quickly realised that they were mostly better than anything I had achieved after hours of Lightroom work on my Canon RAWs which I had used up to then; and in the beginning I did not even tweak them in any way.

    By now, I have developed a set of custom-made jpg recipes that I am very happy with. The photos look outstanding on the camera display.
    Currently using the X-T3, I however still need to do some post work in LR, but I narrowed it down to clarity, dehaze, tone curves (the Fuji highlight and shadow settings work differently) and vignette (the latter for portraits only), which I have also saved as a preset which works fine 99% of the time.
    Finally, I mostly do 1-3 worksteps in Lightroom:
    1. Apply the preset.
    2. Tweak exposure (even though I often use the exposure dial on the camera frequently, there is often a little alteration needed)
    3. Crop/straighten.

    Even though I still need to post-process the images, Fuji gives me a lot of advantages:
    1. I have the option to do a lot of things correct before and while taking the image, which is great fun and makes me proud because it shows me how experienced as a photographer I am.
    2. As the images are nearly perfect ooc, I don’t need to use RAW files and
    3. could perfectly use them as they are
    4. It is so much fun creating and improving the presets and thinking about which to use before you go out and shoot, it is like reliving a period I have not experienced, as mentioned above: choosing the film with the character that suits the subject of the shoot.

    I have even come so far as to go back in time, encouraged by the film simulations: I have recently shot Provia and Ektachrome slides on my dad’s 1977 Pentax ME, which was a joyful experience.

    What I wish for the future?
    More in-camera tweaks that make me cancel my Lightroom subscription and new editions of the film simulations that make them look more like the original film.

    • Right on. I think toning and color are the two things that people get the most hung up on while developing RAW files; when you can eliminate that step, then post-processing becomes a breeze as you only need to make minor corrections to framing and add a vignette.
      The new Clarity option in new Fujifilm cameras is a great alternative to Lightroom Clarity; it functions more like Lightroom’s Texture and does a great job of making those details stand out, which was the last thing I really wanted out of Fujifilm. But we’ll see what else they add in the future!

  3. “ Simple Menus”
    I beg to differ. I’ve been shooting Fuji since the original X100. Still shooting X100’s but for ILC’s, moved to m43 for travel and Sony when IQ is paramount.

    Fuji menu’s are a complete mess. In order to access about a dozen controls, I need to visit either the Q Menu, the My Menu or the regular Menu. Why? Because Fuji, in its infinite wisdom, does not allow all main Menu items to be contained in either the Q or My menu’s. Plus, what can be placed in either of those easily accessible menu’s are not always the same items. So, I not only have to go to 3 different places to make a change, but I have to remember whats’s in which menu. Believe me, Sony and Panasonic have far simpler menu’s and a far better executed UI.

    “In-Camera Presets”
    Yes, In-Camera Presets for adjustments to film simulations. Lest any experienced photographer err thinking these are Fuji implementations of Custom shooting profiles (C1, C2, etc) they are not. Fuji has no provision for those. You can’t even set up ISO profiles and switch between them without menu diving. If you want to remain in the film camera world, Fuji is great. For those who found merit in digital, these cameras are sorely lacking in functionality and UI.

    “Film Simulations”
    I’d love to shoot exclusively jpeg. But since I live in a very high dynamic range area (south Florida) and enjoy street shooting at night, RAW is my crutch. So why is Fuji’s much touted Digital Teleconverter relegated to jpeg only? To the extent that, when RAW + Fine is set the zoom control is defeated. Would it have been so difficult to leave it on and flash a warning that it’s not possible in RAW only. Though the never touted Sports Finder essentially does the same thing and works with RAW as well as jpeg as well as any combination of the 2. I won’t even touch the lack of a crop tag for Lightroom and C1 to know how the full sensor was framed.

    I think Fuji hates its film simulations. It seems to have gone out of its way to create a camera interface that makes you want to shoot RAW only.

    • I used five different early Sony a7x & a6xxx cameras and the menus seemed like they just put random things in random folders. The locations made no sense. Fujifilm did not create the Q menu to have every single menu option available there, they created it to be able to quickly change your Image Quality settings, which is well executed. That’s what that menu is intended for. Some Fujifilm cameras do allow you to create “custom shooting profiles” in the traditional camera sense, but that’s not what Fujifilm is about. They’re about their film simulations, and being able to refine them to the photographer’s liking. I don’t think they’d build an entire brand around something they hate about themselves. If you can find information to the contrary, I’d love if you could share it.
      I don’t know what you mean about the ISO; I only have to push one button on the back of my camera to be able to quickly choose between my three ISO profiles with the command dial.
      I’ve used Canon, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, and Fujifilm. They all do different things well for different types of photographers – Sony FF for image quality, as you mentioned, m43 for the smallest possible ILC when traveling. But for those who want to style their JPGs during shooting, not during post-processing, Fujifilm has proven with their loyal following that none of those other brands come close to that goal.

      • Excellent response with which I totally agree John, I was going to reply but I couldn’t have said it any better !!

  4. I’ve been with Fuji for several years now, but I have never felt comfortable with the JPEG compression, to the point where I would make that my only medium. So I will always shoot Fine and RAW.

    I really wish that Fuji would give us another option, like an optimized TIFF file that were similar in size to the RAW files. That would be the perfect compromise if I could choose that format by default.

    • Newer Fujifilm cameras allow you to output an 8 or 16-bit TIFF, but only from the RAW Conversion menu. Since that capability is already in the camera, I don’t think it’d take much to add that to the Image Quality Setting menu in a firmware upgrade.

      • I know and seeing that the cameras are already capable of doing it, I’m not sure why it isn’t an option, even if it were only available in the single drive mode.

  5. Just like to say I am new here but under the heading Creativity is a Different Process for Everyone. You could have known me for years. The third paragraph about patienceand learning a whole new discipline which does take time time that for me could be better spent. Learning more about my Fuji cameras. I am relatively new to the Fuji system. Seeing this site has a Fuji leaning and hopefully help me become a more proficient user of Fuji cameras

  6. That’s a wonderful article! All that I have in my mind about the Fujifilm philosophy! I’m so glad that I read it! Agree in everything!
    I have only one question: You mentioned “You can increase or decrease the base saturation of that film simulation”. How can this be done? Many thanks in advance for your reply.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*