They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summer
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
Kodachrome is probably the most iconic photographic film ever made. It was legendary, and many people saw the world through its colors. Kodak produced Kodachrome film from 1935 through 2009, when it was suddenly discontinued.
The Kodachrome name has been used for many different films over the years. The first Kodachrome product was a two-glass-plate color negative that was introduced in 1915. Like all other color photography methods of its time, the results weren’t particularly good and the product not especially successful.
In 1935 Kodak released its next Kodachrome, which was a color transparency film with an ISO of 10. This Kodachrome was the first color film that produced reasonably accurate colors and was the first commercially successful color film. It became the standard film for color photography for a couple decades, and was even Ansel Adams’ preferred choice for color work. The December 1946 issue of Arizona Highways, which was the first all-color magazine in the world, featured Barry Goldwater’s Kodachrome images.
Kodak made significant improvements to Kodachrome, and in 1961 released Kodachrome II. This film boasted more accurate colors, sharper images, finer grain, and a faster ISO of 25. While it was still similar to the previous Kodachrome, it was better in pretty much every way. A year later Kodachrome-X was introduced, which had an ISO of 64.
Another generation of Kodachrome, which came out in 1974, saw Kodachrome II replaced by Kodachrome 25 and Kodachrome-X replaced by Kodachrome 64. The differences between this version and the previous weren’t huge and image quality was nearly identical. The biggest change was going from the K-12 to the K-14 development process (which was a little less complex, but still complex). This generation of Kodachrome is what most people think of when they picture (pun intended) the film, gracing the pages of magazines like National Geographic.
I personally have shot plenty of Kodachrome, mostly Kodachrome 64. It was a good general use film that produced sharp images and pleasing colors. I haven’t used it in more than a decade. Its days are gone. Even if you can find an old roll of the film, there are no labs in the world that will develop it.
Plenty of people have attempted to mimic the Kodachrome look with their digital images. It’s not as simple as it sounds. Alien Skin Exposure software has what is likely the best one-size-fits-all Kodachrome presets, but I don’t think they’re exactly right because the results vary from camera to camera.
Besides, it all depends on exactly what Kodachrome look you are after. There are different versions, including about a dozen that I didn’t mention above, each with their own slightly varied look. Perhaps filters were used in conjunction with the film (which was more common in the film era than the digital era). How it was viewed, whether projected, light table, printed or scanned, also effected the appearance. Kodachrome has a long shelf life if stored in a dark, cool space, but if not stored properly it can fade or become damaged, and maybe you prefer one of those looks over the other. It’s really tough to pin down exactly what Kodachrome looks like because there are so many variables.
Fujifilm X cameras, such as the X100F that I own, have different Film Simulation options. One of those is called Classic Chrome, which is supposed to mimic the general look of Kodak color transparency film. Some have suggested that Classic Chrome imitates Kodachrome, but I think it more closely resembles Ektachrome.
A couple of days ago I accidentally discovered a vintage Kodachrome recipe for my Fujifilm X100F, based on Classic Chrome. By “accidentally” I mean that I had no intentions of creating a Kodachrome look. I captured a RAW image and played around with it in the camera’s built-in RAW editor. I was trying to see what crazy looks I could get if I really messed around with the settings. One of the versions that I created reminded me of vintage Kodachrome.
I dug out my old Kodachrome slides, plus my grandparent’s really old Kodachrome slides (which I happen to have at my house), looked at some vintage magazines and did some internet searches, and studied what real Kodachrome looks like. Relying strictly on my fading memory isn’t always the best idea, so having actual samples to compare was useful. Thankfully I found plenty of old Kodachrome pictures from many different eras to examine.
The original picture (above) that I thought looked like vintage Kodachrome was somewhat close to the 1935-1960 version of Kodachrome, but it needed some adjustments. I played around a little more and I think that I have created a pretty good Film Simulation recipe for that generation of the film. Some images seem more convincing than others, but overall I believe it is surprisingly accurate.
One thing that I’m not completely thrilled about with the recipe is the film grain. I think that strong is too strong and weak is too weak. I wish that there was a medium option, but there’s not. On real Kodachrome the grain is not uniform and tends to clump, and so the grain looks much different than Fujifilm’s more regular faux grain. Beginning with Kodachrome II the grain was more fine, and so I definitely wouldn’t pick strong grain if I was trying to simulate a later version. The reason that I chose strong instead of weak is because it furthers the impression of vintage, despite the inaccuracy.
A characteristic of the 1935-1960 Kodachrome is the color shift. Blues veered toward cyan, reds were a bit darker, and skin tones had more of a bronze/orange look. It wasn’t as true-to-life as later versions of the film, but for its time it was considered very accurate.
I think my Vintage Kodachrome Film Simulation recipe is a great way to create in-camera retro-styled images. The example photographs in this post are all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. It’s pretty darn close to that first era of Kodachrome slide film, and while not 100% accurate, it definitely has the right aesthetic to be convincing.
Dynamic Range: DR200
Noise Reduction: -3
White Balance: Auto, +2 Red, -4 Blue
ISO: Auto up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: -1/3 to -1 (typically)
My Fujifilm X100F Acros Film Simulation Recipe
My Fujifilm X100F Velvia Film Simulation Recipe
My Fujifilm X100F Astia Film Simulation Recipe
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Hello. Thank you for your work and for sharing it with everyone. I wanted to ask you if it is possible to apply these simulations in some way in capture one. Thank you
Unfortunately, no, not exactly. Capture 1 doesn’t interpret some of the JPEG settings. It’s possible, with enough work, to get close, but it definitely takes some fiddling.
Do you set Classic Chrome as the simulation and than apply the settings above? Or do you select the STD simulation and than apply the film simulation settings?
Classic Chrome. You could try it with Provia, and it might be interesting, but it will definitely look significantly different.
Would you be able to adapt this to X-Trans II? I prefer this out of the other Kodachrome simulations. I would love to try it on my X-T1.
You know, it’s not directly compatible, but I’d love to try and get close. Thanks for the suggestion!
That would be great to see. Thanks
Thank you for doing this. Can’t wait. One thing I don’t understand: how to set the White Balance: Auto, +2 Red, -4 Blue. I set the WB to auto, but do not see how to change the red or blue. Noob question, I am sure.
You have to arrow to the right to open the WB Shift submenu. This might help:
Hi, this might sound silly but are these settings applicable when shooting RAW files on the camera? Or will these only work when in JPEG mode specifically?
They’re made for JPEGs. You can always shoot RAW+JPEG, or use X RAW Studio.
Hello, Would this have been the Kodachrome that the famous Fred Herzog would have used? All the information online just says he used “Kodachrome” but never says what version? He was most active in the 50s and 60s. I have tried a few Fred Herzog look film recipes from the net but are mostly way off. They pump up all the colours and contrast. Fred’s photos have weaker greens, lighter cyan blues, deep dark reds going towards orange, almost crushed blacks and medium to strong contrast. Grain can be medium to strong. Combining all of that is not easy to reproduce in a film recipe I guess. So is this the Kodachrome that Mr Herzog would have used or a later version? Thanks. 🙂
Very funny you mentioned this. I was looking for a Fred Herzog recipe as well. Any I have used just do not feel right. I have a bunch of Kodachrome slides from the 70s and 80s.
I was tinkering with Classic Neg to see if that would work. Maybe Richie would be able to come up with something. 😀
I have one in the works but needs to be tested. I’m in covid lockdown at the moment so I need to wait and then find some suitable subjects such as old buildings or vintage cars to see if it looks like a Fred Herzog style picture. LOL
Oh excellent. Please share when you have tested it. What did you use as a base? Chrome or Negative?
I actually seen one that used Velvia. Didn’t look quite right 😀
Mine is based on Classic Neg, I tried others but they seem dull or in Velvia’s case to strong in colour. I think I will base mine of Mr Herzog’s earlier work 1950 into the 60s. I have the reds and the greens correct, just need to get out on a nice day late afternoon to test the black levels. Grain is strong in some of his photos and mild in others so that is another point I will play around with. ..if I can’t get a recipe that is like Fred Style I will still have a nice recipe I can use for an old color photo look. 🙂
That sounds great Mark. Excited to see this.
Herzog used all three eras of Kodachrome at one time or another. His meticulous printing process had an impact on the exact aesthetic of his pictures. I think if you look at the Kodak Max 800, Positive Film, and Vintage Vibes recipes (which use Classic Negative), it’s possible to get a nostalgic “memory color” (as Fujifilm calls it), that might be slightly reminiscent of Herzog, using Classic Neg, but Classic Chrome is likely the best film simulation. Color Chrome Effect Strong definitely helps with the reds….
Fred Herzog used all three eras of Kodachrome at one time or another–his very early work would have been this Kodachrome. Herzog was known for being meticulous with the his printing process, so his pictures aren’t straight-up Kodachrome slides, but prints made in a certain fashion, which affected the exact aesthetic of his pictures. I hope this helps!
Yes his style is very unique. If I can get the colours similar I will be happy, subject matter & skill is another story. LOL
Agreement there Mark. Id be the same. Similar colours and I’d be happy too!
Did you happen to test your recipe?
Yes and I had mixed feelings about it. In some photos it looked terrible while others it looked great. How can I send you the recipe? I don’t think this forum allows outside links to be posted? Your email or Facebook maybe?
Talking about Fred Herzog….. ever seen Harry Gruyaert’s work from the 70s/80s? (all Kodachrome) would love a recipe that comes close to those two.
I think, with Herzog and Gruyaert (and others), you never saw the slide as projected or viewed on a light table (or scanned); instead, it was a print, that was carefully crafted and curated. They were very particular about that process, which had a big impact on the final image. I think, of all the film simulations, Nostalgic Neg. has the highest potential for recreating their aesthetics. It’s something that I want to look more closely at.
Hi Ritchie, I have a Fred Herzog recipe I created. I have the colours correct but never 100% satisfied with its contrast setting. Called FH16 (16 attempts) where can I post it for you to try with Nostalgic Neg as I don’t own a XT-5. I found the link below is that correct? Tha
You can email me: email@example.com
Yes can you email it to me please?
I don’t use FB anymore 😊
Excited to try it
Done, Email sent, if you cant find it check your junk folder.
Thanks again Mark. I really love it.
Hi, you are my hero!!! Its incredible this work you have done….Just a question….how you modified the red and blue parameters in WB?
This might help:
Basically, in the White Balance menu, you arrow-to-the-right to open the WB Shift submenu.