Fujifilm Frontier Scanners & Dynamic Range Priority

I received an email earlier this week from Anders Lindborg with an interesting discovery he made. You might remember that Anders is the creator of the Kodak Tri-X 400 film simulation recipe, as well as the Fujicolor Pro 160NS and Fujicolor Pro 400H recipes, which are actually much more than just recipes—they’re a new way to approach using recipes on your Fujifilm camera. Needless to say, I was intrigued!

“After reading the information on Fujifilm’s subsites about how they develop their film simulations for the 999th time,” Anders wrote, “I had a small revelation. The base for the simulations are professional photos scanned with their Frontier scanner with corrections applied, so apparently that scanner plays a major role in the final look. I googled around for a bit and found a PDF version of the software manual for the Frontier SP-3000. Here are the really interesting parts:
1) The image settings in Fuji’s cameras are more or less exactly the same as those found in the image correction settings in their Frontier scanner software;
2) There is a correction called Hypertone that turns out to be exactly the same thing as the dreaded D-Range Priority (DR-P) modes;
3) A bit of further research revealed that almost all Fujifilm associated photo labs used the Frontier scanner since the early 90’s and the recommended method was fully automatic mode which included both white balancing as well as Hypertone—both on auto.”

After reading this, I dug around the internet for articles on Fujifilm’s Frontier SP-3000 scanner. I immediately recognized Fujifilm’s “color science” in the photographs I found. There was a distinct similarity between the images that I was seeing, which were scanned negatives, and the pictures from my Fujifilm X cameras. Another tidbit I found was a remark that negatives scanned using the Frontier scanner have a similar aesthetic to negatives printed on Fujicolor paper, which makes sense, because you’d want the digital images to closely match the prints. All of this is to say that, based on these discoveries, I believe Fujifilm’s JPEG programming is heavily influenced by their scanner technology, which was heavily influenced by their photographic paper. This was a surprise to me, although it shouldn’t have been because it is very logical.

The similarities between Hypertone and D-Range Priority are interesting. I’ve written a couple articles that discuss D-Range Priority (here and here), but I’ve always thought of it as a “use only in extreme circumstances” kind of feature, and not a particularly useful tool for everyday photography. But if it was commonly used by photo labs around the world (as Hypertone), maybe it should be more commonly used now (as DR-P)?

It’s one thing to theorize about these things, and a whole other thing to put it into practice, so I created two different “recipes” that utilize D-Range Priority (which I will share in future articles). I wanted to see if this feature could be left on for extended shooting and produce good results, or would the results be flat and uninteresting? Here are a few pictures captured with each recipe:

Recipe 1

Tall Grass – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4
Peach Tree – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4
Summer Tree – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4
Northstar – Orem, UT – Fujifilm X-E4
Arrow & Cones – Sandy, UT – Fujifilm X-E4

Recipe 2

Brownie on a Shelf – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4
White Rose of Summer – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4
Last Red Rose – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4
Big Grass Leaves – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4
Suburban Reeds – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-E4

D-Range Priority Weak is very similar to using DR400 with Highlight and Shadow both set to -2. When you compare the highlights and shadows of pictures captured with D-Range Priority Weak and those captured with DR400 with Highlight and Shadow both set to -2, you’ll notice that they’re nearly identical. What is a little different—subtly different—are the mid-tones. Anders observed, “I noticed that DR-P, just like its predecessor Hypertone, also applies a slight mid-contrast boost.” There is an advantage to using D-Range Priority Weak over DR400 with Highlight and Shadow reduced to their lowest option, but it is subtle. Another note is that D-Range Priority Weak requires a minimum ISO of 320 while DR400 requires a minimum ISO of 640.

If you use D-Range Priority Auto, the camera will almost always select DR-P Weak, and only DR-P Strong if there is a bright light source, such as the sun, in the frame (like Big Grass Leaves above). D-Range Priority Strong produces a very flat image, and it only looks good if there is a lot of contrast in the scene. Anders noted that both Hypertone and DR-P can produce “weird” results if applied too strongly, but the camera seems to do a good job of knowing when to use which DR-P option. D-Range Priority Strong requires a minimum ISO of 640.

“You have to be really careful with the exposure compensation when using it,” Anders advised. “A bit too much or too little can quickly kill the whole photo. I tried to keep it at 0 most of the time and only use Fujis recommendations for correct exposure.” I found this to be true, too, and rarely needed to go beyond +1/3 or -1/3 exposure compensation.

D-Range Priority is only found in Fujifilm X-Trans IV cameras. Using D-Range Priority Weak or Auto seems to be an effective strategy; DR-P Strong is more useful in extreme circumstances. Those who created this feature (and the other JPEG options) were influenced by Frontier scanners, and the programmers likely intended D-Range Priority and White Balance to be set to Auto. Of course, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do anything, and I’m certainly not afraid of doing things outside-the-box (as you know). D-Range Priority is something that I shouldn’t have ignored so much, because it is more useful than I originally thought. I’ve created two film simulation recipes to take advantage of DR-P (and I’ll probably create more down the road), which I’ll publish very soon.

Thank you, Anders Lindborg, for making this discovery and sharing it with us!

Let me know in the comments which recipe—1 or 2—above you are most excited for.

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  1. sarimner0 · September 12, 2021

    The X-T30 it Will almost always select strong if you use D-Range Priority auto. It’s weird that the X-T4 select almost always selects weak. :p

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 12, 2021

      I’ll have to try it on the X-T30 (something I was planning to do). When I have used DR-P on that camera in the past, I didn’t use Auto. I assumed that it would behave similarly to the X-E4, but maybe not?

      • sarimner0 · September 13, 2021

        i almost never get D-Range Priority waek on the X-T30 when i use aperture priority and auto ISO. mabye it is because off the Auto ISO? i have no ide..

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 13, 2021

        That’s strange. I tried to replicate it on my X-T30 this morning, but no luck. The only time it chose DR-P Strong was when I pointed the lens at the sun, otherwise it chose Weak. Maybe it has to do with the exposure? I’m not certain, but I’ll keep trying to replicate it.

      • sarimner0 · September 14, 2021

        yes its werid! But i hope you can figur out som recipes that are using D-Range Priority!.. And BTW i did try D-Range Priority Auto with auto exposure bracketing and aperture priority and auto ISO And it did som wired stuff!! i have no ide was going on!

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 14, 2021

        Thanks for the report!

  2. Torsten aka ViewPix · September 12, 2021

    A very interesting article, I will have to read it several times to internalize everything. I like the first picture best which was taken with the second recipe. But that’s also due to the motive, I just love something like that.

    What I still lack as information, I can easily change existing recipes and what do I have to consider?

    Cheers Torsten

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 12, 2021

      I appreciate your kind words and feedback! If you use DR-P on an existing recipe, it will change the look of it. Feel free to try, because you never know if you discover something you really like, but just know it will have a different contrast curve.

      • Torsten Scholz · September 13, 2021

        I noticed the contrast curve, but only noticed it in the second step. Somehow it was funny that the colors were too oversaturated, then I saw in the menu of the X-Pro 3 that the tone cuve was grayed out. So it had to be the case that DR-P uses its own curve. Only you don’t see any, that’s a bit tricky 😁

        Cheers Torsten

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 13, 2021

        It’s a bit tricky because you assume that the curve is the same or similar to -2 on Highlight and Shadow, but it is definitely different.

      • Torsten Scholz · September 14, 2021

        Thanks, I’m waiting for upcoming recipes with DR-P, until then I will enjoy the existing recipes 😉

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 14, 2021


  3. Miguel Tejada-Flores · September 12, 2021

    I think I prefer Recipe #2. But to be completely honest, I am slightly prejudiced because two of your photos under the Recipe #2 section – “Big Grass Leaves” and “Brownie Camera” – are among my favorite photographs in this articles. Especially the Brownie Camera – which is truly, for me at least, a wonderful image.

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 12, 2021

      Thanks so much! The first recipe is more Portra-inspired, the second more Superia-inspired. I appreciate the comment!

      • Miguel Tejada-Flores · September 12, 2021

        That totally makes sense to me, Ritchie. For quite some time (years and years, to be honest), I was and have been obsessed with the tones of various Portra films. But lately, I have been more fascinated by what Superia can (and could) do. I think I see-saw back and forth between both emulsions – so it’s not surprising to me, really, that both of your recipes here were inspired by some of my favorite film tonalities. Thanks for the explanation!

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 13, 2021

        You are welcome!

  4. J.A.Jansen · September 12, 2021

    The second one for me!

  5. Ronn Thwaites · September 12, 2021

    Recipe #1 images look beautiful

  6. Jeseul · September 13, 2021

    I like the tone of the last two image of recipe #1. Feels like the amount of dynamic range I personally like. I had no idea that dynamic range priority is different than just selecting dr100-400. This article was very enlightening for someone like me that generally shoots on dr400. I’m excited to test things out tomorrow.

  7. Stephen Wells · September 14, 2021

    Recipe #1, and especially that first image, looks great. I’m glad I have you and Anders looking out for me and my Fujifilm cameras because most of this stuff is beyond my comprehension ;)!

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 15, 2021

      Thanks for the input and kind words! I appreciate your comment!

  8. William · September 15, 2021

    The ways Fujifilm uses scans to determine film simulations and the potential uses of D-range Priority and all both mean for how various colour palettes are produced is really fascinating–thank you so much for writing this up, and Anders for the information! Options 1 and 2 are both really beautiful, but my vote also for option 2… the light in the Brownie photo and the cooler greens in the white rose photo are really lovely.

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 15, 2021

      Thanks so much! It is very fascinating! I appreciate your input and kind words!

  9. Pingback: Fujifilm X-E4 (X-Trans IV) Film Simulation Recipe: Scanned Superia | FUJI X WEEKLY
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  12. Enrico Bianchi · October 18, 2021

    Really interesting article!
    I have a question: let’s say I’m shooting with a certain recipe that’s mostly ok for the situation… Would you say that enabling DR_P Auto may be a good trick to get a generally wider dynamic range easier than playing with HL and SH?

    • Ritchie Roesch · October 19, 2021

      If the scene has a lot of contrast, this can be a good trick. It will change the look of the recipe a little, but if it might deliver the results that you need, it’s definitely worth trying.

  13. Pingback: Fujifilm X100V Film Simulation Recipe: Ilford Pan F Plus 50 | FUJI X WEEKLY
  14. Scoop, Jr. · March 24, 2022

    The old challenge was Pan-X overexposed in 1-100 Rodinal for 20 minutes to get that edge effect you could get no other way. And all 12 or 14 zones on that system. I can’t recall the name of the effect; need to drag that pop photo out of the basement . . .

    • Ritchie Roesch · March 26, 2022

      Sounds interesting! Let me know if you remember.

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