I’ve never really cared for Fujifilm’s Provia film simulation. I mean, it’s alright, but I like most of the other options better, and I wondered why they made it the “standard” film simulation. It doesn’t much resemble real Provia film—why even call it Provia?—yet it is front-and-center on all Fujifilm models.
I Recently stumbled across a fascinating article that helped me better understand why I don’t like Provia, and why the other film sims look the way they do. Exibartstreet.com translated and summarized an interview of two Fujifilm managers who discussed at length the different film simulations found on Fujifilm cameras (the original interview articles can be found here and here, and is two years old). I now have a little better understanding of Fujifilm’s philosophy behind the creation of their profiles.
Specifically to Provia, I discovered that I was never supposed to like it. It wasn’t designed for me. “When it comes to Provia,” one of the Fujifilm managers stated, “photographers that started with film find it hard, but photographers that only shoot digitally find it just right.” Well, I started with film; I don’t know if I’d describe it as “hard” but it is far from “just right” for me personally. “Provia aims at the greatest common denominator that makes you feel ‘beautiful’ at a glance.” In other words, they weren’t trying to mimic any emulsions, but create a profile that looks nice to those who have only ever shot with digital cameras. “In my personal opinion, I would like to change the name ‘film simulation,'” the Fujifilm manager said. “Film simulation is not film imitation.”
Diving into the interview, we discover that Velvia was, in fact, modeled after the film of the same name, but digital sensor and processor limitations have made it difficult to reproduce the film’s aesthetic; however, beginning with X-Trans III, Fujifilm has been able to get closer. Enabling Color Chrome Effect allows you to achieve the appropriate color depth.
The Astia film simulation looks so much different than real Astia film. “We often receive comments that ‘reproducibility is different from Astia of silver salt,'” the manager explained. “The reason for this is that ‘the image quality design is not aimed at silver salt Astia.’ You may wonder what it means to bear the name of Astia even though it is different, but it is not completely unrelated. In fact, both film and digital are aiming at the same place. In other words, the film simulation ‘Astia’ was developed to bring it closer to the ‘ideal Astia’ that the development team aimed for when developing the silver salt film Astia.” Put more simply, the film simulation is the aesthetic that Fujifilm would have produced with the film if they could have.
Classic Chrome was modeled after an unmentioned slide film… they can’t say Kodak.
PRO Neg. Std and PRO Neg. Hi were not modeled after any specific emulsions, but are for faithful color reproduction. “The main difference is the tone curve. PRO Neg. Hi is adjusted to tighten the shadows and tighten the highlights. On the other hand, the color design is the same.”
The Eterna film simulation was modeled after Eterna motion picture film. Regarding Eterna Bleach Bypass, “This setting is equivalent to ‘half of the silver remaining’ on film….”
“Classic Negative is a very special kind of film simulation, designed so that the appearance of colors changes depending on the brightness. Therefore, I make adjustments so that dark tones are cyan, and bright tones are magenta. Classic Negative… was originally ‘Superia.'” It’s clear that this film simulation was carefully crafted to closely mimic Superia film. “To tell you the truth, I feel that Classic Negative was a little too bold.” I think Fujifilm should consider going “too bold” more often!
There’s a heck-of-a-lot more said in the interview that’s quite fascinating. I think Fujifilm doesn’t want its users to interpret “film simulation” as “film imitation” because not all of their film sims are intended to mimic film. Some are, and some are not. But, even the ones that are not, the digital side teamed up with the film side to assist in designing all of the film simulations—including Provia/Std—and I think their careful attention to detail and vast film experience translates into profiles that can be made to resemble film, even if the film sim was never intended to. Still, the film simulations that are, in fact, modeled after film are my favorites.