I remember when ISO 400 used to be consider high ISO. In fact, the “H” in Fujicolor Pro 400H means high ISO. When I shot film, I usually didn’t go higher than ISO 400, although on a rare occasion I did go wild and use an ISO 800, 1600, or (gasp!) 3200 emulsion (those were ultra-high-ISOs back then), when the expected light was dim and a tripod wasn’t practical. When I started shooting digital almost 15 years ago, I remember that ISO 1600 on my first DSLR was barely usable in a pinch, and it was best to stay at or below ISO 800. Nowadays those limitations are long gone.
Thanks to the X-Trans color array, Fujifilm is better able to differentiate color noise from color information (than with a Bayer array), allowing more control over how noise is rendered. Because of this, the APS-C sensor on Fujifilm X cameras does pretty darn well at high-ISO photography. Yes, it can get noisy, but the noise is more organic-looking and less color-splotchy (perhaps even a little film-grain-like) than non-X-Trans cameras typically produce.
Still, a lot of photographers are hesitant to try high-ISO photography. I’ve had someone tell me that they never go beyond ISO 800 on their Fujifilm cameras. Someone else said that they don’t use Film Simulation Recipes with DR400 because it requires an ISO that they’re not comfortable using. Everyone has their own preferred upper ISO limit—mine might be higher than yours, and that’s ok. What I’d like to do, though, is encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, and try some ISOs that you would not normally—or perhaps ever—use.
You might want to use ultra-high-ISOs—which I consider to be ISO 12800 and higher, but your definition might be different—in dim light situations, such as at night or in a poorly lit room. That’s probably the most common reason. I will sometimes use really high ISOs in daylight when it’s not even necessary just for the aesthetic of it. Crazy, right?! I think sometimes digital can appear too clean, and an ultra-high-ISO can give the picture a grittier look, more similar to some film emulsions.
Of course, using ultra-high-ISOs in daylight can be problematic because the light is strong. My Fujifilm X100V has a built-in ND filter, which makes it more practical. Otherwise, screwing an ND filter onto the end of the lens will help. If you don’t have one, be sure to use your camera’s electronic shutter (instead of the mechanical one) because it is capable of faster shutter speeds. You might also have to use small apertures like f/11 or f/16 to reduce the light entering the camera.
If you want to give it a try, below are seven Film Simulation Recipes that use ultra-high-ISOs. Many of them go “up to” an ultra-high-ISO, so in that case you’d want to purposefully choose a high ISO instead of a low one. Give one or more of these Recipes a try today! Leave a comment to let me know which one (or ones) you like. My personal top favorites are GAF 500 for color and Kodak Tri-X 400 for B&W.
Up to ISO 12800
Up to ISO 25600
Find these Film Simulation Recipes and nearly 300 more on the Fuji X Weekly — Film Recipes App!
Help Fuji X Weekly
Nobody pays me to write the content found on fujixweekly.com. There’s a real cost to operating and maintaining this site, not to mention all the time that I pour into it. If you appreciated this article, please consider making a one-time gift contribution. Thank you!