What’s different about Fujifilm cameras that make me want to pick them up and shoot with them? This is something that I was thinking about today. I concluded that the experience of shooting with the cameras and the images produced by the cameras are what makes me want to use them more than other brands.
What is the Fujifilm shooting experience? Is it the retro styling? The manual knobs and rings? The optical viewfinder on camera series like the X-Pro and X100? What-you-see-is-what-you-get, perhaps? I think yes to all of those, but even more it’s about the feeling in the moment. That’s a very abstract explanation, so let’s see if I can do better.
When I have a Fujifilm camera in my hands with the retro styling, tactile manual controls, perhaps even through an optical viewfinder or maybe via an EVF showing me exactly what the final picture will look like, the moment slows, and it’s just me and my gear for an instant. I feel the sense of possibilities (as Rush put it in the song Camera Eye). It’s not about quickness. It’s not about resolution—it’s not about any specs of any sort. It’s just that instant and how it feels and that’s all. It feels different with a Fujifilm camera (like the X-Pro1, pictured at the top) because the body is designed significantly dissimilar from most digital cameras. “If I like a moment,” as Sean O’Connell stated in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, “I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera.” I know I just took that quote completely out of context, but for me, Fujifilm cameras aren’t a distraction, but an extension of my creative self, something I cannot say about any other digital camera I’ve ever owned. Perhaps if Sean was shooting with a Fujifilm instead of a Nikon, he would have captured a picture of the cat (joking, of course).
The other aspect of Fujifilm cameras worth noting is image quality. Again, this has nothing to do with resolution, dynamic range, lens sharpness or any technical specs whatsoever. It’s about the feel of the pictures. Fujifilm has a long history with film photography, and they felt it important to somehow infuse some analog aspects into their digital images. You can get straight-out-of-camera pictures from Fujifilm cameras that look less digital and more film-like than other brands. In fact, I’ve seen Fujifilm pictures captured using Film Simulation Recipes trick unsuspecting film pros into thinking the picture they were viewing was shot on film and not digital (true stories!). And, yes, with software and manipulation, you can achieve this with most modern cameras, but I’m talking SOOC, as in unedited. Fujifilm cameras have gotten better at this with time—thanks to new JPEG options, film simulations, and improved processing—but even the early models were quite capable.
To the second point—that the JPEG output from Fujifilm cameras is unique, wonderful, and an important aspect of the experience—I feel that Fujifilm has been on the right track with this, and it’s been getting better and better with each generation. I think there’s a bit of that analog-esque quality going all they way back to the very beginning—every Fujifilm camera has that soul—but the newer models especially have it. I know that some of you might disagree with this assessment, but that’s my opinion.
To the first point, I feel that Fujifilm has taken a divergent path lately, and has pursued pure specs and popular designs over experience—or, at least the experience that I spoke of—with most of their recent models. That’s not to say the cameras aren’t good or that people won’t love them or that Fujifilm shouldn’t have made them, just simply that it’s not going to provide the same experience (which is true); whether or not that is better or worse depends on your perspective. I might mourn it and you might celebrate it, and that’s ok—we can still be friends.
Today I dusted off my 11-year-old Fujifilm X-Pro1, attached a TTArtisan f/0.95 lens, and shot with that combo today. I programmed the Ektachrome Film Simulation Recipe, but to give the images a little more film-like character, I lightly post processed them in the RNI App using the Fuji Astia 100F v3 filter set to 40% intensity (so as to not overly manipulate the original aesthetic… I didn’t want to lose all of the original look, only slightly change it) and Grain set to 25% strength. I don’t normally edit my pictures—in fact, I had to download the RNI App because it had been so long since I last used it—but sometimes I wish the old models had some of the JPEG options found on the new cameras. Funny enough, though, the edited pictures are actually pretty similar to my Reminiscent Print Recipe, so I probably should have just shot with that and saved myself some time. Oh, well—lesson learned.
Even though this camera is ancient compared to the latest models, I personally prefer the shooting experience with it over some of my other (newer) cameras. If the Fujifilm X-Pro1 was my one and only camera, I’d be happy with it. But since I have an X100V, X-E4, and X-T5, which are the three models I’m using the most right now (all of which offer the Fujifilm experience I mentioned earlier—the X100V in particular), the X-Pro1 spends most of the time on the shelf. I happily put it to use today! Below are the pictures:
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Hey Ritchie, great article for is old modellers 🤣. I’m old skool with my ‘new to me’ X-E2s. I was mortified (!!) when i realised the camera isn’t supported by X Raw Studio so I can’t create the film sims as presets to use across my other pics. Bummer. Whilst creating the recipes in the camera is an option, I’d much prefer to do this as part of my editing workflow if I can.
From something you said in the article, it sounds like the RNI app might be a workaround? I didn’t want to get my hopes up but could you clarity? As an alternative workaround I’ve been experimenting using your recipes in camera (love the portra ones) and then trying to emulate these by creating presets in LR, but whilst I get pretty close on one pic, it’s totally off for another so I have a few that get me close. People seem to say that creating film presets in LR won’t be true to the Fuji look anyway.
Anyway if there is an alternative that can help would you mind pointing me on that direction. I totally appreciate why “older” cams arent supported by Fuji but this has the result of me having buyers remorse and itching to get another model which I can’t afford right now and actually think I can get a lot out of this cam. Thanks as always. Jo.
The RNI app (and apparently there is a desktop version, but I’ve never used it) is pretty good for applying a quick film-like preset. My experience is that you have to have a few favorites because otherwise you’ll spend all day trying to figure out which one you want to use out of the many options. I think the filters are much too strong out of the box, and lowering them to 30%-50% is much better, especially if you have a good base film simulation recipe to begin with. I find it fun to play with sometimes, but I’ve never integrated it into a regular part of my workflow, but maybe I’m just not using it right? I’d say give it a try and see if it works for you.
Ritchie, great article. I feel ya on the experience being what makes Fujifilm so different than all the other amazing brands/options out there. I have always been a Canon shooter, always preferring film over digital. I had a nice digital Canon setup but always found the analog experience (not just the aesthetic of film but the camera experience of having tactile control over the exposure triangle on top of the camera) so much more satisfying than the typical digital shooting experience. Bottom line, I was uninspired by digital because 1) the camera experience was lacking, and 2) the images were too resolved. A few years ago a friend suggested the Fujifilm x100v and that camera completely changed how I viewed digital image making. And then I found your site and my mind was officially blown wide open to the world of Fujifilm opportunities. Whether my images are any good or not is besides the point; I just really enjoy shooting with Fujifilm cameras.
On a separate note, so much of your site goes into process and recipe nuances that I don’t think enough time is spent celebrating your images. You take some incredible shots. Thanks for sharing.
I appreciate your kindness! 😀
That you just really enjoy shooting with the camera matters so much. You’ll use it more, and be a better photographer for it.
Thanks for the comment!
We’re artists. OF COURSE the quality of the experience matters. What it’s like to use the tools affects our mood and mindset, which affects how we see, and thus how we photograph. Ideally, the match between human and machine is so good that we stop noticing the technology and just focus on what we’re doing. I find it much harder (sometimes impossible) to get into the right frame of mind if I’m fighting to make the equipment do what it needs to. Because my finished product is a fine-art print (generally not bigger than 16″x20″) most of the things that camera geeks and marketing execs love to measure/tout really don’t matter to me. Numbers of megapixels, line-pairs resolved, AF tracking speeds, frames per second, number of focus points, etc, really don’t make any difference at all to my work.
I have an X-H1 and an X100F, and I have no plans to upgrade in the foreseeable future. What I DO care very much about is easy access to the basic controls and clear, responsive, positive feedback when I make changes. That generation of Fujifilm cameras excels there, in a way that nobody else’s really do (except maybe the Leica monochroms, but I can’t justify the expense). They give me the feeling that my old Nikon and Leica manual film cameras do: not that they remove all artifice from the process, but that they aren’t cluttering up my head with things I don’t need to pay attention to. I really hope Fujifilm resumes the X100 and X-pro lines in the future.
I think, as far as external camera design goes, I like the X-Trans III era best… Fujifilm kind of peaked there imho. Thanks for the input!