A lot of people are interested right now in achieving a 1990’s film look. If you’re unfamiliar, the specific aesthetic is that of cheap 35mm point-and-shoot and disposable cameras. You know, the 4″ x 6″ prints from the 1-hour photo lab that’s in your (or your parent’s) photo album or picture box. If you are older than 25 (and maybe as young as 20) there might be some nostalgia associated with this look. If you own a Fujifilm model, it’s not too difficult to achieve the ’90’s film aesthetic straight-out-of-camera.
While Kodak was king of film, a surprisingly significant extent of this aesthetic was influenced by Fujifilm. There are a few key reasons for this.
First, Fujifilm’s QuickSnap disposable cameras were a huge hit, and Kodak was often playing catch-up with their FunSaver line. While both were really popular, odds are that if you are looking at a disposable camera picture, it was captured on a QuickSnap, which often used a Fujicolor Superia film.
Second, for those pictures captured on reloadable point-and-shoot cameras, while Kodak sold more film, Fujifilm sold a heck-of-a-lot, too. The majority of pictures were likely shot on Kodak emulsions, but a very large chunk were captured with Fujicolor film.
Third, a lot of 1-hour photo labs used Fujifilm’s machines, chemicals, and paper. Even if the film was Kodak, Fujifilm still had an influence in the final picture aesthetic. The majority of snap-shooters in the 1990’s in the U.S. were dropping their film off at cheap labs inside drug stores or box stores, such as (for example) Walmart. Because Fujifilm sold their photo development equipment and supplies at a slightly lower price than Kodak, many of these labs went with Fujifilm over Kodak. Also, if you had the film scanned by the 1-hour lab (and placed on a CD), it was likely done with a Frontier scanner by Fujifilm.
If you want to recreate this ’90’s film aesthetic on your Fujifilm camera, the best starting point is the Classic Negative film simulation, because it is closely based off of Fujicolor Superia film. Any Film Simulation Recipe that uses Classic Negative as the base is going to get you halfway there. For those who own a Fujifilm camera that doesn’t have Classic Negative (X-Trans III and older, plus X-T3 & X-T30), look for Recipes with Classic Chrome (such as Kodak Gold 200 and Kodacolor) for a retro Kodak look or PRO Neg. Std (such as Fujicolor Superia 800 and Fujicolor 100 Industrial) for a Fujicolor look.
I shot with 10 different Film Simulation Recipes that use Classic Negative as the base for this article. As of this writing, there are over 45 Recipes that use Classic Negative, so there are many more to choose from—just because I didn’t use a particular Recipe here doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work well or that you shouldn’t try it (finding Classic Negative Recipes on the Fuji X Weekly App is easy for Patron subscribers). I do think these 10 are all good options, and they produce a variety of characteristics. Some are more contrasty and some less. Some are more warm and others more cool. Some are more vibrant and some less so. Take a look at each, and if you are drawn more to the pictures in a particular Recipe, give that one a try for yourself.
10 Film Simulation Recipes
We discussed Film Simulation Recipes before talking about gear because choosing the right Recipe is more critical than the gear you use. With that said, gear is important, too. One critical component is flash. While not all ’90’s film snapshots were captured using a flash, a lot were, and so it has become associated closely with the aesthetic. I used flash in all of the Recipe example pictures above.
The Fujifilm X100V has a great fill-flash built into the camera, making it an ideal choice for this style. It also has a leaf shutter, which makes flash photography much easier. There are other Fujifilm cameras that also have a flash and leaf shutter, such as the X100F, X70, and XF10 (to name a few), but the X100V is the only one that also has Classic Negative.
One problem with using the X100V is that the fixed lens is too good. It’s not really believable as a ’90’s point-and-shoot (although there are some examples that have high-quality glass). To tone it down a little, I used a 10% CineBloom diffusion filter, which helps to produce a more analog-like rendering.
When using the Fujifilm X100V, choose the Classic Negative Recipe of your preference, screw a diffusion filter onto the lens (you’ll need an adapter if you don’t have one already), and turn the flash On (TTL). You’re now good to go!
Fujifilm X-E4 + Lens + Flash
Of course, you don’t need a camera with a built-in flash to do this. My Fujifilm X-E4 doesn’t have a flash, for example, but by attaching an external unit, such as my Godox Lux Junior, to the hot-shoe on top of the camera, I can now do flash photography. This is a lot trickier than using the X100V, and takes some practice if you don’t have experience with a flash, but it is certainly one way to do it.
What I do appreciate about this approach is that the camera is interchangeable-lens, which means you can use a more lofi option, such as the 7Artisans 18mm f/6.3 II. This is softer glass with strong vignetting, and perhaps not one you’d use much for other purposes; however, for replicating the aesthetic of a cheap point-and-shoot it is great!
Combining the Fujifilm X-E4 with the 7Artisan 18mm f/6.3 II lens and using the Godox Lux Junior flash is an affective way to replicate a ’90’s film aesthetic. All of the Fujicolor Analog and Agfa Ultra 100 examples above were captured with this combination, as well as some of the other pictures. If you don’t have a built-in flash on your Fujifilm camera, this is a good way to achieve the look.
While the picture quality from cheap point-and-shoot and disposable cameras were not considered great, this is how many important memories and ordinary life moments where captured in the 1990’s. Many people look back with fondness on these photographs. The image aesthetics conjure up nostalgic feelings, so it should not be too surprising that this look is currently in-style. You can achieve it yourself on your Fujifilm camera without much fuss—it’s mostly just choosing the right Film Simulation Recipe and turning the flash on.
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