I get asked sometimes a very fair question: why use Film Simulation Recipes when Fujifilm’s factory-default film simulations are just so darn good?
Fujifilm has, in my opinion, the best JPEG output of any brand. Their film simulations are significantly influenced by Fujifilm’s vast experience with analog film, and it should not surprise anyone that they look good without any modifications. However, Fujifilm does provide a number of tools to customize and fine-tune the straight-out-of-camera results, which I believe makes them even better.
For those who don’t know, Film Simulation Recipes are settings for Fujifilm cameras that produce certain aesthetics, often modeled after classic film emulsions. I have published over 300 of them, which you can find on this website and the Fuji X Weekly App. Recipes are intended to be shot as JPEGs (or RAW+JPEG, if you prefer), and produce out-of-camera pictures that don’t require any editing, or perhaps minimal post-processing if you like. They appear as though they were edited, or even film-like. This saves a lot of time, hassle, and possibly money. It opens up photography to those who don’t know how to RAW edit, or don’t have the desire to learn, or maybe don’t even have access to editing software. This also makes photography more enjoyable to folks (like me) who have RAW-edited for years but don’t care much for it, and would rather be doing other things (like capturing more pictures!).
Many photographers who own a Fujifilm camera never dive into the menu to adjust the JPEG parameters. They keep it on Provia/STD and at factory defaults, which is 0, Off, or Auto. Or maybe they try the other film simulations, but they still keep everything else set to the default settings. It’s completely understandable. The results are already good, and, besides, the options can seem overwhelming and confusing. Film Simulation Recipes, which takes the guesswork out of the various options, improve upon the standard film sims, but also provide some variety. If you only ever use the default options, you are limited to (for example) a maximum of 10 looks for color photography (11 if you have the latest GFX model with Reala Ace), but there are over 300 Film Simulation Recipes, so (depending on your camera model) you could have hundreds to choose from. You can find the Recipes that produce aesthetics that best match your style and taste.
This is in no way intended to put down factory-default film simulations, or those who use them. My intention is to simply compare a default film sim photograph with a Film Simulation Recipe. Maybe you like the non-Recipe picture better, and that’s ok if you do. There are so many other Recipes to choose from, and I bet at least one would produce a look that you like more than the default film sim—for example, there are 80 Recipes in the Fuji X Weekly App that use Classic Chrome, so if you don’t like the Recipe I chose for this article, there are 79 others that could possibly be a better match for you.
Some Film Simulation Recipes are drastically divergent from the default film simulations, and some are only subtly altered. Many are intended for certain light situations (sunny daylight or artificial light, for example), while Auto White Balance is the factory standard. There’s no one single “right” Recipe or even a perfect film simulation. What matters is finding what works best for you and your photography. That could be a collection of Film Simulation Recipes, it could be a default film sim, or it might be shooting RAW and editing with the software of your choice, or any combination thereof or something different entirely. There’s no right or wrong way. For me, it’s shooting straight-out-of-camera JPEGs using Film Simulation Recipes.
Below are examples of factory-default film simulations compared to Film Simulation Recipes.
PRO Neg. Hi
PRO Neg. Std
Eterna Bleach Bypass