Ever since the first trailer for Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City debuted back in March, the movie’s generated a lot of buzz. There’s also been a ton of interest in recreating Wes Anderson’s aesthetic and style. Now that Asteroid City is about to hit theaters across America (and presumably the world), there’s been a renewed interest in the Wes Anderson look.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to faithfully mimic an Asteroid City aesthetic straight-out-of-camera on Fujifilm models; however, you can get somewhat close, if you ok with compromises. My Vibrant Arizona Film Simulation Recipe is the closest you’re likely to get to an Asteroid City look without editing (in the article, I give some tips for getting even closer with a couple of quick edits). While it’s just not possible to achieve an orange/teal/pastel palette in-camera on Fujifilm models, the Vibrant Arizona Recipe does produce an unmistakable Wes Anderson vibe, which is definitely in-style right now.
Last month I visited Sedona, Arizona—the perfect location to use Vibrant Arizona! If there’s any place that just cries for this Film Simulation Recipe, it’s Red Rock Country. I loaded the Recipe into my Fujifilm X-T5, attached a TTArtisan 35mm f/0.95 lens, and walked around the iconic tourist town. My wife, Amanda, came along with her Fujifilm X-T4 (with a Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens), and recorded some clips.
You can use Film Simulation Recipes for video in Fujifilm cameras to an extent, and avoid color grading. Some settings aren’t available, such as Grain, Color Chrome Effects, D-Range Priority, and Clarity, which means that Vibrant Arizona can’t really be used for video. Instead, in order to get the video clips to be similar to the photographs, we used these settings in Amanda’s X-T4:
Classic Chrome White Balance: 4350K, +6 Red & -8 Blue Dynamic Range: DR400 Color +4 Highlight: -2 Shadow: -2 Sharpness: -2 High ISO NR: -4
Of course, being influenced by Wes Anderson, Amanda shot and edited the video in a style inspired by his movies. I hope that you find it entertaining, and that it will inspire you to give the Vibrant Arizona Film Simulation Recipe a try on your Fujifilm camera. Also, be sure to follow my YouTube channel if you don’t already, and give the video a thumbs-up if you liked it.
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Three retro-styled digital cameras go head-to-head-to-head in Sedona, Arizona, each with a different manual 35mm lens: Meike 35mm f/1.7, TTArtisan 35mm f/1.4, and TTArtisan 35mm f/0.95. Who will win? Let’s find out!
I love shooting with retro-styled digital cameras! For the most part that means Fujifilm models, but I also own a Nikon Zfc. Fujifilm, of course, is renown for this type of camera; for Nikon, this is a (mostly) divergent concept. Some other camera brands also offer rangefinder or classic-SLR styling, but lack the traditional controls (such as a manual shutter knob) that are an essential aspect to the photographic experience. Leica is well above my budget. The three cameras that I chose to shoot with are the Nikon Zfc, Fujifilm X-E4, and Fujifilm X-T5.
Why these three specific cameras? I picked the Nikon Zfc first because I don’t use it very often, and was eager to dust it off. The Fujifilm X-E4 was next because it was released just a few months before the Zfc, was just a little cheaper, and on-paper the two models are fairly comparable. I chose the Fujifilm X-T5 because it is surprisingly similar to the Zfc in size and design.
Each camera was paired with a different manual 35mm lens. I attached a TTArtisan 35mm f/1.4 to the Nikon Zfc, a Meike 35mm f/1.7 to the Fujifilm X-E4, and a TTArtisan 35mm f/0.95 to the Fujifilm X-T5. Since I was using manual lenses, I shot all three cameras completely manually—no auto anything. Back when I shot a lot of film, I used a Canon AE-1 (and later a couple of Pentax models), and shot full manual for years. It’s a slower and more challenging process—especially if you don’t have much experience with it—but I find it to be more enjoyable and rewarding.
My birthday gift this year was a trip to Sedona, which is about two hours north of my home in the Phoenix area. Sedona is stunning—almost like being inside the Grand Canyon—so it was the perfect place to conduct this photographic project. Three different cameras, each with a different 35mm lens, going head-to-head-to-head, to see which is best for full manual travel photography in an incredibly beautiful location. Which one will crowned winner?
I programmed my Vintage Color Film Simulation Recipe into the Zfc and shot 36 exposures (like a roll of film) with the camera while in Sedona. I chose that particular Recipe because I like the retro analog-like rendering that it produces. In general, I feel as though Nikon’s JPEG output is well behind Fujifilm’s, but the quality is still good, and I don’t think it’s necessary to shoot RAW with the Zfc to get nice results—the unedited straight-out-of-camera JPEGs are plenty good enough for most people and purposes.
Of the three cameras, the Nikon Zfc was my least favorite. Honestly, I’d prefer a nine-year-old Fujifilm X-T1, which you can probably find for half the price or less. Still, the Zfc is a good option, and if (for some unknown reason) I could no longer shoot Fujifilm, I’d be happy with the Zfc. Did I mention that it’s a beautiful looking camera? If outward appearances mattered most, the Zfc might very well be the winner. Since the insides are just as important—if not more so—than the outsides, the Nikon is not my favorite camera. With that said, the Zfc is significantly easier to find than the Fujifilm X-E4 (which was recently discontinued, inflating the price) and significantly cheaper than the Fujifilm X-T5 (a higher-end model), making it a good choice for someone buying their first retro-styled digital camera.
The TTArtisan 35mm f/1.4 lens is wonderful! I love the design, particularly the clicking f-stops and smooth focus ring. The optical quality is excellent—very sharp! It has good character. The maximum aperture is quite large. The nifty-fifty-like focal length is extremely useful. The price is very affordable. My only complaints are that it has 1/2 intermediate stops (instead of the more common 1/3), those intermediate stops end at f/4, and the lens jumps straight from f/8 to f/16. Of the three 35mm lenses, this one is my favorite for design and practical use, and my second favorite for how it renders images.
Below are some of those 36 exposures that I captured in Sedona with my Nikon Zfc and TTArtisan 35mm f/1.4 using the Vintage Color Recipe.
Fujifilm X-E4 + Meike 35mm f/1.7
The Fujifilm X-E4 was my most-used camera in 2022. Its compact size and simplicity make it an especially excellent option for travel photography. The X-E4 was released just before the Nikon Zfc and with an MSRP a little lower, so it shouldn’t be surprising that on paper these cameras have similar specs (although the X-E4 in my opinion has the advantage in most categories), but once you hold the two cameras, you quickly see that they’re much different. First, the X-E4 is significantly smaller and lighter. The X-E4 has a rangefinder-like styling while the Zfc is SLR-shaped. For full-manual photography, the Zfc has one important advantage: an ISO knob.
Fujifilm did not give the X-E4 an ISO knob or ring. I think an ISO ring around the shutter knob like on the Fujifilm X100V would have been an excellent touch, but they didn’t do that. Normally this is no issue at all because I most commonly use Auto-ISO, and don’t often manually adjust the ISO; however, when one does want to adjust the ISO, one has to dig through the menu, or setup a shortcut. I set the front command wheel to adjust the ISO; while that’s a sufficient workaround, it’s not nearly as ideal as having a dedicated dial. For this project, I set the ISO to 1600, and only adjusted it when I absolutely had to, which worked out alright.
Of the three cameras, the Fujifilm X-E4 was my favorite during this experiment, despite the lack of an ISO dial. The small size and weight make it more pleasant for caring around on hikes or when doing touristy things. While not perfect, it’s one of my favorite cameras; however, the X-E4 has been difficult to find for some time, and even more so now that Fujifilm has discontinued it. To add insult to injury, I’ve noticed some significant price gouging lately. The Nikon Zfc is easy to find and perhaps even at a discount. The Fujifilm X-T5 is still in stock at most stores. If you don’t already own a Fujifilm X-E4, you’re not likely going to get your hands on one anytime soon, and you’ll likely pay a premium, since Fujifilm didn’t produce as many copies as there was demand for.
The Film Simulation Recipe that I programmed into my Fujifilm X-E4 was Fujicolor Natura 1600, which is one of my absolute favorites for achieving an analog aesthetic. I think this particular Recipe could trick unsuspecting viewers into believing that the pictures were actually shot on color negative film. I published this Recipe almost exactly one year ago, and it’s one of my most used. Like the Zfc, I shot 36 exposures with this Recipe while in Sedona, and it didn’t disappoint on this adventure!
The Meike 35mm f/1.7 is a lens that I really love and kind of dislike simultaneously. The aperture ring is click-less, which means that you don’t really know when you are at a particular f-stop. Mostly that’s just annoying and detracts from the experience, but sometimes it’s kind of convenient and actually better than having no intermediate stops or half-stops. The lens jumps from f/8 to f/22 rather quickly. The maximum aperture of f/1.7 is the “slowest” of these three. What I like most about the Meike 35mm lens is the quality and character of the images that it produces, which is just wonderful! This is my second favorite lens of the three for how it looks, my least favorite for the shooting experience, and my most favorite for how it renders pictures. It’s super inexpensive, so it’s very easy to recommend.
Below are some of those 36 exposures that I captured in Sedona with my Fujifilm X-E4 and Meike 35mm f/1.7 using the Fujicolor Natura 1600 Recipe.
Fujifilm X-T5 + TTArtisan 35mm f/0.95
It might seem unfair to compare the Fujifilm X-T5 to the Fujifilm X-E4 and Nikon Zfc, because this camera is clearly in a different class than the other two. The X-T5 is a more premium model, with IBIS, weather-sealing, better build quality, and double the resolution of the Zfc (and about 55% more than the X-E4). But, aside from the handgrip, the X-T5 and the Zfc are surprisingly similar on the outside, and that’s why I included it in this experiment.
The Fujifilm X-T5 is technically the best of these three cameras, hands down; however, the one reason why I believe the Fujifilm X-E4 won this challenge is size and weight. While visiting Sedona, I enjoyed carrying around the X-E4 more than the X-T5 or Zfc. Comfort and convenience are important aspects of travel photography, and sometimes that trumps pure specs or even key features. If I were to simply choose the best camera, doubtlessly it would the Fujifilm X-T5, but, for the purpose of traveling to Sedona, I liked the X-E4 just a little bit more.
I crowned the X-E4 the winner, but it is not an easy camera to find; if you do happen to see one for sale, the price will likely be inflated. The Fujifilm X-T5 can be found fairly easily, but it is by far the most expensive of these three models. The Zfc offers a somewhat similar experience to the X-T5 when shooting in manual mode with third-party lenses, but for a lot less money. Yes, the X-T5 is significantly better overall, but if you are on a tight budget (and you can’t find an X-E4), the Zfc is not a bad camera to own. If you can find an X-E4 for a reasonable price, that’s my top recommendation. If you can afford the X-T5, that’s a close second. If neither of those are applicable to you, then the Zfc is a decent consolation prize.
The Film Simulation Recipe that I programmed into my Fujifilm X-T5 is 1970’s Summer, which uses the new Nostalgic Neg. film simulation, and produces a warm retro film-like aesthetic with similarities to some classic American New Color pictures. I shot 36 exposures with this Recipe, as if it was a roll of film.
This was my very first time using the TTArtisan 35mm f/0.95 lens, which is by far the most expensive lens of the three, but still reasonably affordable. It’s kind of ugly compared to the other two, sort of resembling a sport’s referee. Wide open it’s extremely soft (nearly unusable, unless you are purposefully seeking dreaminess), but stopped down it’s sharp, and performs especially well from about f/4 to f/8. The aperture ring clicks, which is nice, but with 1/2 intermediate stops (instead of the more common 1/3 stops); thankfully, the intermediate stops go through the whole range to f/16 (the minimum aperture). This lens has the most pronounced distortion of the three. For the most part, I like the images produced by the other two lenses better than this one (which is disappointing considering the price), but the TTArtisan 35mm f/0.95 is still a lens that I enjoyed using and produces good results.
Below are some of those 36 exposures that I captured in Sedona with my Fujifilm X-T5 and TTArtisan 35mm f/0.95 using the 1970’s Summer Recipe.
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Warm Rock & Blue Sky – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
A couple of weeks ago I passed through Sedona, which is an incredibly beautiful town in northern Arizona. Sedona is surrounded by amazing red rock formations. The place feels like it should be a national park, but it isn’t. It’s a tourist town, and people come to see the rocks. It’s the subject of many photographers’ attention. You’ve likely seen pictures of Sedona in magazines and calendars. I had the chance to stop in Sedona in the early afternoon for lunch while travelling between Phoenix and Flagstaff. I didn’t stay for nearly long enough, only to eat and capture a handful of pictures. Sedona is one of those places you want to see over and over, and I wish that I lived closer to it so that I could photograph it more often.
Some would say that the middle of the day, when the sun is high in the sky, is a terrible time for landscape photography. The golden hour is when you should be out with your camera. While it’s true that around sunrise and sunset is a great time for photography, anytime can be a good time. Just because the sun is high, drenching the scene in harsh light, doesn’t mean that one can’t capture a decent picture. Today’s cameras, such as the Fujifilm X-T30 that I used for these photographs, have a great dynamic range latitude, and can handle the bright highlights and deep shadows surprisingly well. While it’s best to attempt to capture a subject in the best light possible, if that’s not practical you do the best you can with the light you have.
Something that I did have going for me were clouds. I prefer a partly-cloudy sky over an endless blue sky for landscape photography. Even an overcast sky can sometimes be more interesting than a cloudless one. Clouds add interest to the scene and can sometimes have a positive effect on the light.
I hope that you enjoy these color photographs of Sedona, Arizona!
Dead Tree & Red Rock – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Hint of Red on a Green Hill – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Green Shadow & Highlights – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Illuminated Rock – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Red Rock Behind The Treetops – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Red Rocks of Sedona – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Red Rock Formations – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Clouds Behind Red Rocks – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm
Light Red & Dark Green – Sedona, AZ – Fujifilm X-T30 & 90mm