Crafting my own jpeg film simulation recipes for my Fujifilm X-T1, X-E2s and X70. (Yeah, that’s X-Trans II…old school).

The film simulations are perhaps my favorite thing about my Fujifilm cameras. Well, maybe it’s tied with the tactile dials…but the ability to craft a final image in camera, with creative control and no editing, was a huge selling point.

I’ve utilized several film simulation recipes from other photographers over the years, most notably Kevin Mullins and Ritchie Roesch from Fuji X Weekly. So many options and really beautiful results, but as the years have passed, I’ve found myself relying on these less and less.

Firstly, because my gear is old and the recipes they use have evolved to allow for greater control with additional settings not available on my cameras. The Fuji X Weekly recipes are especially difficult to employ quickly because my older gear can’t save a custom white balance shift for each recipe, which means I have to readjust my white balance settings each time I want to change to a different recipe, even if the rest of the adjustments are saved as a custom setting. Given that I’m all about quick and easy (too much messing around with settings means I’ll lose my motivation to go shoot), you can see how this might be a deterrent to using these recipes.

Ultimately, I felt it was time to create something of my own, and while I actually really love several of Kevin’s recipes, and still use the older versions from time to time, he doesn’t employ the Astia film simulation at all and guess what? It’s my favorite sooc color simulation.

It seemed time to create my own rather than continuing to tweak others’. And as there aren’t a lot of options out there for recipes suited for X Trans II sensors (that I could find anyway – seems everyone has updated their blog posts to align with newer sensors), I thought I’d share them here. I’ve gone ahead and used “Auto” white balance for all my recipes and depending on the light that day, I may make specific color shift adjustments to compensate for clouds or golden hour – basically warm it up or cool it down if needed. But again, I like to start with Auto and go from there.

Well, as I said, Astia is my favorite of the color simulations. I love how the colors are somehow soft and yet very pigmented at the same time. I’ve set up a custom setting on all three of my cameras and the goal was simple – to look realistic, but not harsh. While I’m certainly not trying to emulate a particular film stock, it does remind me of shooting film. I prefer to shoot it at an ISO of 800-1600 to incorporate a bit of grain and give it more of an analog feel.

Analog Astia
Film Simulation: Astia
Dynamic Range: 100%
Color: 0
Sharpness: -1
Highlight Tone: -1
Shadow Tone: -2
Noise Reduction: -2

Example Photos:

Black and white photography has long since had my heart. It’s my go-to, my first love. There is something soulful about it. It possesses a timeless quality that is absent in color photographs. Color dates a photo. Black and white keeps it relevant as future generations relate to the emotion and the composition rather than the time period.

When it came to customizing a b&w film simulation, I took the opposite approach. While I may like my colors soft, I like my monochrome images to be bold, punchy and full of contrast. Even simple, mundane objects appear more interesting with deep shadows and when I want to remember the textures of daily life in a way that resonates with me, this is the recipe I employ. As with my Astia recipe, I like a bit of grain so I prefer to shoot this one with an ISO of 800-1600 as well. Personal preference, of course.

Bold B&W
Film Simulation: Monochrome
Dynamic Range: 400% (a minimum ISO of 640 is required)
Sharpness: 0
Highlight Tone: 0
Shadow Tone: +2
Noise Reduction: -2

Example Photos:

Classic Chrome was all the rage among street photographers when it was released and it is well suited to an urban environment, but I’ll be honest, I don’t love it. It feels cold and sterile to me. So, I set about finding a way to make it work in my favor. What I found was that if I toned down the contrast in the shadows and added a bit more color, I was pleased with the results. I prefer as little grain as possible here so I try to keep my ISO on the lower end.

Crispy Chrome (If you haven’t noticed by now, I really like alliterations)
Film Simulation: Classic Chrome
Dynamic Range: 200%
Color: +1
Sharpness: +1
Highlight Tone: -1
Shadow Tone: -1
Noise Reduction: -2

Example photos:

These are really the only three film simulation recipes I’ve created that I actually use. I know some people might program all seven slots, but I am often paralyzed by choice so I find I’m more productive if I give myself some stricter parameters to work within. I find these three recipes cover just about anything I want to shoot. I might occasionally opt to use Provia or add a colored filter to my black and white images, but it’s rare.

I also want to touch briefly on ISO. I use Auto ISO almost exclusively on both my X70 and my X-E2s. Each can store three Auto ISO settings and I will select the one that’s the best fit for what I’m shooting. With my X-T1, I can only store one Auto ISO setting so I keep it pretty broad. However, the X-T1 also has a dedicated ISO dial and it’s a feature I wish I had on my other two cameras because I do prefer it to using Auto ISO. I just like being able to look at the top of my camera and see the exposure triangle.

Unfortunately, none of my cameras is able to name recipes so in order to keep them straight and remember which is programmed where, I simply load them into my cameras in alphabetical order. So, Analog Astia is #1, Bold B&W is #2, and Crispy Chrome is #3.

I encourage you to experiment and create your own in camera recipe, or perhaps a Lightroom preset (or several) that presents your images the way YOU want them to be seen – a style all your own.

Serene nature.

I never invested much time in photographing nature. I’d occasionally photograph a beautiful flower, but it was never my focus. However, I found myself photographing nature much more in the past year – partly due to COVID and partly because my teenagers have requested I stop taking pictures of them – and I actually found it quite therapeutic. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but I did get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

My favorite pictures turned out to be the ones from my own yard. I have a whole host of images of foliage from around my house and continue to be amazed by the variety.

What have you found yourself photographing most as of late?

My “new-to-me” camera, the Fujifilm X-E2s.

I hinted a few weeks ago that I added another camera to my kit, and so far, it does not disappoint. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much, it may replace good ‘ol Sebastian (my X-T1 – yes, I name my cameras) as my favorite interchangeable lens camera I’ve ever owned. I think more time in use is required for me to make such a determination, but it’s a real possibility.

Does that surprise you? It surprises me. The X-T1 transformed my photography. It was revolutionary to me. And yet, despite the absence of a tilting screen and a dedicated ISO dial, I LOVE the five year old Fujifilm X-E2s (affectionately named, Baloo). I love the form factor and the way it handles. I added a thumb grip for a bit of extra security (not due to any failing of the camera, but rather, due to a wrist injury I sustained two decades ago) and the feel in the hand is so comfortable and natural. The X-T1 is not a big camera and yet the X-E2s is even smaller, lighter and more compact.

That said, the X-E2s, while very nice and clearly well made, lacks the same solid feel as the X-T1 (and even the X70, if I’m being honest). It doesn’t feel cheap by any means, but in comparison to my other Fujifilm cameras, it feels more plastic-y, especially the buttons. Just something to keep in mind if you’re considering adding one of the X-E series cameras to your photography bag. The build quality of my X-T1 and X70 gives me the confidence of knowing those cameras can take a beating and will still last a good long while. Again, while the X-E2s in no way feels “cheap,” the build quality just doesn’t feel as durable.

Now, I think it warrants saying that neither of these cameras could replace the absolutely tiny X70 (“Pascal” to my kids*). Comparing interchangeable lens cameras to fixed lens cameras is apples and oranges. In my opinion, the X70 really stands alone amongst the three because it fits a completely different niche. It’s not better or worse – it’s different.

The picture quality from the X-E2s is identical to those from the X-T1, as you’d expect, given that they share the same sensor. Like the X70, the X-E2s has the ability to store a different white balance when saving custom film simulation recipes, which is a very handy feature that is lacking on the X-T1. You’d think they could’ve fixed that via firmware, but they didn’t. This makes using custom recipes from places like Fuji X Weekly much more accessible on the X-E2s (and X70) than on the X-T1. I don’t like to edit so any adjustments I can customize in camera to craft a finished SOOC jpeg definitely gives the X-E2s an edge.

I am thoroughly enjoying the X-E2s and look forward to continuing to put it through its paces. I have normally purchased my used gear from B&H Photo but this time around, I found the camera I was looking for at KEH and had a great experience with them as well. I would recommend both of these online retailers. I’m a BIG fan of buying used gear and purchasing from a reputable shop gives me peace of mind.

*Did you notice a trend? I name all my personal electronics after Disney sidekicks. Because I’m a nerd and an unashamed Disney fan. It’s also much easier to get kids to look at the camera when you tell them a familiar Disney character wants to take a picture of them rather than the strange lady they just met. You’re welcome.