In an age where applying an image filter – on Instagram, or with presets in Lightroom and Photoshop – takes the touch of a button, Fujifilm’s Film Simulation Modes could easily be mistaken for more of the same. Just another quick effect to make your photos look retro, vintage, or “low-fi”.
Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with using presets (opens in new tab), but I think branding Fujifilm's Film Simulation modes as the same thing is to miss the years of heritage and color science that has gone into creating them. Because the Film Simulation modes are based on Fujifilm's most popular original analog films and they imitate the tones, contrast and colors. They actually are retro.
Film Simulation Modes are available on the best Fujifilm cameras, including the X Series and GFX series, and are easily accessed via the Quick Menu (or Q button). When using the X-T5 and X-H2, for example, you can choose from a selection of film simulations based on the company's traditional films. Provia and Velvia are popular, then you get specialist ones like Eterna and Acros.
The latest Fujifilm X-T5 has 19 Film Simulation modes, and all can easily be applied from the camera’s shooting menu. Now I have to admit that I've never bothered with Film Simulation Modes before reviewing this camera for a few weeks – much like my colleague who owned an X-T3 for three years (opens in new tab) and never tried them. But that's because I've not done enough research into them, I thought they were a gimmick, and I like to hone the colors and tones of my images using photo editing software (opens in new tab).
But I'm hooked on using the Film Simulation Modes on the Fujifilm X-T5. They all take on years of color science, years of tried and testing films for all subjects from landscapes, portraits, still life, nature, and even fashion. And, well they look great. Subtle rather than stylized. A foundation to build on when processing, rather than to replace it altogether.
There's, of course, an argument that if we all used a manufacturer's film simulations then our images would all look the same – but then in the film era to some extent, you were more limited by the film that was actually available.
So whether presets are a handy and time-efficient invention or a lazy one-click approach to editing that makes our work all a bit homogeneous... I don't know or need to know. For film aficionados who no longer want to shoot film, I’d say that Fujifilm's film simulations are the closest you’ll get to decent analog looks in any modern digital camera. And I'm going to be using them a lot more.
These are the best film cameras (opens in new tab) you can get right now, and of course, you'll also need the best film (opens in new tab).