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Date: 15/10/2014 | By: Heather

When raw becomes redundant – Classic Chrome & the Fujifilm X30

fujifilm x30 sample images

When raw becomes redundant – Classic Chrome & the Fujifilm X30

It is pretty hard not to love Fujifilm’s film simulation modes. More than just a fancy name for art filters, these modes actually give your Fujifilm JPGs a distinctive “filmic look” that harks back to the company’s glory days as a film manufacturer.

We have Provia, which is your standard simulation mode with very neutral, true-to-life colours. A little boring to use, yes, but most certainly safe. We have Velvia, which takes Provia’s colours and pumps them with vividness, sometimes too the extreme. If you want to bring your landscapes to life, this is the mode to use. We also have Astia, which sits in between Provia and Velvia and is ideal for portraits. And just to please the portrait photographer even more, there are the PRO Neg. Hi and PRO Neg. Std. modes. In total, there were ten to choose from including some monochrome and sepia modes, and I loved pretty much all of them. As far as I was concerned, Fujifilm’s film simulation line-up was complete.

And then Classic Chrome came along.

X30, 1/420, f/ 4/1, ISO 200
X30, 1/420, f/ 4/1, ISO 200 – Classic Chrome
X30, 1/320, f/ 25/10, ISO 200
X30, 1/320, f/ 25/10, ISO 200 – Classic Chrome

Classic Chrome is a brand new film simulation mode which, despite the name, actually isn’t a film simulation at all–it is a brand new filter that, according to Fujifilm, was “developed to deliver the tonal depth required in documentary and street photography.” Unlike Velvia and Astia, Classic Chrome steers away from saturation and focuses on delivering soft gradation, rich details in shadows and full-bodied tones that suit the storytelling functionality of Fujifilm’s X series cameras. So far it is only available on the X30 and X100T, but it is only a matter of time before a firmware update arrives for the rest of the series.

X30, 1/500, f/ 56/10, ISO 200
X30, 1/500, f/ 56/10, ISO 200 – Classic Chrome

Throughout my recent tests of the X30, I’ve been strictly using Classic Chrome, in part because I was curious to see the results but also for the more banal reason that Lightroom cannot read the X30 raw files yet. And you know what?

This is the first simulation mode that delivers results so satisfying that I wouldn’t even feel the need to play with the raw files, even if I could access them.

I love the subdued tones, the defiance of the “vivid is better” trap so many filters fall into. The colours certainly aren’t a perfect reproduction of those in real life but it doesn’t matter: they come out looking wonderful, whether you be outdoors on a sunny day or shooting under cloud cover at dusk.

In the first series of landscape photos below, you can see the kind of tones Classic Chrome produces on a fine day. It is almost as if a delicate brown wash has been applied to the photos, giving the sky a muted yet pleasant appearance.

X30, 1/550, f/ 8/1, ISO 200
X30, 1/550, f/ 8, ISO 200
X30, 1/900, f/ 45/10, ISO 200
X30, 1/900, f/ 4.5, ISO 200
X30, 1/500, f/ 5/1, ISO 200
X30, 1/500, f/ 5, ISO 200

Classic Chrome also works very well for skin tones in various conditions and at varying times of the day. The gallery below shows people taken in bright sunlight, under shaded roofs, and at dusk. I find it quite extraordinary how the camera knows when to make certain colours “pop” and when to keep others subdued, such as in the case of the girl with the orange hair and the couple in their bright yellow t-shirts.

X30, 1/180, f/ 2.5, ISO 400
X30, 1/180, f/ 2.5, ISO 400 – Classic Chrome

It is true that colours are subjective and what one photographer might enjoy, another might not. It is also true that this filter is quite a deviance from the standard filters you’ll find on a digital camera. But all that said, I really feel that Fujifilm has done a wonderful job of balancing art and realism with this film simulation mode. Though I doubt I’ll ever give up editing my raw files, at least I know that I can always count on the JPGs coming from this camera.

X30, 1/150, f/ 5.6, ISO 200
X30, 1/150, f/ 5.6, ISO 200 – Classic Chrome
X30, 1/1000, f/ 2.2, ISO 200
X30, 1/1000, f/ 2.2, ISO 200 – Classic Chrome

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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Sam

    That’s exactly what I do with my landscapes or any image with foliage … SP>TIFF>LR>JPG and don’t get any of the smearing or watercolours. Can’t understand why so many people complain about the x-trans RAW image quality when they are using converters which weren’t designed by or in co-operation with the company that made the camera. ACR’s sub-par x-trans file handling is not Fujifilm’s fault.

  • Tjeerd in ‘t Veen

    Looking good, can’t wait for it to be on my X100s. I wonder how close I can get to it on my X-E1… proneg H with some shadow boosting maybe?

  • soundimageplus

    There is a use for Silkypix. Particularly as you say there is no ACR compatibility. Open any Fuji X-Trans sensor file in the Fuji / Silkypix software and then select the ‘Super Neutral’ option and save it as a tiff. You can then open that up in ACR and use the raw processing without any of that background ‘softening’ noise reduction and what have you.

    ACR doesn’t see it as a recognisable file and doesn’t automatically apply lens profiles and the like. The raw parameters in ACR then work as they should because that “Super Neutral’ file is pretty much what comes off the camera with the advantage that the demosiacing works as is should.

    This gets rid of the ‘smearing’ and watercolour effect with green foliage and in fact gives you a sharper file that actually shows what the non-AA filtered sensor is capable of. It’s a long-winded approach but it does work and it’s closer to a genuinely ‘raw’ file than that noise reduced softened glop that comes out of Photoshop.

    I have in fact pretty much stopped processing raw files via Photoshop unless I need to get a lot of stuff done in a hurry. I use Photo Ninja or Iridient Developer for my Fuji files and a wonderfully simple programme for my Mac called Rawker which works on dcraw. I get much sharper files from all my cameras and I get to decide what my images should look like rather than some Adobe or camera manufacturer technician, who all take this conservative, ‘noise paranoia’ approach and destroy a lot of detail in the process.

    It does mean that I have to take care of CA, distortion etc, (should I want to) and the files I produce are slightly noisier, though I can obviously fix that, but way sharper. I’m going to publish an article on this soon called “The Problem with Raw files and ACR and how to fix it.’

  • Heather Broster

    Yes, it should be coming to the X-T1 and the X100s. As for the other cameras, I’m not sure.
    I don’t really have the patience for Silkypix in all honesty. By the time we write the full review, I’m counting on there being an update available!

  • soundimageplus

    At least they aren’t trying to claim it’s a film simulation. Because their ‘Velvia’ look is nothing like Velvia etc. It looks interesting, with nice warm colours, though for my stock work I’d have to fix those cyan skies. I often use the presets with the option to use the raw files if I don’t like them. Presumably this will be arriving with the X-T1 firmware upgrade.

    These jpg. renderings often transfer to how the raw files appear in ACR as well, which would be a nice basis to start from. Shame you can’t process the raw files as yet. Though there is always Silkypix and I guess the latest version has this included.

  • Mat – MirrorLessons

    No it doesn’t simulate a particular film type.

  • dave9t5

    Since it’s not Fujichrome (Velvia, Astia, Provia) then I guess it’s supposed to be (gasp) Kodachrome simulation?

    (Yay, Disqus is here..)

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