Capture One 12 Fujifilm Film Simulations: how they work

Is Capture One now the best RAW converter of all for Fujifilm owners?

Phase One has added support for the Fujifilm GFX, launched a new, free Capture One Express Fujifilm app, and Capture One 12 now adds the Fujifilm Film Simulation modes promised at Photokina 2018.

Capture One typically applies different processing ‘looks’ using Styles and Presets. Styles use a combination of adjustments, Presets are adjustments made with a single tool. When you install Capture One Styles packs, this is what you get. You can take a look at the adjustments each Style has made, if you want to, and adapt it according to your tastes and even save your own modified version.

But the Fujifilm Film Simulation modes are different and you won’t find them amongst the Styles and Presets.

01 How to apply Film Simulations

To apply Capture One 12’s Fujifilm Film Simulations you need to go to the Base Characteristics tool. You can find this in the Q (‘Quick’) tool tab, though the Capture One interface is infinitely customisable so you could add it to any tool tab you like.

Capture One should have selected the camera’s ICC Profile by default. Beneath that is a Curve drop-down which you probably don’t bother with usually since you can make any curves adjustments you like with the regular tools.

However, this is where you’ll find the Fujifilm Film Simulations. When you pick one from the list it’s applied to the image and you’ll see an immediate difference.

Incidentally, although these Film Simulations only arrived with Capture One 12, they will work on images previously processed with the older Capture One 11 engine, like this one.

02 Are they any good?

Actually, they’re very good. I haven’t done scientific side-by-side tests against camera JPEGs, but I can see straight away that the Astia and Velvia Film Simulation curves look very close to my camera’s own JPEG rendition.

This is Capture One 12’s standard rendition of a Fujifilm X-T20 RAF file. It wouldn’t be hard to knock this into shape with some adjustments, but it does look a little flat and harsh right now.
Applying the Astia rendition produces an instant and obvious improvement. Astia has a saturated look but softened contrast, and while the shadows here have got denser, the sky is a much better colour.
Applying the Velvia setting produces a predictable increase in contrast. The sky colour has shifted towards cyan this time, but I suspect this is because the higher contrast has caused some highlight clipping. It’s easy enough to check…

Fujifilm’s Astia and Velvia JPEGs have a very particular kind of blue with a subtle violet shift that it’s very hard to replicate using regular colour controls, but Capture One’s Film Simulations nail it.

They also do something very interesting with highlights, especially in bright skies, pulling back subtle highlight tones so that there’s less need for Highlight adjustments later.

03 Further adjustments

The fact that these Film Simulations use custom colour profile curves rather than regular Styles or Presets has one very particular advantage – the regular adjustment tools are left free for whatever adjustments you want to make. The tools all start from a flat baseline rather than having some adjustments applied already.

So this means you have full flexibility for further editing. This image was produced using Capture One’s auto-adjust command, which has brought up the shadows, toned down the highlights and created a very nice-looking image in very challenging lighting.

The advantage of using ICC curves to create Film Simulations is that the full range of regular adjustments remains available. A quick auto-adjust on this image has brought back the shadow and highlight details and produced the characteristic Velvia colours.
So here’s the finished image. It’s a bit lurid right now, but that’s the Velvia ‘look’, and it’s easy enough to tone down. The key point is that we’ve got exactly the colour rendition we’d expect from the camera and plenty of headroom for further adjustments.

So what are the RAW processing options for Fujifilm fans?

Fujifilm cameras produce pretty good JPEGs, but often you need the extra dynamic range, colour and bit-depth you can only get from a RAW file.

  1. There is an in-camera RAW processing option, but this is pretty cumbersome and doesn’t give you the localised adjustments and precise control you get in desktop software. All you get is another JPEG with altered camera settings.
  2. The Fujifilm X RAW Studio app is interesting. You run it on a desktop machine with your camera plugged in, and the software uses the camera’s own processor (not the computer’s hardware) to produce very quick conversions of your RAW files. Like the in-camera RAW processing, though, it simply lets you re-process images with adjusted camera settings.
  3. Fujifilm’s own regular RAW converter, RAW File Converter EX, is based around the generic SilkyPix package also used by other camera makers. It does the job, but it’s pretty basic and not much fun to use.
  4. Many photo-editing apps can open Fujifilm RAF files but don’t necessarily yield the quality these sensors are capable of, and often don’t get very close to the ‘look’ of Fujifilm’s Film Simulations.
  5. One of the ‘big three’ RAW converters, DxO PhotoLab, doesn’t handle X-Trans files at all. DxO says the unique colour filter array is incompatible with its demosaicing and processing system and it doesn’t sound as if it intends fixing this any time soon.
  6. Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom use the same RAW processing engine, which does a good job of rendering Fujifilm RAF files and Fujifilm’s own Film Simulation modes. However, closer inspection can reveal some weird, ‘worm-like’ artefacts in fine detail, and images quickly become noisy at higher ISO settings.
  7. That just leaves Capture One. This does not produce the ‘worm’ effect, it’s extremely good at balancing noise and detail, its default rendering of Fujifilm files is very good, and it can really exploit the extended dynamic range in RAF files. The addition of Fujifilm Film Simulation modes in Capture One 12 is the icing on the cake!

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Film simulation profiles are only part of recreating an analog look and to go the whole way you’re going to need a program designed for the job: