Fujifilm Eterna Film Simulation

Eterna in Still Photography

· 10.June.2021

If you ask a hundred Fujifilm X/GFX owners why they chose their Fujifilm gear over another manufacturer, you’ll undoubtedly hear a large number talk about size, weight, cost/performance ratio. But you’ll also likely get plenty of answers related to the colours Fujifilm cameras produce, and specifically the Film Simulations.

Film Simulations

At present, Fujifilm has 19 different presets, or Film Simulations, built into their cameras if we include the variations of the two black and white simulations. Of course, this varies from model to model, but on top of these basic settings, we are also able to adjust the way highlights and shadows are rendered and make dozens of other changes to suit our needs. This offers a lot of flexibility, even in camera, if we have the time to make those changes.

There is also another way we can make use of Fujifilm’s Film Simulations. We can do so in post-production by using software to set an approximation of the Film Simulation from the software manufacturer when interpreting a raw file. For example, this can be done in the Base Characteristics tool in Capture One or the, much more aptly named, Camera Profile setting in Lightroom. When working with a raw file, we not only get fine control over tonality, exposure, and colour, but also the ability to change the Film Simulation after the fact if the software supports it. In either scenario, we can still preview the Film Simulations through the EVF or LCD while in the field.

One Film Simulation that perhaps gets overlooked by many still photographers is the “Cinema” Film Simulation of Eterna. In this article, I’d like to share a set of images made with Eterna and talk about some potential applications for this rendering.

Pollution in Seoul

Fujifilm X100V + TCL, 1/800, f/7.1, ISO 160

My subject: Seoul

From time to time here in Seoul, we get some fairly horrific pollution. On days when the locally produced pollution gets mixed with some blown in from our neighbours and the fine yellow dust from the Gobi Desert, we get a cocktail that blankets the city in a fog-like haze and causes respiratory issues, covers everything in a film of off-yellow muck, and results in constant government warnings to avoid going outside as much as possible. As part of my Daily Record practice, I decided to get out the highest quality filters I have for my masks and go for a ride around the city to document what I saw on a recent hazy day.

Much like fog, this pollution reduces visibility and gives a haunting, faded appearance to distant objects. Also, just like light cloud cover, it softens sunlight. This combination gives an extremely low contrast type of light to work in and without delicate care, disappears easily in photographs. Phone cameras or high contrast presets quickly remove the feeling of the haze and leave us with photographs that don’t represent what it feels like to be out in this polluted air.

Pollution in Seoul - Windsurfing

Fujifilm X100V + TCL, 1/1100, f/4, ISO 160

Eterna: Why it works

I began my journey around the city working with my usual setting of Classic Chrome. Typically, I love working with this film simulation as it takes the edge off garish colours and has a contrast that I love to use as my starting point in post-production. However, for this day, it was adding too much contrast and reducing the effect the haze was having on the scenes I was trying to capture. So, I decided to give the extremely low-contrast Eterna Film Simulation a run to see how that would render.

Eterna, even more so than Classic Chrome, tends to desaturate and mute strong colours. However, it lacks the magenta tones found in the latter and reduces contrast significantly. This makes it ideal for getting a cinematic look to video footage but can also be used to bring that same feeling to still photography as well.

For someone who grew up in the Australian countryside without a particle of pollution to be seen, pollution of this level is reminiscent of news reports or sci-fi films. It is somewhat removed from my concept of reality, so Eterna gave that feeling to the day I was capturing. On top of those cinematic colours, the low contrast rendering allowed me to maintain the reduced visibility that the pollution brought with it in my photographs from the day.

With some subtle dodging and burning in post-production and some additional colour adjustments, I was able to come up with a set of images that faithfully represented the way this pollution looked and felt. I encourage you to make use of the different Film Simulations while considering the feelings they evoke in you. On this day, if I’d chosen Velvia, for instance, it would have completely changed the mood of the photographs and not at all represented the way the day felt.

Pollution in Seoul - Fisherman

Fujifilm X100V, 1/320, f/8, ISO 640

Other uses for Eterna

Eterna makes for a great base for any scene that you feel has too much contrast or needs to feel a little more like a movie than it does reality. I find myself increasingly using it for certain types of street photography or night scenes as it can give a softer tonality to a scene. For lack of a better word, it can make things feel quite cinematic.

In this scene, for example, I originally took and processed the images using Classic Chrome as a base. However, I found myself liking Eterna as the base more and more when I started to consider how this particular night felt. While rainy days typically bring about high contrast in city scenes, this night was quite foggy and the rain was very heavy. Eterna with a little added clarity brings that feeling to life somewhat better than Classic Chrome, in my opinion. You can see a comparison using Classic Chrome in my Laowa 33mm f/0.95 review.

Eterna Film Simulation - Rainy Night

Fujifilm X-T4 + Laowa Argus 33mm f/0.95, 1/750, f/0.95, ISO 1600

In the lead photograph of this article, Eterna gives a filmic feeling to the base image and then a contrast increase gives the scene more depth. This was done in post-production, but if I had time on location, it could also have been done using the Tone Curve setting (or Highlights / Shadows in older bodies) in camera. I’ve found Eterna works exceptionally well on cloudy or foggy days and that increasing the contrast can give a little more punch to images while still retaining the feeling of the original Film Simulation.

What are your favourite Film Simulations to work with in the field? Do you work with them in post-production as well? How often do you change your Film Simulation to suit the scene you’re photographing? I’d love to hear how you make use of Fujifilm’s hard work in the comments below.