I hear a lot of photographers slamming others for not shooting RAW. So I decided to go against that for a month and shoot JPEG only using Fujifilm’s ACROS Film Simulation and share my results. Interestingly, I’ve found that I’m actually enjoying taking photographs more.
I shoot almost exclusively with a Fuji X-Pro2. With it I got myself the XF 18mm f/2 lens (a 28mm full frame equivalent, if you’re interested in those details), and this article will feature photos from that combo, bar a few exceptions where I experimented with an old Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.7 (75mm full frame equivalent).
Before I put a deposit down for the X-Pro2, I’d read a few photographers praising the JPEG output at ISO 2000, which sounded pretty ridiculous to me until I tried it out for myself. I’ve found the noise/grain structure doesn’t distract from the photograph, and I’ve comfortably shot up to 8000 ISO (and still pushed the JPEG with satisfying results).
Take this late evening low-light shot as an example…
I won’t start with the dumb “it’s like you’re shooting film!” drivel as the two are still very much their own thing, but the attention to detail Fuji have gone to with the film simulations (such as the grain structure being sized according to the ISO selected) means it looks real bloody good.
Check out that tonal range.
It shows how quickly technology is progressing, as I rarely shoot my Nikon DSLR (a full frame D610) beyond 1600 ISO – it’s admittedly a strange hang up to have, as I know it would be fine but the point here is that with the Nikon it’s something I consider, but with the Fuji I don’t have to, and I know it’s going to perform.
Something I hear often is JPEG being compared to the MP3, and it would be easy to consider that a negative. There was a time I’d feel uncomfortable listening to an MP3 over a readily available WAV, but now I’m finding it harder to get genuinely passionate about the differences.
“Then you’re listening on rubbish speakers!”
I’m not, and these Mackie HR624’s do just fine, thanks.
I understand the apparent advantages of RAW. The data is uncompressed, there’s a wider range of control with the photograph, not to mention the non-destructive editing that allows for infinite revisions. So you’ve processed a photograph in color but want it in black and white, or vice versa? No problem, just load up the RAW file and switch it up.
All things considered, I now find that more of hindrance.
I trust the camera. And as these film simulations demonstrate, Fuji know their stuff. I’m no longer messing around in Lightroom with curves, split-toning, color calibration, nor am I even coming close to touching the customized presets I’ve made for myself in the past…
I now take a photograph, import it into Lightroom and apply my contrast to taste with some basic sharpening alterations, and besides the occasional shot of architecture where I’ll correct the verticals, that’s me set.
In some ways I feel that us digital photographers are presented with too many options, and it feels bloated.
Choice isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I dread to think how much time I’ve unwittingly spent umming and ahhing over inconsequential details which wouldn’t have concerned me if I’d have learned to embrace the settings I’d chose on the camera in the first place. Much like going out and shooting film, the type of film and ISO is typically what you make do and work with for the following 24/36 frames.
“But this is a digital camera, not film”.
True, but this feels like the best of both. I now have the flexibility of being able to change my film simulation effortlessly between shots (compared to after every roll on film), all the while still having to commit to the simulation I shot with once the exposure has been made.
Despite my beginnings in film, I never really became a full-fledged film photographer, but I have always missed the perceived magic of shooting in that matter of fact way, and that’s what I’ve enjoyed discovering about stripping back my options through the X-Pro2.
The camera feels like a camera. It’s focused, and I feel like I’m absorbing and learning more than I ever have, which is precisely why I don’t miss RAW.
The following is a selection of photos taken over the past few weeks.
About the author: Lee Jones is a nightlife photographer based in Glasgow, Scotland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work and writing on his website, blog, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Tumblr. This article was also published here.