Classic Chrome vs Kodachrome

Since Fuji's X-T1 update in December 2014, we've all been given a new film process version called 'Classic Chrome'. From everything I've read, it's goal is to simulate Kodak's Kodachrome film, and it looks beautiful. I really like Classic Chrome.

So knowing that its goal was to simulate Kodachrome, my curiosity was piqued as to how good a job Fuji did on matching it. Before we begin, we have to iron-out a couple things:

  1. Kodachrome is a film type, and with all film, it has to be developed in a darkroom before any prints can be created from its negative. The developing process allows a photographer to make many changes to the final image such as exposure, contrast, dodging, burning, etc. that will change the default and neutral look of the original exposure.
  2. Fuji requires the photographer to shoot in RAW in order to adjust the camera process version in post-production. This is a good thing, especially for this test, because it ensures we are adjusting the foundation of the image vs a lossy/compressed version of the image.
  3. Really Nice Images (link) has gone through the painstaking process of creating iconic film simulation presets for Lightroom. Keep in mind that these film simulations are not the same as a camera process. Camera processes adjust the starting point of an image, a preset adjusts the actual sliders and adjustment settings. They are both trying to achieve the same thing, but a camera process is far superior as it doesn't actually adjust the variables of the image aside from the digital foundation its built upon.

Kodak announced back in June of 2009 that it would halt production of the iconic film (link) not because it wasn't good, but rather because it was no longer commercially viable to produce. They offered processing for another year and a half, but at the end of 2010, the ride was over. Its now 2015 and we're still longing for the look of Kodachrome, which should tell us all something about how great of a look it was. It also tells us how much we like the look of film. Film was never perfect, but it was a medium that offered a great deal of character and set the tone of a photograph before the shot was even produced. 

OK, so here we go. Here's a shot of my boys hanging out on New Years Day 2015. The reason I picked this one was because of all of the wood on the floor and the skin tones. Let me post the various shots with captions, then we can do the analysis.

Original (Provia/Standard)

Classic Chrome Camera Process

Kodachrome 1958 by Really Nice Images

From the Provia/Standard camera process to Classic Chrome, there's a world of difference. The wood and skin tones are desaturated, the highlights are softened ever so slightly, and everything looks 'muted', but in a very good way. The Kodachrome 1958 simulation (not camera process) does a good job of getting us close, but no cigar. Maybe I'm being too harsh, because prior to Classic Chrome, this would have done just fine, but Fuji raised the bar and now the film simulators have competition. The simulator has everything going for it except for the heavy orange saturation and the heavy-handed contrast. Both of which are adjustable, by the way. If you don't have a compatible Fuji camera, you can't use the Classic Chrome camera process (unless someone wants to fill me in on how that'd be possible!) but everyone can use the film simulation presets, then adjust them until their hearts are content.

And real quick, I'm well-aware that I'm comparing the Classic Chrome process to film simulation as opposed to the actual film itself. If you'd like to compare Classic Chrome to Kodachrome, feel free to check out National Geographic's Kodachrome gallery and make your own judgements. Here's the link: http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photos/kodachrome-photo-gallery/

So there you have it! If you have a Fuji X-T1 (I believe the X100T, the X-Pro 1, and the X-E1 also got the Classic Chrome update as well) be sure to shoot in RAW so you can pick your process version before you start editing.