Fujifilm X-Pro3 Acros-R digital vs. 35mm Acros 100II – By Dale Rogers


I shoot about 50% film and 50% digital these days. For digital I shoot with the Fujifilm X series cameras and lenses. Fujifilm cameras appealed to me several years ago because of the retro styling and film camera like controls for shutter speed, ISO and aperture. I also loved the ability to use Fujifilm film emulsion filters on the in camera jpgs such as Velvia, Acros, Provia, Astia, Classic Chrome and PRO Neg to name a few.

I love shooting film on a variety of 35mm and 120 cameras because the process of slowing down and thinking about a shot elicits a certain mindfulness to my photography. With film I carefully consider each shot and I slow down. There’s no spray and pray with a roll of 36 exposures. With film, the process and experience of finding and executing the shot is as important and satisfying as the final image itself. There’s a certain Zen with acknowledging your limitations and working through them to find the perfect capture.

Another reason for shooting film is the ‘look’ that is magic. Magic, the noun, is defined as “the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces” and as an adjective as “wonderful; exciting”. Shooting film relates to both the mysterious and exciting.

The film developing was done in home. Using a combination of chemicals, mix ratios, agitation, drying and working film out of canisters and onto developing reels in total darkness reminds me of ancient alchemy. And at the end of this mysterious alchemical process, I find images – moments trapped in time, that have spontaneously appeared on a piece of celluloid. Sometimes the moments captured are from times I can not recall but, there they are, captured for all eternity as if by magic on these rolls of film and they are beautiful.

When Fujfilm announced late last year they are updating their digital rangefinder, the XPro series, to provide a more film-like shooting experience, I was intrigued and excited. The Fujifilm XPro3 does away with the back LCD screen and instead has a small window reminiscent of a film memo holder. This little memo holder display looks as if you have just torn off the side of a box of film and inserted it into the memo holder. The back panel does tilt down to reveal a traditional LCD screen with all the info you would typically find on a Fujifilm X Series camera.

And lastly, the XPro3 rangefinder has a hybrid viewfinder that can display a more traditional looking optical electronic viewfinder giving you a natural view of your scene with frame lines to equate with the lens focal length. This is great for those who enjoy seeing bits of the scene outside of the captured image and allows for easier framing of shots. It also can be quickly switched to a traditional LCD viewfinder.

The release of the Fujifilm XPro3 camera coincided with me getting some recently re-released Fujifilm ACROS 100II film. Given my love of Fujifilm digital cameras, film photography and ACROS film, I desperately wanted to shoot and compare the new XPro3 alongside a rangefinder film camera. The good people at Fujifilm Australia were kind enough to send me a XPro3 to use for a couple of weeks to satiate my desire.

For my Fujifilm ACROS shootout I dusted off a Yashica Electro 35 GSN with a 45mm f/1.7 lens. I placed a red filter on the lens and loaded the  Fujifilm ACROS 100II 35mm film.

The XPro3 is a crop sensor camera so I attached a 27mm (41mm full frame equivalent) f/2.8 lens to the XPro3 and dialed in the ACROS -R film simulation. The -R is the ACROS simulation with a simulated red filter. So in theory, I had two rangefinders with very similar specs.

I threw both cameras in my car and carried them around for the 2 weeks pulling them out to take identical photos around my home on Phillip Island, Australia.

Once 36 exposures were taken, I used a stand developing method with a 1:100 Rodinal solution to develop the film and scanned the images on an Epson V550 scanner.

Here’s the big reveal – image comparisons. The top or left image is the 35mm ACROS 100II image and the bottom or right image is the ACROS -R JPG digital image.

These shots look pretty similar. Fujfilm did a great job on the ACROS digital film simulation. I was surprised the shots were similar in look and feel. However they do exemplify the differences between digital and film. From these images I have a much greater appreciation for the way film preserves and manages highlights. They look superb. Of course the digital sensor excels at shadow recovery even in a jpg file.

As for the XPro3, I like the rangefinder feel especially when using the optical viewfinder. It does help to recreate a film shooting aesthetic. I probably would not use this camera out shooting landscapes as I found the backscreen cumbersome when flipped down as I changed camera orientation or as a serious wildlife/sports camera. I put a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 on the body and it did not have the same balance and feel as my XT-3. However, It’s a super fun camera to shoot and I reckon it would excel as a street shooter and add a little interest and fun to the digital experience.

Which images do you prefer?

Digital – https://www.instagram.com/photo_rangers/
Film – https://www.instagram.com/salamanderrepublic/

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60 thoughts on “Fujifilm X-Pro3 Acros-R digital vs. 35mm Acros 100II – By Dale Rogers”

  1. Very interesting comparison!

    As good as the XPro3 seems to be in terms of emulating Acros, unfortunately it looks like just that, an emulation.

    The real Acros shot feel and look much better in my opinion. The images are bolder, they’re better defined and have much better defined character. The grain and the much more defined contrast makes them stand out more (even before reading which was which, I could tell which was film and which was digital).

    And they have precisely that timeless look and character which you point out film gives. Don’t get me wrong, the XPro3 are great images but they leave me wanting more.

      1. +1 for the real film Acros being more visually appealing “out of the box”. The digital comparatives seem to fall flat, which I think you rightfully identify as how each is treating the highlights.

  2. Nice comparison, Dale!

    I basically should like the film images more… (www.whyfilmcameras.com) though those last days, weeks, months, photography was on a slow burner. Here I prefer the digital ones. Strangely. I think stand developing Acros in Rodinal is leading to much exaggerated grain and contrast. And that from someone who loves grain and contrast… and Rodinal!

    Then again the dynamic range is much greater in the X-Pro images. And sorry to say, but your negs are quite dusty and scratched. Sorry but I had to mention that.

    1. Frank, I agree about the negs, however I try and get the dust off during scans, I can’t seem to remove all of it. I also was too rough on the squeegee and it scratched the negs. Thanks for the feedback. Cheers

  3. Brilliant comparo, Dale! So well executied. That first seashore image sets the pace. I shoot both film and digital but mainly digital and often/usually attempt to process my images to have the strong contrasts of film. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I quit using a squeegee on negatives. Now, I just grab the two ends of the film and quickly pull apart, making the film snap off the majority of the water. Then hang to fully dry. Seems to work well, and no more scratches.

  5. I much prefer the film versions. Imagine the two versions were prints you were working on in the darkroom – the digital versions would be the first print you develop, and the film ones the final iterations you achieved by keeping going and making adjustments until it felt right.

  6. Hmm, a ND filter to increase the ISO to around 6400 and some post processing to increase the contrast would make the X-Pro3 images look more like the film stock. This gives me ideas for something to do with my X-T2.

  7. Nice work! It’s been pointed out by many that Fujifilm’s own simulations of the Fujifilm’s own film emulsions are not quite there and lag behind the film profiles from the specialist vendors on tonality, colour accuracy etc. So I’d probably try to shoot raw with default settings and then apply RNI Films 5 in Lightroom – whatever the relevant film profile and grain setting is – that would likely work much better. However, probably, that wouldn’t beat the real film either.

    1. Greg, agreed. I’d normally shoot RAW then apply a film sim profile if that was the look I was wanting to achieve. I use Alien Skin Exposure program for better film simulations. Thanks for the feedback.

  8. Hey Dale, been running across your work here for a bit, first time commenting. I’ve seen some other Fuji shooters out there tweaking their settings to get the Fuji simulations closer to their expectations. In looking at the side by sides, I think it might be a fun task for you to alter the Acros settings. By bumping highlights up, shadows down, and playing with grain, I think you could likely get to a place where you have your own Acros setting that also adhered to your development method.

    Great shots!

  9. So to me the film shots seem to be more contrasted. There’s more blacks and whites in the film shots whereas the digital seem to blend them together and have more grays. The digital make for a more appealing, almost softer feel to the image while the film is more dramatic. I feel the shots that show this the most are the tractor picture and the two tree pictures. Great comparison! I’m thinking of switching to Fujifilm for my next digital camera so this will definitely aid in the decision making!

  10. Charles Morgan

    Interesting results thanks! I normally prefer film for black and white by a long way, and here is no different, although I probably would not have used Rodinal for Acros (not a grain fan). But using Fujis for either colour or black and white I do try very hard to avoid blowing the highlights (easier I suspect in the UK than Down Under) and typically I will underexpose a digital scene such that the highlights are ok, and then post process the picture to pull out the information on the excellent sensors.

    1. Charles, I agree the Stand developed Rodinal adds a lot of grain. That’s more a personal preference for me. I would also normally meter the highlights and adujst shadows in the RAW file however I was trying to do the best possible in camera to compare to film. Thanks for the feedback.

  11. Hi Dale

    I too have an XP3 w 27mm lens. It is a really nice set up. But man, in your pics, I much prefer almost all the film shots. They just have, as the French say, that certain something about them.
    A snap, a depth, a more timeless feel.
    I’ve been using my XP3 as a colour jpeg shooter, well that was the plan but I got it just before the lock down so haven’t really been able to do too much. Doesn’t help that I nearly always grab a film camera anyway..

  12. Neal A Wellons

    It is easy to choose the film shots as the most pleasing to me. I wounder if, with a little tweaking of contrast and clarity, if the simulation would more closely resemble the film version. If, so those adjustments could be added into the camera before future photos on most any X-series or many other cameras.

    1. Neal, I agree, a few tweaks of the custom jpg settings could get the digital Acros a little closer. I wanted to see how the sim compared without customization.

  13. Hey Dale, great post. I’d say I like film for some shots and digital for others. For example, the giant tree and the farming equipment has too much contrast with Acros, making the images feel muddy, to me, while the digital counterparts expose the details clearly and cleanly. For the rest, I much prefer additional contrast and the character of the grain – the digital versions seem to be too “smooth” and missing something that I’m used to seeing now.

  14. They both look great but I love the added contrast and detail with the film shots. That said, I think X-Pro3 is a beautiful camera.

  15. The film shots certainly have more character, but they also have *far* too much contrast for my taste (either added in post or due to the stand development). If these weren’t presented side by side, I think you’d have a much decision.

    One issue with the JPGs is that they’re one specific interpretation of Acros. As you’re well aware, you can process the same film in vastly different ways and get vastly different results. The JPGs, on the other hand, are what they are.

    I love my Fuji cameras, but I’ve never been that enamoured of the built-in JPGs (B&W or colour). The raw files offer so much latitude for interpretation (similar, one might argue, as B&W film does), that I’ve never really understood relying on the imitations of a baked-in result.

    Oh, and nice photos, BTW. I enjoyed the series!

    1. Mike, I understand the dilemma. I have been experimenting with the Fujifilm jpg customization settings and can get some amazing shots on JPG that I can’t recreate in Lightroom on the RAW file. That said, JPG will never have the dynamic range of RAW. Thanks for the feedback!

  16. Wow, thank you! I really really preferred the film shots. Was not prepared to see such an immediate difference. I shoot much more digital than film.

  17. Thank you so much.
    I prefer the film. Really.
    For me : the rendering of film is better than digital.
    I use both digital and film from many cameras, films, … your review confirms that film is poetic and great, and gives more fun. So thank you again, and the pictures are great.

  18. I’ve just come across your site here and found the comparison so interesting. I’m shooting with an XT20 and use the Acros simulation from time to time. But, I’ve never thought there’s such a big difference between the film and simulation results. For me, I feel that the film rendering is a bit too contrasty to my taste but I now know what I can tweak a bit more to my camera to get the result that I have in my mind now. By the way, it’s a great series, I really enjoyed it. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  19. Wow! I think it goes without saying which looks better…. this is great man. Thanks for this post! Really cool to see.

  20. Oh, Fuji as usual is doing a tight job at least to try to resemble a tiny bit. Any other contemporary camera maker sucks here…
    But anyway it’s not even close enough for those who had a real film experience once in the life.

    Is there any ‘true’ and complete film simulation today? In-camera – no, for sure, I did try and all sucked more or less.
    Software? There are some good tools, and Dehancer, by far, is the newest and the promising one. It even has push/pull states sampled from real darkroom prints. Pity standalone version is in early beta stage and mac-only (but it’s working and free), good news – they released a truly amazing ofx plugin for DaVinci this year, and it has dozens of films, lifelike grain and even bloom effect, all very realistic and close as hell to real film.

  21. Thanks for this comparison, Dale, and for resisting the temptation to fiddle with the digital images. For many of us this is a powerful comparison that affirms what we want to be true: that there’s ain’t nothing quite like film, and especially Fuji film. My wife and I are both Fuji digital shooters but when we get out (!) I tend to leave mine at home and take a film camera instead.

  22. Hello and thank you for the test and very nice photos!
    Lens of Yashica is definitely a part of the equation here. It does wonders with contrast. Images are punchy, but it’s not just a steeper curve. It seems to add contrast exactly where it is needed. Older 50/1.7 for Contax/Yashica mount worked like that too.

  23. Well done Dale.
    Personally I like the film shoots better however I wonder how much tweaking went into your scans? What settings were used on the Pro 3? The post processing needs to be similar.
    Regardless, I see similarities between Acros the film and Acros the emulation. Fuji has done a nice job with their products. I hope that they see the value of continuing to support the film side the business (beyond Instax) while also expanding and developing their digital lineup.

  24. Guilherme Amaral

    Amazing comparison!!

    It’s one more example that we cannot forget our Analog Cameras, How beautiful is the Analog Life, right?

  25. No penguins?

    These make me miss the island and getting in the water. Bring on next summer! Where were these shots taken?

  26. I enjoyed this! Comparisons often end up being a series of “test shots” (an excuse for uninteresting shots, I should know – I’ve been guilty of it myself!) but these are very good photos in their own right. I particularly like the vertical shot of rocks on the beach. Others have noted the influence of Rodinal, but I thought I’d share a couple of my photos developed in ID-11 1+1 – Acros I and Acros II. These look much closer to the digital simulation. Perhaps Fuji should have simulations for Acros in Rodinal 1:100, Acros in ID-11… 😉

  27. Interesting test, one that for me, and I have been using film for two thirds of my photographing life, confirms my own observations: the Acro film pictures are contrasty (a little too contrasty for my taste), grainy (a little too grainy for my taste) and show dust and scratches (in other words sloppy does not work with film processing and scanning). The digital ones show less contrast, more tone and details (one can always screw that up back to film-like Acro contrast and grain in most image-processing software, meaning: one can always increase contrast and add grain if needed (digitally), removing it when the file (it would be “noise” in the case of a digital file)/film shows it, is far trickier if not virtually impossible in a satisfactory fashion, definitely impossible on film where it is there to stay. In other words the images created here with the X pro3 are more flexible, provide more information and image quality (the way it used to be defined). Contrast and grain, before they were “in fashion”, were considered problems except in very few instances when they worked with the content of the image. In most cases, away from the “fashion of the moment”, contrast and grain are problematic by-products of film, to the point that all film manufacturers have tried to address and solve them since the beginning of film photography. They were/and still are by many considered problems because they limited/limit the choices and the possibilities of photographers (especially when enlarging: the more one enlarges a negative the more the image deteriorates and its defects become more visible). Why would one want limited and grungy images, a production going against decades of research and technology whose results were highly welcome by photographers whose livelihood depended on those progresses? Are we being submerged by a highly-filtered Instagram culture where spectacle is often more important than the simple rendition of the world and life without any special effect? Do we actually need that amount of artificial stimulation? Why?

  28. PS: looking at the preceding comments there are a few questions I would like to ask:
    1-why say the Acros-film photographs look more timeless?
    2-the treatment of the highlights depends on processing in both film or digital and you can get soft Acros negative as well as contrasty digital file. How can the contrast of the Acros images be judged as representing what the film does: they just expose the photographer’s choices (choice of film/exposure/processing and scanning). I could easily get the opposite results from this roll of film and the digital files. As for the grain I have never got such a coarse grain with the old Acros, and I doubt the new one (2nd generation) is meant to give us even coarser grain, thence this is the result of too powerful a developing process (too strong/concentrated developer, or too much agitation, or too high a processing temperature), not the inherent capacities of the film.
    3-there is no “Acros out of the box” as such, the resulting images can be extremely modified by its exposure and its processing. Frank is right that the way Rodinal worked here (its dilution, agitation and temperature) produced excessive grain and contrast, especially for 100 ISO film.

    As a note, Dale, stop using a squeegee to eliminate water drops from the negative, it is a well-known killer and scratcher, make sure you use a wetting agent in the last bath, and if you process on reels, hold the reel in your hand and with your arm starting from the upright position move it all the way down to your knees several times in a half circle whose radius is your extended arm. Just like for lettuce, it will remove the excess water. Then make sure your film dries in a critically dust-free environment (the wet and swollen gelatin of the film is extremely sticky).
    And Dale, thank you again, I think you gave evidence than two different tools give different results under the same light but most important it broadened your experience of your own photography. Looking at the results I would modify my way to process Acros II film… but it is a matter of personal taste (as long as you can also produce less grainy and contrasty images with the same film when you need them). Best,

  29. I’ve been shooting on film for years and it’s hard to achieve a similar effect (if at all) without detailed work with curves. Acros simulation is not supposed to be something final, it is necessary to work with curves in the post process. Then it is possible to go very close to the real film look.

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