Dissecting Astia/Soft

Started Jul 28, 2016 | Discussions thread
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Doug Pardee
Doug Pardee Veteran Member • Posts: 8,890
Dissecting Astia/Soft
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There was a bit of a dust-up about the naming of Classic Chrome. The Astia/Soft film simulation probably earns a bigger uproar. Despite its name, it apparently doesn't emulate the Astia slide film (either 100 or 100f) very well, and even Fujifilm acknowledges that the term soft

"is quite misleading... the softness is limited only to certain colors like skin color... there are softer film simulations than 'ASTIA'."

Fujifilm says that the Astia film simulation was "designed for portrait photography... under little or no lighting and subject in action." They go on to explain, "The film simulation is carefully designed to express the soft skin tones and not to wash out at the high end while making the shadow end a little hard. Tonality is designed so that it is sharp enough even without the use of lighting."

Personally, I think that the Astia simulation is also good for a lot of nature landscapes. But let's look at some images. We'll start with the DPReview studio scene:

DPReview studio scene, processed to Astia on my X-T10.

Now a comparison of the Color Checker part against X-Rite's sRGB specification:

Astia patches on top of the standard sRGB values.

Along the bottom row we see Fujifilm's typical tone curve, with higher contrast through most of the range but protection of the brightest highlights.

Now to compare against Provia:

Astia patches on top of the Provia patches.

There's really not all that much difference. Light skin tones are indeed slightly softer, while darker skin tones are a tiny bit darker. More noticeable is the brightening and increased saturation of blues -- Astia arguably offers the most dazzling blue skies of all of the current film simulations. Greens are lightened up some, too, while reds are a bit deeper.

The orange-yellow patch at the right end of the second row is somewhat washed out, which suggests that Astia might not be a good choice for fall foliage.

Since Astia's primary effects seem to be in saturation, let's look at the effects of the Color (saturation) adjustment:

Astia Color -2 patches on top of the Provia patches.

With the Color control turned down all the way, skin tones are noticeably desaturated. Interestingly, reds become even deeper and drag purple deeper, while the intensification of blues and greens is mostly maintained. The orange wash-out becomes more prominent.

In the other direction:

Astia Color +2 patches on top of the Provia patches.

At Color=+2, light skin tones are virtually identical to Provia. Blues and greens are brighter, red is more saturated. Orange isn't quite as washed out, but I still think Velvia would be a better choice for fall colors.

Here are the two Color extremes on top of each other:

Astia Color +2 patches on top of the Astia Color -2 patches.

Astia slide film was noted for its gentle treatment of shadows, for a slide film. With a tone curve essentially identical to Provia, the Astia simulation isn't gentle on shadows. Let's see what the Shadows control can do:

Astia Shadows -1 patches on top of the Provia patches.

I've never worked with Astia film, but from the descriptions I've read, that looks a lot closer. Skin tones are softened, including dark skin tones, and the shadows are treated with more respect.

Now to go even easier on the shadows:

Astia Shadows -2 patches on top of the Provia patches.

Reds and greens are washing out due to their darkness. Interestingly, the blues still seem to be hanging in there -- brighter but still quite blue.

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