Shoot it like the Real Thing!

Using a digital camera like a ‘real’ one!

Let me make a quick excursion into the world of digital photography once more. An attempt I made some time ago to test out the waters of the dark side.

Modern vintage

You might already have guessed from some of my posts that I don’t own only film cameras. I came upon an incredibly good deal some time ago. A deal on a Fuji X-E1 digital mirrorless camera from a camera shop in the UK. The price was very good and the camera, when it came, was perfect. Like new. No used traces at all!

But would it please me or will it go back into the deep waters of the ‘Bay?

Fortunately, this camera which I know well, has all the hallmarks of a film camera.

Not looking too shabby, kitted out like this, no?

It’s viewfinder, though electronic in nature, reminds me of the offset position of a rangefinder. The controls are where they’re supposed to be, thanks to Fuji’s great retro engineering… it’s quite an enjoyable camera after all!


There’s a big if here! If only I could make it really behave like a film camera!

Too bad it doesn’t fit….

I can get my  head around to working with digital files I guess. The ones from Fuji cameras are not too bad in the end.

How did I set out to make a film camera out of a digital one? Well, first I use it exclusively with my vintage Leica M39 lenses. I tried Canon FD lenses but to my taste the necessary adapter it too long and just makes the lenses too big. This holds for most SLR lenses.

So back to basics and I got a slim M39 thread mount to Fuji adapter from K&F Concept, a sturdy, solid and heavy little thing… and quite cheap. My Summitar, Jupiter 8 and Industar 50 fit perfectly on it.

Of course, no auto-focus, so I set the camera to manual focus. Now focusing is not that easy with the EVF. Fortunately, the X-E1, with a firmware update (thanks Fuji!) has learned to display focus peaking and together with the single-button-press viewfinder magnification, focusing works.

I further added a grip with Arca-Swiss tripod mount to the camera, both adding a welcome weight and better handling while focusing the lenses. And of course my beloved Gordy’s wrist strap!

So how did I get along with the camera?

Well we understood each other quite well, after I taught it to stop showing me too much crap in the viewfinder!

I switched off nearly ALL the displays except the shutter speed and an exposure balance. The rest is unnecessary.

At first I made it display the actual exposure in manual mode, but I switched that off too.

Now I did like this:

I set my ISO before going out with the camera, just as if I put in a roll of HP5 or APX 100.

Fixed ISO, set shutter speed and adjust aperture, Leica style 😉

I set my shutter speed according to the selected ISO and the almighty sunny sixteen rule (1/500th of a second for ISO 400 or 1/125 for ISO 100) and I operated the manual aperture of the lenses (and if need be adjust the shutter speed) according to the light.

I either evaluated the light by sunny sixteen or I used the exposure balance thingy in the viewfinder. Of course the camera always tried to display a properly exposed image, independent of my settings, just like an optical viewfinder.

The trick is to get exposure right with the help of the meter or sunny sixteen, just like in a Nikon FM2 or Leica.

Shutter speed, ISO and exposure balance displayed. Here I’m 2 steps under! Aperture is displayed as 0 as there’s no information exchanged between lens and body!

Of course I can switch to aperture priority and benefit from an automatically selected shutter speed if I like.

This was not the easiest way to go, but it’s a gratifying way that I hoped I might come to like.

Anyways, this way I could experiment with a digital camera while pretending that I stuck a roll of film inside.

Stupid idea, no?

The results were looking OK to me. No world-shattering stuff, but really acceptable.FXE10006

So I tried this setup over the course of some weeks….

Did it work out?


I must be completely crazy but there was something missing the whole time. It felt incomplete to me. Why? Can’t say…. I used a faux-film camera, I got quite good results but the results were perhaps too good, too perfect. I missed the thrill of developing my film and discovering the negatives, comparing them to what I had in mind when I hit the shutter button.FXE15686

I miss the thrill inherent in film photography.

Film is not better or worse than digital, it’s just a question of preferences. And as I already stated numerous times on this blog, my preferences are set!

Now the X-E1 has been gone for some time and my mind is definitely in peace…. of course, there’s so many film cameras around to buy…… 😉

So thanks again for visiting!


14 thoughts on “Shoot it like the Real Thing!

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  1. I feel the sunny sixteen rule works less well with digital as you can’t recover the highlights as easily and on bright days I usually end up getting sunny 16 wrong by a stop or two 🤷‍♀️. Anyway the x-e1 looks to have done an okay job, I bet it was a good price with a brand new x-e3 just out. Probably the perfect time to grab one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gudde Mëtteg Här Lehnen,

    Ech hun datselwecht mat menger Fuji X-Pro a mengen M-Bajonett-Objektiver gemeet, mee et fehlt mer einfach eppes, Film aléën, ASA/ISO astellen, 36-38 Fotoen maachen, Film zréckspullen, an d’Entwécklung gin, de Rescht kennt Dir ;-).

    Lo hun ech meng Minolta CLE erem aus dem Schaaf geholl, (do passen diselwecht Objektiver drop), an elo ass mäi Fotogléck erem perfekt!

    Ech well de Fortschrëtt nit verdäiwelen, mee Fotografie ass fir mech einfach analog Fotografie! Domadder fillen ech mech wuel, an dat wäert och esou bleiwen.
    Gëschter sot nach eng (fotobegeeschtert an unerkannten) Fotografin zu mir: “Wanns Du deng Diaën weis, ass awer eppes aneschters wi eng Projektioun vun engem Beamer”

    Dat war awer schéin ze héieren, hu mech richteg gutt bei dem Saatz gefillt!

    Bescht Gréiss a bis geschwënn,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aaaaah d’CLE. Hätt ech gär emol probiert. Haat eng CL an daat war schon en super flotten Apparat. Hat dei obligatorisch 40 mm Cron an 90 mm Elmar an en Jupiter 8 (super Objektiv am Fong – net perfekt mee et huet eng Séil!).

      Mee et as wouer, beim digitalen fehlt daat gewessen ‘haptescht’ Ëmgeréits. Wei Dir sot, Film lueden, spaanen, entwëckelen… daat baut eng Relation zur Foto op dei fir mech am digitalen einfach fehlt an dei wichtig as.

      Each verdingen (leider) net mei Geld mat Foto’en an da kann ech mer e mei luesen Stil erlaaben. Ech muss net Foto’en DIREKT hun. Ech wëll se net Instagrammen….

      Film-Fotografie as fir mech eppes wei Meditatioun. Ech faalen komplett do dran an et mëcht mech frou!

      Bleiwe mir einfach bei der scheiner Filmfotografie (hun daat Wuert Analog net esou gär).

      An de Vergleich Diaprojekter / Beamer as immens…. muss emol erem en Diasfilm kaafen!


      1. Gudde Mëtteg Här Lehnen,

        Merci fir Äer léif Äntwert!

        Genau sou ass et, dat Haptescht fehlt mer am Digitalen, a wann ech mol nit sou gutt drop sin oder gestresst sin, dann huelen ech mer eng vu mengen Film-Kameraen a gin domat en Tour an d’Natur maachen, oder sëtze mech einfach an en Eck a “spillen” mat menge Kameraen, Objektiver an Accessoiren.(Das Kind im Manne ass bei mir och nach emmer dran ;-)) Dir sot, et ass Meditatioun, sou hun ech dat bis elo nach nit gesin, mee do ass eppes drun. Ech hun emmer gesot, Fotografie ass Therapie, e Moment fir den Alldag ze vergiessen an ofzeschalten,a fir an eng aaner Welt anzedauchen.
        Schon eleng dat Upaken an an d’Hand huelen vu sou engem Apparat ass e ganz aanert Gefill wi eng Digitalkamera an d’Hand huelen, do wees een heiansdo nit méi wou upaken ouni e Knäppchen ze geroden an eppes ze verstellen. Ausserdem huet bei enger Film-Kamera meeschtens nach all Knäppchen oder Heewelchen seng eegen dédiéiert Funktioun ouni Ënnermenu, si erkläre sech vum selwen, dat gehéiert fir mech och zu engem gudden haptesche Gefill…

        Ech hu bei menger CLE e 40mm Voigtländer Nokton, 28mm Zeiss Biogon an en 90mm Leica Summarit-M, dat si jo och déi 3 Brennwäiten wou d’Rummen am Sucher agespigelt gin, am meeschten fotograféieren ech awer mam Nokton…

        Ech si ganz dermatt averstanen fir amplaatz analog Kamera Film-Kamera ze soën, ech muss mech just nach dru gewinnen, well mäi Papp hat och eng Filmkamera fir 8mm-Film ze dréinen, dofir ass et nach e bëssi friem fir mech, mee ech winne mech drun, versprach 😉 !

        Bescht Gréiss,


        Liked by 1 person

  3. Frank, great post with a great ending! So many times, I’ve had digital cameras that I tried to shoot like a film camera but it didn’t work out. The only one that came close was the Epson R-D1 digital rangefinder. Indeed there’s lots of great film cameras out there, now at very attractive prices!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear I’m not the only one….

      The R-D1 would have ticked all my boxes too (just as a too expensive digital Leica), but there remains the question of my relation to film and indifference to digital files

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true. The R-D1 files are still digital after all but the lowish 6mp resolution kind of helps the filmic look somewhat. But the main film-like feel of the R-D1 comes from its feel…the quasi winder, the viewfinder. But you’re right, at the end of the day it’s still a digital camera 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Buy a (preferably full frame) DSRL or anything with a real view finder (or borrow it), set iso and white balance and tape the screen. Voila, you have it like the film camera but you can skip the developing and the scanning part of it. 🙂

    Of course type of film also preselects many technical aspects of the outcome like tonal range, size of the grain ect. Also Fuji X-E1 also has APS-C sensor that gives you less control over depth of field than 35mm (or full frame digital) camera.

    So I think that it could be that you are missing just proper tools to enjoy digital shooting. I believe that it is something worth exploring if your outcome is in the end digital.

    I shoot on film only because it can give me technical edge over digital (but not for 35mm any more I think) and most importantly I get a nice artefact – I shoot mostly slides.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not the camera in the end. Even a DSLR won’t do it for me.

      It’s just that I like the hands-on experience and rendering of film much more.

      It’s been ages I shot slides… in my younger days I was a Kodachrome guy through and through. We’ll see when the new Ektachrome comes out. Not the same but it’ll do


  5. I have a couple of Fuji X-T2 bodies and 3 native lenses. I also use them with a plethora of adapted vintage lenses and with my set of Samyang EF-mount manual lenses (the 50 and the 85 are to die for!). I use the adapted lenses with either a focal length reducer or a straight adapter, which gives me a huge choice of focal lengths to play with. I also have too many compact digitals. On the film side I have and love an Olympus OM1 MD, a Canon 1N, a Canon EOS 620 and a Yashica Electro 35.

    I love and regularly use all of the above. But for different things.

    If I absolutely must get the shots (ie, someone is paying me) I will mainly use the Fujis and shoot a little bit of film if there’s time and there’s a shot I think will work well. If it’s dark, I use the Fujis. If I want a real no fuss experience or I think I’ll want to shoot a lot of frames I’ll use the Fujis.

    If I’m going out with the express intention of ‘doing’ personal photography I’ll use one or more of the film cameras (usually the 1N if I need to work fast, the Olympus or the Yashica if slow and steady is the aim) with a Fuji in my bag in case I run out of film. Or I might go out with the Panasonic LX7, which shoots nice raws and has an insanely fast lens for a cheap compact – but I’ll do as you have outlined above and set it up as a film camera.

    In short, I guess what I’m trying to say is that in my view both film and digital push all my buttons and have their places in my own photographic journey. I wouldn’t want to do without either, just like a world without sirloin steak would be equally as disheartening as a world without pork chops!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those Fuji cane nearest for me to the feel of a film camera but offer simply too much choices as all digital cameras.

      As nobody pays me for my photos ☹️ I have the chance to stay with film. But if I was paid I guess there’s not really a choice anymore.


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