I learned photography by shooting on a Minolta X-700 and dragging my film back to a tiny darkroom at the newspaper. My feedback loop was measured in days – I tended to go into the office 20 miles down the road maybe twice a week. I developed very conservative habits because I wasn’t there to learn photography, exactly, I was there to learn how to take pictures for use in a newspaper with a film camera. Going digital years later reduced that feedback time a lot, but I’ve learned over time there’s better and worse feedback at better and worse times.

For instance, I have never really taken the time to figure out all the settings in Fujifilm cameras. The film simulations and tone controls are pretty simple to master, but then you get into the dynamic range settings, DR override, the color and blue chrome stuff, and it gets more complicated. Each setting does its thing, and they all interact with each other. You could spend all your shooting time trying to figure that stuff out instead of shooting, and it’s kind of a drag to keep a notebook around to write things down, or peep at EXIF later to figure out what was doing what.

Today I downloaded Fujifilm’s Raw Studio and started playing with it.

At its core it’s a raw file developer: You download raw files from your camera and process them into jpegs. There are other apps that do this (Lightroom, Capture One, Apple Photos), but Raw Studio has the distinction of allowing you to manipulate all the in-camera settings available on a given Fujifilm camera. Where Lightroom gives you generic controls for things like “Highlight,” “Whites,” “Blacks,” “Shadows,” Raw Studio has what you set in camera: “Highlight Tone” and “Shadow Tone.” Where Lightroom doesn’t have the Color Chrome or Chrome Blue settings at all, Raw Studio exposes them.

The slightly curious thing about the application is that it needs to be connected to your Fujifilm camera, which acts as a sort of raw file co-processor. I’d rather it were not that way, but it all works pretty transparently and cleanly: You connect via the camera’s USB-C port, the software picks it up, and that’s that. It doesn’t suck battery or do anything weird.

The thing I’m enjoying about the app is that it’s a great learning tool for all the creative options available in my Fujifilm cameras. I can get instant feedback on how, say, more shadow tone interacts with Classic Chrome vs. Classic Negative, or how the two color chrome settings interact with Provia, or which of the color filters for the monochrome Acros simulations give me what effects.

All that helps me make decent presets I can save to my cameras that will give me pretty good straight-out-of-the-camera jpegs without trying to figure this stuff out on the street. It also makes sharing in certain contexts easier. “Here’s a look I like, that encapsulates my style, and it’s in JPEG form where I can edit it in a simple mobile tool to fix the crop or straighten it or tweak small things.”

I can’t see myself discarding raw capture of some kind: I like editing too much to give up the flexibility and ability to reconsider an image years later that raw editing gives me. But I also like the thought of being able to build some go-to presets I can save in my camera that I know will work for certain moods and situations, so that sometimes post can just be cropping or little tweaks vs. a whole gamut of manipulations.

Like I said, this is fun.

Screenshot of the Fujifilm RAW studio software.