As you will have gathered from my DxO PhotoLab 7 review, the film effects and simmulations built into the standalone offering can be extended by using DxO FilmPack 7, the industry leading film emulation software.
This DxO FilmPack 7 review takes a look at the technology, the workflow, the way that FilmPack 7 has added processing capability in the form of Luminosity Masks to precisely tailor the adjustments applied to your images and the integration with other programs from DxO as well as the pricing model.
Table of Contents
DxO just love Film!
It takes a special kind of dedication to track down the last rolls of obsolete unexposed film stock, but that is an integral part of DxO’s process. The retrieved film is then exposed under carefully calibrated lighting in lab conditions with the resulting rolls sent to labs in New York and Paris to be developed. Why two labs? Because there will be slight variations between the labs. Using two labs enables a consistent spectrum of variation to be compiled.
Once the films have been returned, a similarly rigorous controlled digitization process is begun with the object of defining calibrated colormetric and grain profiles for each film.
This is where DxO FilmPack sets itself apart from the competition. Rather than simply use Gaussian noise characteristics for the profile, DxO derive complex grain matrices directly from the real crystals of silver halide in the calibrated test images.
Owing to this exhaustive process, the simulations included in DxO FilmPack are 100% faithful to the original films, and many have been lauded by expert photographers for their pleasing aesthetics.
I have heard that when the renowned landscape photographer Sebastio Salgado suffered catastrophic damage mid project to his precious stock of Kodak Tri-X 400, he turned to FilmPack to complete the project. Nobody was able to detect the difference in the finished prints.
New in FilmPack 7
This release goes some way beyond the concept of faithfully recreating film stock looks, with Luminosity masks it unleashes the tools to support your own creativity. It is now possible to map Ansel Adam’s zone system onto your own images.
New to FilmPack 7, Luminosity Masks enable the fine adjustment of exposure, color, and contrast. Users can now target specific parts of the image for precise changes such as adding warmth to highlights, offering new levels of control.
Users of PhotoLab 7 will notice that installing FilmPack 7 on the same computer activated Luminosity Masks in the Local Adjustments Panel.
Upgraded Time Machine Mode
Spanning almost two centuries of history’s greatest photographers and their favorite film stocks, DxO FilmPack 7’s Time Machine features a large collection of iconic photographs. Users can experience historical styles in context and then apply them to their own photos.
Photographers can enjoy 22 new historical images and events, in addition to 26 new presets, bringing the total to 94.
New Film Renderings and Digital Styles
In addition to FilmPack already wide array of authentic film renderings, Version 7 features 5 new modern analog film renderings: Cinestill Redrum 200, LomoChrome Metropolis 200, Lomography Redscale XR 200, Berlin Kino B&W 400, and Earl Grey B&W 100. 20 new digital effects, and a series of digital rendering see new styles of color and black-and-white modes on modern cameras from Nikon and FujiFilm.
FilmPack 7 brings the total number of adjustable high-fidelity color and monochrome film renderings to 89 and 82 digital styles.
This is a sample workflow in the standalone version of the software using the original RAW file, showing the use of several of the new features. The plugin allows users to roundtrip the image from within Lightroom or Photoshop for processing.
Double clicking the selected image imports the file into the develop screen, showing the histogram and thumbnail on the right. Below the thumbnail are previews of your image after Film stock simulation for consideration.
Applying a Film Stock Simulation
Select a Film Stock from the preview panel. There are more than 80 Film Stocks and Looks to choose from.
The screen applies my selection and tells me something about the chosen film stock on the left hand panel. If I’m happy with my selection I can move to the Customize panel on the right.
I added a little saturation to the colours before moving to the luminosity Masks panel. I wanted to bring down the exposure in the sky a little.
I’ve added a luminosity mask and selected a bright area, 9 from the panel. I noticed that it was not selecting the brightest area, but 10 only selects a half of the available sky.
I can further tune my mask by moving the handles on the slider at bottom right of the picture, the changes are immediately shown in the mask.
Once I’m happy with the mask I can apply changes to the masked area. I’ve chosen to reduce the contrast and the exposure with a view to keeping the hazy look, but getting to a more balanced exposure.
When I’m happy with the balance I move on to the tone curve to apply a little more contrast. And finally I can add a Frame effect and/or Texture effect if I want to.
The controls at the top of the screen running left to right are
- Save – Save As
- Save – Save Settings as preset
- Compare – with reference image (Film Stock before Customisation)
- Compare – with new reference image
- Compare – side to side
- Zoom – Fit Screen
- Zoom – 100%
- Modify – Crop
- Modify – Rotate 90°
- Modify – Adjust Horizon
- Browse Images (for new development)
- Display – Show/Hide Controls
- Display – Show/Hide Thumbnail
- Display – Show/Hide Histogram
Time Machine presets can be found individually in the Preset list under the heading Time Machine or by invoking the Time Machine panel by clicking on the icon under the Presets and Customise buttons.
Here, I selected the 1991 – Salgado preset from the list and then invoked Time Machine by clicking on the icon seen above the first image on the right.
I can reduce the range of options by choosing a date range from the list next to the images eg. 1990-1994 has 30 film looks.
Or I can look to the left to find out some detail about the preset. This feature as well as being fascinating, is unique – its like having your own film encyclopaedia a click of the mouse away.
It’s also possible to access Time Machine and apply a look from within PhotoLab 7. In the Colour/Black&White Rendering panel.
Availability & Pricing
DxO FilmPack 7 costs €139 or €79 to upgrade.
DxO FilmPack 7 Review – Conclusion
There is no direct competition for FilmPack that I am aware of.
Lightroom has a limited set of presets, but they are not in the same class as FilmPack.
Dehancer is primarily a video plugin for DaVinci Resolve, that also supports Lightroom, Photoshop and CaptureOne. It is well spoken of but only supports 63 film types and costs $199 with no upgrade path.
Exposure (Alien Skin) was probably the nearest like for like competitive product but appears to have ceased development in 2022.
My own use of FilmPack is generally restricted to applying simulations within PhotoLab. However, using the standalone version I’m impressed with the flexibility it gives me in customising my look, especially with the introduction of Luminosity Masks.
The accuracy of the film reproduction has been remarked upon by many and in tandem with PhotoLab 7 adds a considerable amount of polish to the already formidable tooling there.
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