Reviews

Epson Expression Photo XP – 850 review

Most of today’s dedicated single function photo printers are A3 or larger. A big printer may be the ideal choice for photographers who own a well specified DSLR camera but in reality many hobbyist and home users probably don’t need to produce big prints on a regular basis.

So if you have a space restriction and want to produce great looking photos then maybe look no further than a Multifunction or All-in-One printer. Epson introduced their latest All in One printer the XP-850 in October 2012, this is a compact 4 in 1unit which is up to 40% smaller than previous models. So let’s put it to the test

Overview

The Epson Expression Photo XP-850 is a well specified compact all-in-one printer which features; six-colour dye based Claria Photo HD inks, a 8.8cm touch screen, flatbed scanner with automatic document feeder for single and double sided scanning, duplex printing, Epson Connect service with remote print driver and scan-to-cloud, automatic Wi-Fi setup and Wi-Fi direct connectivity, dual media trays, memory card reader, rear speciality media feed for heavyweight photo paper, CD and DVD printing, motorised control panel and output tray.

XP-850 installation screens

The unit is very easy to setup, once the inks have been installed and the heads have been primed you can install the printer drivers on your computer. Insert the Driver CD and chose the option you want. I have chosen the first option “Start & Connection”, this leads you into a second screen, from here you can just click on the Install button or select the Install Latest Version. This will take you to the Epson website and download the latest drivers. A series of splash screens are displayed to thank and re-assure you that you have made the right unit choice – we will see! Once completed you are prompted to choose which connection type you want to use, I have chosen the USB wired connection for this review.

Reassurance from Epson

Thank you from Epson for purchasing this printer – children not included

When the driver installation has been completed you can then choose the software that you want to install; Epson Print CD/DVD, Epson Online Guides, Photo Printing Software and Abby FineReader Sprint (OCR software). I have only chosen the first two options as I use Photoshop and PaintShop Pro and have no need for Optical Character Recognition software.

Select connection type and software

For further installation of hardware just watch our overview video for full details (top of the screen). In this review I just want to look at how well everything works, and of course the scan and print quality. So I will jump in straight away with our first test prints.

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Datacolor Spyder Capture Pro – review

Datacolor has been producing colour management tools for as long as I can remember, I have been using Spyder Colorimeters for monitor profiling for several years now. In this review I will be taking a look at the Spyder Capture Pro suite. For the photographer the Datacolor Spyder Capture Pro kit appears to be an ideal solution for creating accurate colours in digital photography workflows, so let’s take a look at each item.

The Spyder Capture Pro suite includes:

  • SpyderLenscal – a camera calibration tool for checking focus accuracy of a camera and lens combination.
  • SpyderChecker – a colour reference chart for calibrating and creating camera profiles.
  • SpyderCube – a quick way to set white balance on RAW files in post production.
  • Spyder 4Elite – a colorimeter for calibrating and creating profiles of a monitor, TV, iPad, iPhone and projector.
  • Screen cleaner, Software CDs and Quick Start guides
  • A rugged aluminium carry case to keep all the above products safe.

The Spyder 4 Elite colorimeter.

Spyder 4

The first step in any colour managed workflow is to ensure that the monitor is displaying accurate colours. The Spyder 4 Elite colorimeter has a seven colour sensor that accurately calibrates and profiles a variety of displays, monitor, TV, iPad, iPhone and projectors. The colorimeter is supplied with a generous 6 foot USB cable – a useful length if you have a floor standing computer. The Spyder Elite software is easy to use, just follow the on-screen instructions and place the colorimeter on screen when prompted to do so. A series of colour patches are displayed on screen and the colorimeter measure the values and compares them to a reference file, when completed a monitor profile is created. This profile is loaded into your graphics card LUT (Look Up Table) when you boot up the computer and will be set as the default monitor profile.  There is also the option to profile a second monitor handy if you work with two screens. I did experiment with the settings on my monitor by throwing out the RGB colours to something that was totally unacceptable and then re-profiled the monitor using the basic settings. The new profile cancelled out all the unacceptable colours and produced a well balanced looking screen. Of course, I don’t recommend that you do this, you should ensure that your display is looking good before you start the profiling, this will ensure that there is plenty of latitude for the software to shift in either direction.

A slight tilt of the screen should ensure the Spyder sits flat on the surface

Monitor profiling is the starting point for a colour managed workflow, after all it is the window by which you will make all your adjustments. One small niggle, when you place the Spyder on a monitor screen the meter does not sit flat on the surface, this means ambient light can enter through the sides, which could influence the accuracy of readings. This is due to the USB cord being at the top of the device, thereby putting a slight pull on the meter, especially if the monitor screen is slightly recessed from the surrounding facia. A better solution would be to have the USB cable at the bottom of the device and a separate weighted cord to hang the colorimeter by. A very simple way to ensure the meter sits flat is to tilt the monitor backwards. We have reviewed the Spyder 4 Elite here. http://www.photo-i.co.uk/2012/02/spyder4-review/ so I will not go into further detail.

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Epson Expression XP-30 review

Photo-i has been live for over 10 years now and in this time we have reviewed almost all new printers, although the focus has been mainly on top of the range photo printers. In this review I want to take a look at the capability of an entry level printer the Epson Expression Home XP-30, a printer that only cost’s £39.99.

This the smallest A4 printer that Epson has produced to date, it’s aimed at the home user and student who may be short on space (and cash). The printer uses four individual Claria ink cartridges; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, which are available in Standard or XL sizes. Epson uses images on the cartridge packaging to clearly identify the right ink for each printer model, this ink set uses a photo of a Daisy flower.

The printer has a very small footprint of 390 x 215 x 130mm (Width x Depth x Height) and weight of 2.3kg. But don’t be put off by this small size, Epson have packed some very sophisticated technology into the box including, Epson’s Micro Piezo™ print head which uses 128 nozzles for black and 42 nozzles for each colour with a 3pl droplet size. The printer has a resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi.

The overall construction is perhaps not up to their top of the range models but nevertheless I don’t get the feeling that Epson have made any drastic money saving compromises on the quality of materials used.

Epson XP-30 ready to load inks

The printer has a two section rear gravity feed media holder with a simple grey slider to hold the paper in position. At the front is a two section tray with a folding flap to prevent printed pages from falling on the desk or floor. On the top are two buttons, Power and print cancel. The printer uses a USB connection, (cable not supplied), a mains cable is included together with four inks. And that is it, a simple no fuss printer.

Installation

Plug in the power cable and press the Power button, open the cover and the print head cradle moves into position ready for you to install the ink cartridges, remove the yellow tab on each cartridge and fit the inks into the printer.

Four ink cartridges are easy to fit

Next insert the Drivers CD and let the Wizard install the printer. The software connects to the Epson web site and downloads the latest drivers and on-line manual, this process also downloaded the latest firmware which requires you to turn the printer off and on again. The update took approx 2 minutes.  Epson’s Easy Photo Print software is also installed. When prompted, connect a USB cable to the printer and computer and that is it, we are now ready to produce the first print. The installation process took approx ten minutes.

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All-in-One Photo Printers for photographers

There is no shortage of photo capable printers, in fact you can pick up an entry level Epson printer for less than £40 (XP-30). However, having spent your cash on a decent camera and lenses you are probably going to want something that does justice to your camera equipment.

 

Canon, HP, Epson & Kodak

Most of today’s dedicated single function photo printers are now A3 or larger. A big printer may be ideal for digital cameras with 16 to 23 or more megapixels, but the downside is that large format printers take up a lot of desk space and the reality is that many hobbyist and home users probably don’t need to produce large prints on a regular basis. Of course large format printers are capable of printing A4 or 6×4 prints, but unless you intent to produce a lot of small prints then the extra cost of larger capacity ink cartridges may be an overkill, especially if the ink dries up before it is used.

Epson 3880 A2 printer

So if you have a space restriction and want to produce great looking photos then maybe look no further than a Multifunction or All-in-One printer. These printers incorporate a flatbed scanner with sufficient resolution for most scanning and copying work, memory card reader, WiFi and Ethernet, PictBridge, Remote printing, CD/DVD label printing and maybe a FAX capability. These units have become very popular due to their low cost, versatility and capability of producing high quality photographic prints.

In this review we will be looking at photo quality and photo capable multifunction printers that we consider to be worthy of your serious consideration. To clarify the difference between Photo Capable and Photo Quality, Photo Capable printers are usually supplied with four colours; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, referred to as CMYK. Photo Capable printers are great for day to day printing a variety of document types, including; text, newsletters, greeting cards, graphics and photos. Photo Quality printers generally include six or more inks, which include Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Light Magenta and Black. These are the printers that are going to reproduce the best quality photos. Some of the more advanced single function printers have 8 or more inks which may also include Light Black inks for cast free monochrome printing (B/W). However, regardless of which printer type you want to use, to achieve the best quality photos you need to use premium photo quality media (paper).

Multifunction printers can cost less than £50 or up to £250, obviously higher specified printers are going to cost more and no doubt produce better quality photos.  In this review we will take a look at five printers, from Kodak, Epson, Canon and HP, all our review printers are in the £90 to £250 range.

 

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Tiffen Dfx Video/Film Plug-in – review

Filters are still an essential part of any videographer’s kit, but optical filters can be expensive. Tiffen, a company renowned for making high quality photographic filters, also produces a series of digital filters including the Dfx Video/Film Plug-in that simulates most of their award winning traditional glass filters.  Whilst simple filters can be easily simulated within most video editing applications, the Tiffen plug-in includes numerous special effect filters which would be very hard to replicate. The Dfx Video/Film Plug-in runs as a plug-in in the following applications Adobe After Effects, Avid, Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro.

The Tiffen Dfx Video/Film Plug-in comprises of 100 filters with each offering many pre-defined presets, giving you effectively 2000+ filters. The Dfx suite also gives you the ability to customise the filters and save them as your own unique filters, effectively allowing you a limitless collection of unique filters for your production.  The Dfx filter suite is also available for stills photography as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Elements, Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture or as a Standalone application. The features in each version are more or less the same.

The Tiffen filters in the Premiere Pro Effects panel

Using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, the filters are installed as seven sub folders in the Effects > Video Effects folder. These are; Tiffen Dfx v3 Film lab (9 filters), HFX Diffusion (12 filters), HFX Grads/Tints (15 filters), Image (17 filters), Lens (11 filters), Light (22 filters) and Special effects (14 filters).  Although the Tiffen web site claims 121 filters I could only find 100, although some of the filters do have two or more names e.g. Soft F/X and Warm Soft F/X. However, having said that, most of the filters contain numerous presets, for example the Film Labs contains 37 pre-defined film looks which includes most popular film types from B/W to Kodak Gold and Lomo effects. To add to the versatility, you can create your own custom preset from scratch or alter any of the preset filters’ parameters and save them as a custom filter.

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Tiffen Dfx Digital Filter Suite V3 – review 

Glass filters were once an essential part of a photographer’s kit, but are they still relevant in today’s digital age? Tiffen, a company with a high reputation for making quality photographic filters, also produces the Dfx Digital Filter Suite that simulates over 2000 of their award winning glass filters.   Whilst simple traditional photo filters can be simulated within Photoshop, PaintShop Pro and other digital image editing applications, the Dfx Digital filter suite includes numerous special effect filters which would be very hard to replicate.

The Tiffen Dfx V3 filter suite comprises of 125 filters with each offering many pre-defined presets, giving you effectively 2000+ filters. The Dfx suite also gives you the ability to customise the filters and save them as your own unique filters.  The suite is available in three versions, Standalone, Photo Plug-in and Video Film Plug-in. The features in each version are more or less the same, for this review I will be taking a look at the Standalone version.

When launched you are presented with a slick dark interface which is ideal for colour correction work. Dfx opens the following image formats; Camera RAW, Tiff, JPEG and DPX. Unfortunately, there is no support for Photoshop PSD format in the Standalone version, although you can apply the filters to a PSD file with the Photo Plug-in version.

Images can be dragged and dropped directly onto the interface from your file browser or from other applications that supports drag and drop (Adobe Bridge). Once opened the interface jumps into life. The image is placed in the left column as an Original with a single effect layer above, you apply all effects to a layer or multiple layers. A set of eight filter category tabs are located at the base of the windows, these include; Film Lab, HFX Diffusion, HFX Grads/Tints, Image, Lens, Light, Special FX and Favourites. Each tab contains a series of filter thumbnails showing the effect on your own image rather than on a pre-packaged stock image. The main viewer window displays the image with the selected filter effect applied.

Parameters tab, options change to match filter in use

Click on a filter thumbnail and the main image is instantly updated with the filter. On the right hand side is a further selection of thumbnails displaying the built in Presets for the filter in use. Click a Preset that you like and modify the filter by clicking on the Parameters tab, the available options will vary depending on which filter is selected.

A series of four icons is located at the top of the interface, these include; Reset, Crop, Rotate and Add mask.  Another series of icons is located above the Viewer; magnifying, side by side comparison, viewing a mask, histogram, and take a snapshot. Additional icons appear when a mask or other options are selected.

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Canon-Pro-1

Canon PIXMA Pro 1

Canon Pixma Pro 1 printer review.

If you have a premium brand camera then you will want a printer that will reproduce the best quality photo possible from your equipment. Canon has a great reputation with a comprehensive range of dye and pigment ink printers. In October 2011 Canon announced their new top of the range Pixma Pro1 pigment ink printer. photo-i is pleased to bring you a full review of this exciting printer.

Canon are not new to pigment ink printers, they also offer the Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II which is a 10 ink printer. The Pro 1 goes two steps better by offering 12 inks, with each tank containing 36ml of ink. The 12 Lucia pigment inks remain in a fixed position in two groups of six on either side of the printer’s paper out tray. On the Pro 9500 Mk II the smaller capacity tanks travel in a cradle above the print head to deliver the inks to the media surface, whereas the Pro 1 inks remain stationary and ink is fed via flexible tubes to the print head. This means that during the initial priming process a quantity of ink will be used to fill the tubes and print heads. You may notice a drop in the ink levels before you have made the first print, this is normal. However, any subsequent ink tank replacement will not need this priming.

Canon Luicia pigment  inks

The Canon PIXMA Pro 1 uses 12 inks, six tanks on each side

The twelve Lucia pigment inks include; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Photo Magenta, Photo Cyan, Red, Dark Grey, Grey, Light Grey, Photo Black, Matte Black and Chroma Optimizer. As with other pigment inks, the tanks have to be shaken before they are installed in the printer. The shaking is necessary to circulate the heavier pigment particles which may have settled at the bottom of each cartridge during storage. Dye inks do not need to be shaken.

Setting up

The printer is a hefty 27.7kg (61lbs), lifting this onto a work surface is a two person job. The printer is supplied with a comprehensive and well illustrated printed manual, which guides you through setting up for first time use. The twelve ink tanks need to be installed in the two front compartments, each tank has its own unique key so you can’t physically fit it in the wrong slot. Next, the print head needs to be installed, detailed instructions are provided in the manual. The advantage of an easy to install print head is that you can replace this yourself at a later date, should you need to, without having to send the printer to a service centre. The printer now primes itself ready for use. This process takes about 20 minutes. Next, install the printer drivers and software, when prompted by the wizard connect the printer to a computer using a USB or Ethernet cable.

The EASY install option installs all software

Custom install will be a better option for advanced users

For this review we chose a custom install of the included Canon software, we have left out applications such as Easy PhotoPrint EX, EasyWebPrint EX etc., which are better suited for entry level printers. The printer performs an automatic head alignment for which you will need two sheets of Canon MP-101 matt paper. The media must be loaded into the rear feed tray and not the rear manual tray. The printer prints a series of patches which are read inside the printer and the heads are automatically aligned.

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June 2012

I have been using Wacom tablets from the very earliest days in digital imaging, in fact I still have my first tablet. If you have never used a tablet before then getting used to drawing with a touch sensitive pen can seem awkward, you draw on a tablet in front of you and the results are seen on the screen which may be on the other side of your desk. It doesn’t take long to get used to this, but can be slightly disconcerting when you first try it. Wacom updated their tablet range earlier this year with the introduction of the Intuos 5, which is without doubt their best tablet to date.

The Wacom Intuos 5 is available in four models: Intuos5 touch Small, Medium, Large and pen-only (Medium). The Intuos 5 can be extended with a Wacom Wireless Accessory Kit, this allows use of the tablet without a cable. For this review we have the Medium tablet together with a wireless accessory kit. For image editing the Medium tablet size is more than sufficient, the large size is better suited to CAD and technical illustration work. The tablets 2048 levels or pressure sensitivity is available on all three models. Installation is straight forward, place the CD in your drive and a wizard will take care of the rest, and you may be prompted to install the latest drivers via the internet.

The Intuos 5 has an overall matt black soft touch finish, which feels very nice to touch, I prefer it to the hard plastic surface of my dated Intuos 2. On the left hand side there are six express keys which can be programmed to perform custom functions with your application. Depending on the application you are using, you can define the Express Keys with different functions to match the application. When an application is active the Express Key functions will change to reflect your choice of functions. Memorizing the custom keys for several software programs requires the user to have a good memory, I prefer to define sets of common functions or let the tablet use the same settings for everything. However, as tablets are mainly used with image editing software there shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

In the centre there is a Touch Ring which can be used to perform the default actions such as zoom, enlarge brush, rotate and cycle layers, you can also define your own actions. Press the centre button to toggle to the next action, a small LED light shows you which action is active. The express keys and Touch Ring can be either on the left or right, simply rotate the tablet.

A mouse has always been included with previous versions of Wacom tablets. The Intuos 5 pressure sensitive tablet comes complete with a pen and a set of nibs, but no mouse. I must confess that I never used any of the Wacom mice on my tablets, I didn’t like tem. The Intuos 5 has a better feature, the ability to use gestures with your fingers directly on the tablet. The finger gestures work very well, although perhaps not as sensitive as a touch screen on an iPad, iPhone or other mobile devices.

I could move windows, zoom, rotate, scroll amongst other things, without too many problems. The Touch feature is a useful feature which can speed up image editing without having to leave the tablet area, it can be instantly turned On or Off via the top Express Key. One disappointment is that Angry birds doesn’t seem to work too well with Gestures, I couldn’t find a way to release the bombs.

One useful accessory is the wireless kit. The kit consists of a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, a wireless module and USB wireless receiver. Use the USB cable to charge the battery, once charged you can disconnect and use the tablet without tethering it to a computer. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but for me one of the things I hate is trying to free a mouse, keyboard or tablet cable, they always seem to get caught on something, generally a full mug of coffee.

I am now totally wireless on my desktop. The modestly priced wireless kit is well worth the investment. Of course if you want, you can use the tablet with the supplied USB cable.

In use the tablet performs as expected, you have very fine control on brush strokes, stroke the tablet area gently and you have a soft brush stroke, put more pressure on the pen and the strokes are bolder. The pen also has a tilt feature by up to 60 degrees, ideal if you are into calligraphy. Brush sizes can be quickly changed by using the Touch ring, just like turning the volume up or down on an iPod. The Express keys come in useful once you have defined the keys for your preferred actions. I was rotating, zooming in and out very quickly. As previously mentioned, the Multi Touch sensitive option wasn’t as responsive as I would have liked, but nevertheless it did come in handy for quick navigation, just remember the finger combinations, one, two, three or four fingers, they all perform different actions.

One negative point, which is not a Wacom problem, is that Windows 7 highlights the cursor position with an annoying circle every time you make a brush stroke. Now you should be able to turn this off from within the OS, but so far I have not managed to do it. It would be helpful if Wacom could include an option to turn this off in the tablet properties, or provide detailed instructions on how to do it.

Conclusion

I enjoyed using the medium size tablet, it did make me more productive by enabling me to concentrate on doing the job in hand rather than using drop down menus or keystrokes. The Wacom Intuos 5 is a great investment for a professional photographer/designer or anyone who is serious about their digital imaging.

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Wireless Accessory Kit (optional)
  • Pen is very responsive
  • Multi Touch feature

Cons

  • Price
  • Multi Touch not always as sensitive as I would like
  • Annoying cursor highlight in Windows 7

Highly Recommended

 

Pricing and availability

The Intuos 5 comes in four models: Intuos5 touch Small (£199.99), Medium (£329.99), Large (£429.99) and Intuos 5 pen-only Medium (£269.99). Each Intuos5 can be extended with the Wacom Wireless Accessory Kit priced at £34.99. All prices are including VAT.

Digital Film Tools – Film Stocks review

At one time photographers would match a specific film stock to create a mood for their photographs. For example a high ISO (ASA) film might have been chosen for a gritty grainy look, or Kodachrome 25 for ultra smooth colours, maybe even shoot reversal film stock and do some cross processing.  Now digital capture has taken away that choice, instead we have  an overall smooth grain less look on almost everything that is shot. There are many things that can be done in Photoshop or other imaging applications whereby we can simulate many of the traditional film stock. However, many of the film effects may require an above average  working knowledge of filters, combination of filters and blending modes.

Film Stocks plug-in

We have been sent a copy of Film Stocks by Digital Film Tools. This is a plug in suite of filters that simulates 288 different colour and black & white film stocks and old film processes. You also have the option to customise any of the predefined settings and save them as a new preset. The plug-in can be used with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture. A separate licence is required for Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro X.  So let’s take an in-depth look at Film Stocks.

Film Stocks In use with Photoshop

With an image open in Photoshop, simply go to menu Filter > Digital Film Tools > Film Stocks 1.0. This launches an impressive, yet easy to use interface. Your image occupies the main window. A series of presets are located on the left hand side, these will change depending on which film stock type is selected from the film category thumbnails located at the bottom of the screen. The image control parameters are located on the right hand side together with a histogram. For photographers who want quick results you only need to click on a film category and then select a preset setting that suits the subject, then click the Done symbol. It’s really as simple as that, you don’t even have to wade through the user guide. However, there is far more to Film Stocks than this.

Simulation of Ilford FP4

Once you have selected a setting that you like then use the parameters to fine tune the image to your liking. There is a plethora of adjustment options available, these include curves, RGB sliders, Colour Correction sliders, Colour filter overlays, Sharpen, Diffusion, Vignette and Grain. Any adjustments that you make can be saved as a new preset and applied to other images.

A low resolution version of your image is used in the preview window, this makes applying Sharpen a difficult task as the image is pixelated.  You can change the resolution by going into File Preferences and changing the Preview size from 1024  to 2048, this does improve things but it is still a low resolution preview.  Amendment – There is a Magnifier which can be turned On or Off, just press the number 1 key, this will give you a true 100% view of the image with the effect applied. The Magnifier window can be dragged away from the left column and resized to fit screen or any other size you require.”  Having a smaller preview does speed up any adjustments you make, and these appear almost instantly, however, some of the sliders do have a slight sticky feel, often you move the cursor to leave the slider behind. To the right of every slider is a Reset button, this puts the value of that slider back to its default, I liked this inclusion, most other applications the Reset button can often take everything back to a default setting. The other nice feature is that if you expand the Parameters panel then you can have finer control on the sliders, or simply type in a number.

Simulation of an AutoChrome

The preview window has several options, you can zoom in or out with the magnifying glass or use the I & O keys – pity Digital Tools didn’t stay with Photoshop + & – keys. Although a numeric value is displayed, you can’t enter a value with your keyboard, I was trying to get a 200% magnification but could not achieve it. The pan tool can be accessed either by the icon or using the space bar on your keyboard,  I was able to smoothly pan around the image.. Other options include Before and After and split screen previews, fit to screen, snapshot, view snapshot etc. When viewing in split screen mode you can drag a marker to define how much of the screen you want to preview. However, if you have another tool selected then you can’t move the markers, even though the cursor is displaying a double arrow.

The predefined effects are excellent with a wide variety of options in each category. The categories include; Black & White Films, Black & White Lo Fi, Colour Films Cross processing, Colour Films Polaroid, Colour Films Print, Colour Films slides, Faded, Historical, Lo-Fi, Lo-Fi cross processing and Motion picture films. There are numerous presents under each category, for example under Colour Slide there is a preset  available for film stocks from Agfa, Fuji (Velvia, Provia), Gaf 500, Kodachromes -25, 64 & 200 and almost all Ektachromes. Under Black & White most popular film stocks from Ilford, Kodak, Polaroid and Agfa are included.

Faded photograph effect

The Historical collection includes many long forgotten processes, and some I have never heard of before “Ziatype” . Some effects are more convincing than others, certainly if you used fine art media to print out the results then you are not going to be disappointed.

Multiple effects can be applied to an image by creating a new layer and then using masks to hide portions thereby revealing an underlying layer. This can produce some unusual effects that could never be achieved by using film.

Finally when you are happy with the result, press the Done button. This button is not well located at the top left, most Photoshop filter buttons are normally positioned at the bottom right of most filter palettes.

Try a fully functional trial version of Film Stocks from www.digitalfilmtools.com once downloaded simply run the FilmStocks 1-0 installer which installs the plug in to your stills or video application. The trial version will run for 15 days, after this period you will have to purchase a licence to continue using the plug-in.

Overall verdict

A well designed plug-in that produces many outstanding effects with ease and also offers the ability to customise existing presets or for creating your own from scratch. The ideal tool for the photographer who mourns the death of film.

Price $95

Highly recommended.

Digital Film Tools for video

The video version works in exactly the same way as the image editing plug-in does, all that has been said before will apply for this version too.

So why an extra section to this review?

Digital Film Tools have a video version of the same plug, this works with Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Pro x, Avid and Quantel . Each of the 288 film Stock looks are on the whole excellent, even if the majority lend themselves to a stills photographer rather than a movie maker. To apply the filter just simply drag and drop the effect onto a clip on the timeline, a long list of numeric settings appear in the host applications effect controls panel. Now you have the option to work your way through each setting or you can click on the Setup button to open the Film Stocks interface, which is near identical to the one for Photo editing, albeit with a few omissions such as Masks. Take Snapshot, Layers and Magnifier. I have used the graphical interface for this review.

Premier will display effects as numbers

The full Film Stocks view is an easier interface to work with

Looking at the categories, I can see some of the Black & White film presets as being useful, although I can’t remember Ilford FP4 as being a movie film stock, or for that matter Kodachrome 25, nevertheless these film looks will work well on a video clip. The Historical presents and cross processing effects will make interesting viewing in a movie sequence and should provide the user with a good starting point for creating some unique looks. Most of the other presents are a variation on colours or curves to simulate movie stock or stills film. A skilled operator could replicate many of the looks, by using many of the excellent colour correction tools in Premiere or After Effects. However, Digital Film Tools have researched and recreated these 288 looks is a single package which would take a skilled operator many hours to create a similar look from scratch.

When you launch the plugin you are presented with the Film Stocks colourful interface and a single frame from your clip, the film looks are applied using this frame as your reference. The frame is the current frame where the playhead is parked on the timeline when you apply the filter.  From here you can apply any of the filters which will give you an instant update. I would have liked to see the effect applied to the entire selected clip as a movie preview, but you can make an accurate judgement from a single frame.  Once you have applied the filter you are taken back into the editing application and the file will have a red line above it, indicating it needs to be rendered for smooth preview playback. For an entire short movie this can be a time consuming process, I applied an overall look to a 45 minute film and it took 2 hours 48 minutes to render. However, in reality you may only want to apply a movie look to a short clip, and then the render time is more than acceptable.  I am using a computer with 16gb of RAM and a i7 2600k CPU, which is not slow by any means. Applying a similar effect using the colour correction tools in Premiere with the Mercury Playback Engine and the render was instant, but then that doesn’t take into account the amount of time it would take you to work out all the colour permutations in order to achieve a given film look.. The key advantage Film Stocks has, is that all the settings are predefined for you.

Red bar indicates clip has to be rendered

Having previously stated that some of the Historical and Faded presets produced interesting effects, I would have liked the inclusion of some old film effects, i.e. flicker, jumped frames, damaged and scratched artefacts which randomly appear during old movie clips, old TV screens, out of register colours, light leaks, glimpses of sprocket holes,  or even some crackling sound effects. I can think of plenty more effects that could be useful. However, the package is clearly labled as Flim Stocks and as such it delivers an excellent set of film looks.

Overall conclusion on the Film Stocks version for video

The Film Stocks plugin from Digital Film Tools provides some useful video/ film looks which will look great in any video production. The video version is just over double the price of the photo version and yet not offering any more features, in fact a few have been taken out. Compared to other similar products on the market it does present good value. However, I am not convinced why basically the same product  as Film Stocks for Photo should cost $100 more – I know new code has to be written to make it work with video, but the underlying colour permutations are the same.

Price $195

 

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