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By Derrick Story |

Rediscover Analog Photography with DxO FilmPack 5 Elite

Rediscover analog photography with DxO FilmPack 5

For years, Kodak Tri-X film was my favorite. I bought 100’rolls, then loaded my own 35mm cartridges. Each roll was hand-processed in Kodak D-76 developer, then printed using an Omega B22 enlarger. I still have many of those prints in my collection.

Since those days, I’ve moved from analog to digital, and without complaint. Photography is as exciting today as ever. But I do miss Tri-X film the same way that I miss my 64 blue VW bug and Yashica SLR (which, ironically, was stolen out of my VW, but that’s another story).

Like skinny ties, though, the good things in life have a way of coming back. I’m printing Tri-X again. This time the “darkroom” is DxO FilmPack 5 running my Mac laptop, and the “enlarger” is an Epson 13” printer.

side-by-side in Aperture

DxO Film Pack lets you “roundtrip” from Aperture or Lightroom. Here are two converted images back in Aperture. Note the beautiful tones and realistic film grain of Tri-X.

And I’m not limited to this one emulsion. DxO has included more than 80 analog film renderings in its software. Each film option was scientifically profiled and digitized for accuracy. And if you shoot RAW, DxO will draw from its extensive camera and lens database to automatically correct distortion, aberrations, and vignetting before applying the film rendering to the image.

In addition to the B&W emulsions, I’ve tested color slide , too, such as Fuji Velvia 50, Kodak Kodachrome 25, and Kodachrome 64. Each film presents a different set of characteristics that you can easily distinguish, especially when viewed side-by-side on the computer.

Film Comparisons Cactus

A side-by-side comparison of Fuji and Kodak slide films. Some purists claimed that Kodachrome 64 produced a magenta cast in certain lighting conditions. You can actually see that here.

Why DxO FilmPack 5?

Emulating analog film is nothing new. Many cameras have this capability built-in, and there are numerous software packages to choose from for post production.

It’s the approach that DxO takes to creating a film look that’s remarkable to me. They started by building their profiles with the actual films that are listed in the software. They write in detail about the process they use for this on their site, but the bottom line is that DxO was scientific in their approach to creating these renderings.

Then, when you start with a RAW file in FilmPack 5, DxO uses the calibrated data from your camera to apply those analog renderings with faithful colors. At the same time, the software corrects lens distortion and aberrations. It’s almost like actually shooting Kodachrome 25 or Fuji Velvia 50. And the final output is impressive.

The basic process

There are a few workflows to choose from. You can roundtrip from your photo management application or open the RAW files directly in the standalone version of DxO FimPack. Each approach is a little different. When roundtripping as a plugin for Aperture or Lightroom, the RAW file is converted to a Tiff before the handoff to FilmPack 5.

With Lightroom 5.7, however, you have the option to work through DxO OpticsPro 10, which allows for a RAW file handoff. And using FilmPack as a standalone app, you can import the RAW files. I think the best handoff is a RAW to let DxO work its correction magic and to produce the most accurate film results.

Standalone-DxO Processing

An original RAW file from a Canon 5D Mark II is opened in the standalone version of FilmPack 5. Not only can I apply my Tri-X preset to the image, but DxO corrects camera and lens imperfections, too.

Once you’ve selected a film preset as a starting point, you can then fine-tune your image using a variety of adjustments and effects. There are textures, light leaks, vignetting, and frames. Plus there are micro-contrast adjustments, tone curve, exposure, and more.

Once you create a look that you want to use again, save it as a preset. Finished images can be exported as Jpegs or Tiffs.


After applying a film emulsion to this photo, I experimented with the light leaks effect.

My recommendation

As convenient as DxO FilmPack is as a plugin for Aperture or Lightroom, I preferred using it as a standalone app when working with RAW files. The automatic lens corrections make a big difference in the quality of the final image, and the app can only provide that service with RAW files. Plus, the color renderings are most accurate this way.

If I were handing off a Tiff or Jpeg to FilmPack, then I probably would go the plugin route. I’m not losing anything quality-wise, and I’m gaining the convenience of staying within my existing photo management workflow. But when I want to get the very most out of a picture, RAW is definitely the way to go here.

Bottom line

RAW shooters who want accurate analog film renderings combined with automatic lens corrections should appreciate DxO FilmPack 5 Elite. The software runs on both Mac and Windows computers. And you can try it free for 30 days. If you decide to buy, the Elite edition discussed in this article is $99.

Aperture users who want to integrate FilmPack 5 into their workflow should take a look at my Aperture 3 Essential Training course on lynda.com. You may also be interested in Portrait Retouching with Aperture, Using iPhoto and Aperture Together, and even Enhancing Product Photography with Aperture.


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