DxO FilmPack 5 verdict
DxO FilmPack 5 is an interesting analog effects tool that was good in its day but now feels redundant. When DxO took over the Nik Collection, it left the presets and analog effects in FilmPack looking at best somewhat redundant, and there are now plenty of other programs with similar presets and analog looks supplied as standard. FilmPack’s integration with DxO PhotoLab is about the only thing still in its favor.
+ Integrates neatly with DxO PhotoLab 4
+ Nice analog film and grain effects
+ Light leaks and borders (Elite only)
– Expensive for what you get
– Limited adjustment tools
– No local adjustments
What is DxO FilmPack?
DxO FilmPack is an analog effects tool that comes in two editions: Essential and Elite. If you want the full range of effects and presets, and the ability to open RAW files in standalone mode, you need the Elite version.
FilmPack 5 is the latest version, but in came out way back in 2015. At that time, it was an exciting development, a tool designed to recreate the grain, color shifts, saturation, vignetting, light leaks and other characterful imperfections of analog film. Since then, a host of other programs have introduced similar tools, and FilmPack is no longer the only program to do this.
It works in one of three ways. You can use FilmPack 5 as a standalone program, opening folders of images, which are displayed as thumbnails, and selecting those you wish to edit. The Elite version can open RAW files directly. Once you’ve applied your chosen analog effects, you can save out new, processed images.
FilmPack 5 also works as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop. In this mode, it saves a processed image back to the host program. The RAW processing is no longer needed since the host software does that, but otherwise the tools are the same.
If you own DxO PhotoLab, things are a bit more interesting. FilmPack 5 integrates with PhotoLab’s tools palettes to offer film renderings, film grain, borders and light leaks, all from within the PhotoLab interface. This does allow you to apply local adjustments and FilmPack effects at the same time – FilmPack 5 does not offer local adjustments of its own, either as a standalone tool or as a plug-in.
Interface and layout
FilmPack 5 is not a complicated program to use. In standalone mode there is a browser view for browsing and selecting images, but the real work is done in the editing window.
The image you’re working on takes up almost the whole screen, save for a sidebar on the right hand side and a tool strip along the top. You use the sidebar to browse and filter the preset effects, including those supplied with the program and any effects you create yourself that you want to re-use.
Presets and adjustments
If you don’t want to use a preset, or you want to modify the settings applied by a preset, you click the Adjustments button on the top tool strip to show the adjustment tools in the sidebar instead.
These are surprisingly sparse. You can choose the film rendering, grain and any split toning effects at the top, and the rendering options include quite a few well-known black and white and color films. The black and white film renderings look pretty authentic (as far as it’s possible to tell), but the color renderings are not always convincing – the Velvia rendering looks pretty flat, for example.
Below this are some effective but basic color and tonal controls, plus curve adjustments and handy Micro-contrast and Fine contrast sliders (Elite edition only) for adding a little punch to flat-looking images.
There’s a Channel Mixer which doesn’t seem to have any effect in black and white mode, and while there is a Filter drop-down for black and white contrast filters, the effect is pretty light.
The Graphical Effects section (Elite only) offers Frames, Textures and Light Leaks, though only a dozen or so of each, and finishing off the tools at the bottom of the sidebar are vignette and blur tools – you can at least move the center of each around the picture for the best effect.
The results from DxO FilmPack are pleasing and reasonably convincing, though more so for the black and white simulations than the color ones. Some of the Designer Presets are quite appealing, but there aren’t that many, and if you’re looking for creative inspiration you’ll find a lot more (a LOT more) in the DxO Nik Collection, or programs like Exposure X, ON1 Photo RAW or CameraBag.
The limited adjustment tools and lack of any local adjustments make DxO FilmPack seem both underpowered and overpriced in today’s market. It does add another dimension to DxO PhotoLab’s capabilities, but as a plug-in for other software or as a standalone app, it’s disappointing, and probably best used for finishing adjustments for images which have already been edited elsewhere.
DxO FilmPack has been on version 5 since 2015, and while it still works fine today, it doesn’t look as if it’s really going anywhere. Today, it clashes rather awkwardly with Analog Efex Pro and the other Nik Collection tools, which are far more varied and inventive. It’s a technical analog simulation tool that’s fallen behind the other software out there today both for variety and, let’s face it, value.
If you’ve already got DxO FilmPack 5 there’s no reason to stop using it. It can produce some great effects and it still works fine. But if you’re thinking of getting it, be aware that you can get much more analog inspiration, variety and control elsewhere.
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