DxO FilmPack 6 verdict
FilmPack 6 is a bold and thorough attempt to simulate the look of classic analog films, with a huge amount of control over film renderings and grain, and a good selection of preset effects. Just a couple of things hold it back: first, it has no local adjustment tools, which does affect how and when you use it; second, it is pretty expensive, especially the more attractive Elite edition.
+ Evocative film and darkroom looks
+ Very in-depth controls
+ DxO RAW processing and lens profiles
+ Interesting background info on classic film photography
+ Standalone or plug-in use
– Not cheap, especially for superior Elite edition
– No local adjustment tools
What is DxO FilmPack 6?
FilmPack 6 is a program that recreates the appearance and rendering of classic black and white and color films, together with popular darkroom techniques and ageing effects to give modern digital images an antique look.
It comes in two editions. The Essential edition is cheaper, but the more expensive Elite edition has roughly twice as many film renderings, three times as many Designer Presets and twice as many tools overall. It also has DxO’s new Time Machine feature for learning about the development of photography through the eras and tips for recreating that look today.
To decide between them, the best thing to do is download the 30-day trial. If you like what FilmPack 6 does, the Elite edition is almost certainly the one to go for.
FilmPack 6 works both as a standalone program and as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop. You can also use it as an external editor for Capture One, for example. It also integrates with DxO PhotoLab 5, if installed, to provide film renderings and other effects within the PhotoLab interface.
FilmPack 6 key features
If you use FilmPack 6 as a standalone program, you can use its inbuilt browser to look through your images and select the ones you want to edit. In standalone use, FilmPack will open and process RAW files using DxO’s own RAW processing engine and automatic lens corrections. If you use it as a plug-in or external editor, the ‘host’ program will do the initial processing.
FilmPack 6 offers preset film renderings and Designer presets you can apply with a single click, but these are all built up from a set of tools and adjustments which you can examine and modify yourself – and you can create your own presets.
These tools allow a lot of control. You can choose the film you want to simulate, the amount of grain and even the film format (which affects the grain size applied). There are exposure and color controls, frames and borders, light leak effects and split toning tools. It’s also possible to apply vignette and blur effects.
FilmPack 6 provides just about every analog simulation tool needed to recreate the look of old emulsions and processes, but it does not include local adjustments. If your images don’t need any, you’re in luck, and FilmPack will be fine in standalone mode. However, if your images do need localised tweaks, you’ll need to do those in your ‘host’ program, with FilmPack as a plug-in or external editor to ‘finish’ the picture.
The exception is when you’re using PhotoLab and FilmPack together. You can apply local adjustments and film renderings and analog effects simultaneously – though you don’t see the regular FilmPack interface, just a series of panels and sliders in the PhotoLab interface style.
FilmPack 6 interface and design
Used as a standalone program or a plug-in, FilmPack 6 is really simple to use, with big, chunky icons (maybe even too big) and no more information than you need at any one time.
If you just want to browse and apply the existing presets, it could hardly be simpler. There’s even a drop-down filter menu for checking off the type of renderings you’re looking for to narrow down the selection.
Then, if you want to make your own adjustments, you click a big button on the tool toolbar to swap the presets panel for a vertical toolbar with expandable sections for each of the tools.
Each of the standard presets comes with a description in the left sidebar, and the Time Machine feature (Elite edition only) is an informative and engaging journey through the history of photography – it’s very well written and you could pass a lot of time reading it for its own sake.
Where DxO’s other software interfaces are quite densely packed and technical, FilmPack 6’s is quite the opposite.
One thing to be aware of, though, is that this is not a non-destructive editor. Even in standalone mode, you have to save images as new, processed versions – you can’t come back to them later and keep going.
Filmpack 6 results
The results from FilmPack 6 are terrific. There’s a great choice of attractive and inspiring preset effects, though a few more probably wouldn’t hurt, and there’s a huge amount of control over every aspect of film rendering. You can even match the grain of one film with the rendering of another – probably not something a purist would do, but an indication of the permutations you can experiment with.
The lack of local adjustments does mean you can’t always exploit DxO’s processing. If you need to do some dodging and burning or other selective adjustments, you will need to do the before you open the image in FilmPack 6 – which means another RAW processor like Lightroom or Capture One will be doing the demosaicing and lens corrections, not DxO’s own processing engine. You COULD make local adjustments after using FilmPack, but it does so much heavy tonal work that you probably won’t have enough editing headroom any more.
Another mild disappointment is that if you find a rendering you like in the Time Machine and click on the button for suggested renderings to go with it, the result might be only half way to what you imagined. For example, I’m a great fan of Parisian photographer Eugene Atget, but while FilmPack’s matching preset is a decent approximation of the film tone, I needed to do a lot more work with the vignette, blur and texture tools to get close to what I feel is the ‘Atget’ look.
The other thing is the rendering accuracy. DxO is very proud of the work it’s done on exactly recreating the appearance of historical films, but this only makes sense if FilmPack is working directly with RAW files in standalone mode. If you use it as a plug-in or an external editor, it’s applying its rendering to images which have already been pre-rendered by another application.
DxO FilmPack 6 verdict
FilmPack 6 has a lot going for it and can produce some terrific and evocative analog looks. However, it’s not the only software that can do this and, for all its technical depth, it’s not necessarily the best. The DxO Nik Collection might not have the technical accuracy but it offers a vastly wider range of styles and effects – and local adjustments too. FilmPack 6 has some great looks, but Analog Efex Pro, to name but one tool in the Nik Collection, offers way more.
Alternatively, Exposure X7, about the same price as FilmPack 6, is a far broader all-in-one cataloguing and editing tool with local adjustments and masking and a wider choice of preset effects.
FilmPack 6 is a good tool and its ambition to recreate classic analog looks is laudable. But it does have some limitations and restrictions compared to rival analog effects tools, and this makes it hard to recommend unreservedly.
DxO store and trial versions*
DxO PhotoLab 7 Elite: $229/£209
DxO ViewPoint 4: $99/£89
DxO FilmPack 7: $139/£129
DxO PureRAW 3: $129/£115
DxO Nik Collection 6: $149/£135
• 30 day trials are available for each product