55mm v4.0

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, October 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Digital Film Tools, go to the web site
Requires: Photoshop plug-in compliant host application Windows 98/Me/2000 or XP; Pentium III or faster CPU
MSRP: $150.00

Digital Film Tools is a company which specializes in creating practical tools for digital imagers and Creatives. 55mm is a suite of plug-ins which in essence replaces many of the typical glass filters photographers are likely to use in their day to day shooting and also many filters which are less common but nonetheless nice to play with. The suite also does a nice job of simulating several photographic processing techniques and effects. So why use 55mm instead of glass filters or chemical processes? The answer is really quite simple: non-destructive editing. You can shoot your photo with standard glass and then apply the effects you need without permanently altering your source image.

There are several filter types including glass and color filter emulation, development techniques and processes, film grain, mode conversion, correction, enhancement and light effects filters. Glass and filter emulations include Centre Spot, which creates a soft focus type effect around the centre of your image. The Color Grad and ND Grad filters allow for the definition of graduated effects which can be applied to your images in a fashion similar to traditional graduated glass filters. The beauty of these digital filters is that they can be modified in an almost infinite number of combinations.

The Diffusion filter provides controls to soften images; its controls also add a glow effect. Dual Tint allows you to apply and define graduated tints to your images. This filter also gives you a great deal of control over the appearance of these tints. The filter could be improved somewhat with the inclusion of a distribution control for starting and midpoints in the tint, but otherwise is excellent.

The Polarizer is probably best left to the world of glass filters as in the real world it allows you to remove stray light particles and haze from your images. 55mm version of this popular glass filter focuses on deepening skies in your photos and it does this very well using a combination of graduated tints and mattes. The Infrared filter is probably one of my favorites as it does a pretty good job of emulating an infrared look. It's far from accurate and only applies the effect in black & white, but I still like it.

The Rosco Gels filters comprise of four sets of predefined color filters based upon the gels used in production studios. The filters faithfully reproduce gels from the Calcolor, Cinegels, Cinelux and Storaro Selections. The Sunset/Twilight filter is fairly straightforward in that it allows you to enhance your images using up to three definable tints - great for colorful transitions and sunsets.

The Star filter is quite nicely implemented as it allows you to apply an effect which is very similar to that produced when placing a star filter on your camera. It creates highlights in the brighter parts of your image and allows you expand or brighten the effect as you see fit.

Filters designed around development techniques and processes include Bleach Bypass which can create stunning high contrast and saturated images, and Cross Processing which allows you to emulate the effect created when you process slide film using normal film processing or vice versa.

The correction and light effects-based filters found in the 55mm collection are also a treat as they give you a good deal of control over your images. Mist allows you to generate a soft glow around the highlights in your image and can additionally be used to reduce the overall contrast. Black Mist is a more subtle application of the same effect. Warm Mist kind of speaks for itself. The Color Conversion filter uses a number of presets to tweak the color in your image. You can also define your own custom values and like many of the other filters, you can also apply gradations.

The Color Correct filter allows you control over a great range of your images attributes. This filter place pretty much every correction filter available in Photoshop in one dialog. It facilitates easy editing without the need to constantly change menus and dialogs. The Selective Color Correct filter takes this further by allowing more control over how and where your color corrections will be applied. The Color Temperature filter allows you to correct an image using degrees Kelvin, opacity and its highlights. It's nice because it reflects very much how many photographers would work in the real world.

The Defocus filter does exactly what it implies. The defocus effect can be applied selectively in both the horizontal and vertical planes. The filter also allows control over image bloom which will wash out an image in varying degrees depending on your settings. The Enhancing filter will enhance only the warmer colors (reds, browns & oranges) in the image you've selected.

The Fluorescent filter will correct the greenish cast most often found in photos taken under that kind of lighting. Light! is an interesting filter as it allows you to use light creatively. There are predefined libraries of shapes to add shaped highlights similar to what would be cast by window, doors and other openings. The only thing that might improve this filter would be the ability to be able to use EPS based shapes and a shear slider that can help shape the windows to more accurately reflect the planes upon which the light is cast.

Soft EFX allows you to soften selective parts of your image while retaining detail in other parts, it is great for removing small blemishes and wrinkles. The following filters also speak for themselves: Fog, Glow, Grain, Low Contrast, Matte Generator, Overexpose, Selective Saturation, Streaks, Tint and Ultra Contrast.

The Black & White filter allows you to convert your color images to black & white using a combination of brightness, contrast and gamma. You can also selectively make changes to red, green, blue, yellow and orange channels in the image. This filter is my least favorite as it doesn't really give a better conversion than what you can already get using Photoshop's own features. Digital Film Tools could improve it by adding the capability to emulate different film types which would be in keeping with much of the philosophy reflected in their other filters.

The Fast Blur filter is a very nice implementation. It selectively blurs images in both the vertical and horizontal planes. Faux Film attempts to emulate the look of film by adding noise. It's not bad but there are other more dedicated filter solutions for this function. F-Stop is also quite cool as it emulates the effect of adjusting the aperture on your camera's lens. I'm not sure about the accuracy of the effects, but it's a very powerful filter with many controls for modifying images.

The Lens Distortion filter does exactly what its name says, correcting problems like barrel distortion and pin cushioning. Night Vision is fairly straightforward as it emulates the look of a night vision system, green hue and all. Selective Soft Focus creates some great looking and dreamy effects.

Use the Printer Points filter to tweak the RGB values of an image individually or together. The shadows, midtones and highlight areas can also be modified and controlled with this filter. The adjustments are made using motion picture laboratory printer points as the unit of measure.

The final filter I will mention is the Ozone filter. It was the one filter that I felt was a bit of a challenge to me as it is based upon Ansel Adams' highly technical Zone System. I have done a fair amount of photography and have read about the Zone System and from what I've seen a lot of practice and work is required to truly understand and use it. All I know is that I'm going to be playing with this one for while and that I'm going to be looking for a good text book on the zone system.

Cons: Some of the filters aren't exactly accurate in their implementation, but much of this has to do with the physics of photography rather than the filters themselves. The interface could do with a few enhancements. Many of the filters seem functionally repetitive.

Pros: Extremely powerful and easy to use. Highly configurable. The functionally descriptive names for the filter make the selection process easy when it comes to deciding on which one to use.

I have thoroughly enjoyed playing with this plug-in suite and although the filters won't necessarily replace every glass filter available for your camera, they will save you plenty of money. The simplicity of the interface belies the suite's power because Digital Film Tools has taken a different approach to UI design in that they are not trying to dress up the functionality of their filters, instead making them more accessible to the user. Most of the filters are well thought out and easy to use. There are many plug-ins which do their jobs very well and there are several, such as the Polarization and Infrared filters, which may be fun but a little difficult to take these too seriously due to the difficulty of implementing the actual physics involved in their glass equivalents. I highly recommend Digital Film Tools 55mm for any photographer and user of Photoshop who is looking for some great photographic filters without having to carry a huge amount of glass around with them. Enjoy.

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: whine@kickstartnews.com




© Copyright 2000-2006 kickstartnews.com. All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | forums | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe