Up till now, when to comes to serious and accurate film simulation presets for Adobe’s Lightroom and Camera Raw, for the longest time there has really only been one choice. That choice was Visual Supply company, commonly known as VSCO. Its range of film presets are superb, and accurately match a range of common print, and more recently, instant and slide film stocks. But now there is a new player in the film simulation market. It's a new product from an established name in the photo processing world. The company is Totally Rad, and they have been making actions and plug-ins for Photoshop for many years. Their new product is called “Replichrome” and it is the result of nearly three years worth of work. They carefully profiled cameras and film by shooting negative and scanning it, and then using that to create colour profiles for various digital cameras so that it matches the scanned negative. The result they argue, is an incredibly accurate simulation of traditional print film for digital photography.
From the press release:
“Each variety of film is unique and we wanted to give users the truest film experience possible with digital images,” said Doug Boutwell, CEO and Founder of Totally Rad! Inc. “The process we used to create Replichrome was truly scientific. We began this project over three years ago, using 19 different cameras, film from around the world and thousands of images, all processed at three different labs and on two scanners to ensure we truly captured all of the nuances of each film stock in Replichrome,” said Boutwell.
So what’s it like in reality? I’ve been playing with it over the weekend and I have to say, it certainly seems accurate. It’s been a while since I’ve shot film, and I can’t definitively judge how close it is to actually shooting film. to do that I would have to actually go out and shoot the same scene on negative and digital and compare the processed results to the film. But it feels right. It looks like film, and as far as your audience is concerned, at the end of the day that’s all that matters.
The results give your images a distinct analogue feel, without being overly processed like Instagram or Hipstamatic. The various film stocks all have subtle differences and from a cursory glance, they look like I remember those particular film stocks looking.
As I’ve been using VSCO film for a long time now, and as it’s the main competitor, I guess it’s inevitable to compare the two. Both Replichrome and VSCO Film 1 include several of the same stocks and so I applied the presets from each manufacturer to the same image to judge the result. There are subtle differences and it depends on which “scanner” version of the Replichrome preset you use. What do I mean by this? They used two different scanners when creating the looks and they have included both versions in the presets as they feel that the choice of scanner is an important part of the process.
To my eyes, VSCO film looks cleaner where as Replichrome seems to sometimes make your pictures look somewhat “old”. In some ways this is probably more accurate, and I think if you’re trying to accurately create the exact look of scanned film then Replichrome might be the better of the two. To me it looks like VSCO creates images that look like they could have been shot on medium format film, where as Replichrome has more of a 35mm look. I think a lot of this could be down to the default grain settings from each. Of course it’s difficult for me to be un-biased as I’ve ben using VSCO film for quite some time now, and I’m used to the look. In many respects it will come down to a matter of tastes and I don’t think it’s fair to judge the presets after only using them for a few days. But the fact that it comes down to this hair-splitting shows how good it is. Of course, I’m sure totally Rad would like it to come across as looking significantly better, and maybe if you shoot film all day then it does. As you can see in the following examples the differences are fairly subtle at times. Click on the images to view larger for a better comparison.
Replichrome - Fuji 160C Noritsu
VSCO Film - Fujichrome 160C
Replichrome Kodak Porta 160 Frontier
VSCO Kodak Porta 160
One of the things that I really like about Replichrome is that it supports lots of different cameras. The company says that it supports 386 cameras with custom profiles. Not only that, but you don't need different versions for each different cameras. You apply a preset and it seems to apply the necessary colour profile based on the camera you had shot with. This is a much tidier solution than VSCO film, which has different versions of each preset for each of the camera manufactures it supports. This results in your Lightroom presets folder being cluttered up with multiple versions of the same preset. Totally Rad also claims that the presets give much more consistent results across different camera manufacturers compared to VSCO, which I have to admit, does vary considerably depending on the camera manufacturer. I’ve often found that their Nikon presets in Film 1 are much brighter and less saturated than the canon counterparts, or the standard version. This doesn’t seem to be as noticeable in Replicrome, to Totally Rad’s credit. Having said that, the later sets from VSCO don’t seem to show as much of a difference as Film 1 does.
Another really nice feature is that it contains versions of the presets for both Lightroom and Camera Raw, which, for VSCO Film you need to buy each separately. This coupled with the cheaper price makes it a good alternative to VSCO film if you're looking for good film simulation software for the specific film stocks that it supports. I’ll be continuing to work with Replichrome so keep an eye out as I’ll be posting some more results in the future. In the mean time check out Totally Rad’s site for more information.