With the announcement that Apple is killing off Aperture, it looks like Adobe Lightroom is poised to be the de facto app for processing RAW files. After all, it plays (somewhat) nicely with Photoshop, has a bunch of great non-destructive tools and terrific presets like VSCO and Replichrome let you style your photos with a single click. Well, an intrepid group of photographers and programmers hope to give them a run for their money with a set of film styles for that other RAW processing app, Capture One. Capture One Film Styles is just what it sounds like and features 100 of your favorite film styles (42 black & white and 58 color), including several you have likely never heard of, from Kodak, Ilford, Agfa and even Polaroid. I’m not going to get into whether Capture One is better than Lightroom – that’s not what this is about – but I will say that getting fast, full-screen previews of styles while hovering over the name is much cooler than the tiny thumbnail previews in Lightroom.sing Film Styles couldn’t be easier. Once imported, simply scroll down the Styles and Presets panel to User Styles, where you’ll find two folders – one for black & white and one for color. Hover down the list until you find a preview you like, then click. Just as in Lightroom, these styles are basically a collection of color curves that can be customized further and saved as new styles, extending the collection. Film Styles are stackable with the built-in Capture One styles, but not with one another. For example, while you can combine the built-in “Color – Cross blue” with “053 PL Fuji FP-100c”, adding another Film Style, such as “020 Kodak Portra 400VC v1” will override both of the previously applied styles. Also, unlike both VSCO and Replichrome, film grain is not an option since, according to the developers “Capture One doesn’t have the tools needed to add realistic film grain.” It’s a minor quibble, but one that may matter to some, especially those trying to capture the feel of higher ISO films, such as T-MAX 3200, Delta 3200 or Neopan 1600. That said, I think the Delta 3200 sample below looks terrific, even without the grain.
While the range of included styles is great – especially at the $49 price point – the biggest problem I have with this set, and one I have with both VSCO and Replichrome to a certain extent, is the whole notion of naming them after specific film stocks. While I have at least a basic understanding of the efforts these companies put into scanning and analyzing various film stocks with the obvious aim of getting as close as possible to them, I would estimate that the vast majority of the people using these products have little to no experience with the stocks being emulated. Also, any of these are – at best – digital approximations of analog processes, much the same way that software synths (of which I own several) are digital variants of sounds made by analog hardware. Yes, they are close and I don’t mean to take anything away from them, but part of the magic of film is that it is affected by factors like age, temperature, agitation and even humidity, where software is not. I think the real value in any of these types of styles and presets is not that they look like X or Y film, but that they very quickly give you a starting point for your pictures – they get you in the ball park of the particular look and feel you’re after, which you are then free to tweak and customize to really make them your own.
I’d like to thank Alexander for providing a copy of Capture One Film Styles to test and review. To purchase a copy or for more information, visit Capture One Styles, where you can also download five styles for free.