Digital Film Stock Comparison – Part 3 – Superia and Astia

These galleries are grouped by film type, or as close as the different software products get in naming them.

Fujifilm Astia was a great slide film for people pictures, and some of its character shows in each of these digital versions. They don’t seem perfect to me without more adjustments, but are drastically changed, and possibly improved, in a consistent way. I can see why wedding photographers editing large batches of photos would be excited by this.

Replicated Fujifilm Superia, and especially the HG 1600 type, caught my attention. This is definitely a happening look. I think I am seeing it on the web now that I know to look for it. I’ll be curious to see if it is as interesting in print. I’m working on a follow-up to a photo book I put together last year, and maybe I’ll go for a vintage film vibe for this year’s volume.

The DFS Film Stocks are really cool in their own way, and I’m intrigued with the iconic motion picture films as these film industry geeks apparently implemented them — presumably for video editing, but there are some that clearly will work for stills. Their bios are on the company’s website linked to here. They have an agreement with Tiffen for a set of digital filter products, but the DFT entity has an independent website and focuses on video editing plugins.

The two products that overlap the most are DFT Film Stocks and Alien Skin Exposure. I already own one, and am not sure I really need more, but I did find some films I’d like to take a closer look at in the other one.

Overall, I don’t see many down sides to buying any and or all of these software packages if you have the cash to spend. Clearly the developers put some effort in, and even if there is overlap, each has unique features. The big question is, do you spend the money or do you spend the time to learn to do it yourself? Well, the best answer may be to invest a little time and money to learn from the pros by comparing your output to theirs.

I’d rather be out taking pictures than developing yet another preset, film-like or not. So, I’ll keep using these during the trial periods and then decide if I need more time with them. I did end up buying the VSCO Film 02 set so I could finish this review, and am considering others, but Alien Skin Exposure 4 is still my main tool for this type of work.

So far, I like the Fujifilm Astia and Superia presets the most, but I thought the VSCO version of Portra manages to be very compelling as well. Exposure’s push processed Reala setting has a particularly juicy high contrast look (although I can’t remember if this is actually the way the film would turn out).

Here is a comparison gallery of those VSCO and Exposure treatments, and the original “as shot” raw.

You need to make your own choices, but it should be a lot of fun deciding. The first part of this series has links to all the digital film stock companies I am reviewing. All of them have trial periods for their software except VSCO (shameful hubris really, considering the cost). So, go ahead and try most of them out for yourself. I suspect you will love some and you will hate some.

One thing I am learning from this experience is that every photographer needs to develop their own highly experienced eyes. No default settings are great right out of the box. Each picture or group of pics needs personal attention beyond these presets. There is art involved in realizing your own vision, not someone else’s.

Here’s a bonus shot from the Angel Island Flea Market. It’s a funky setting for street shooting with great characters abounding. For this capture, I started with the Portra 400 UC++ preset from VSCO, adjusted WB, auto exposure, darkened skies++, sharpened++, and voila!

Either it has a cool 70’s retro artsy vibe, or represents a tragically hip Instamatic attempt. I can’t be sure which. Nice smile though – I’m glad I got her good side.

custom-portra-400-UC++-based_6300052-copy

Monochrome is kind of classy and subtle to start with, so my first comparison post was mostly about characterizing minor differences and showing you 100% crops.

The latest greatest color print film simulations seem to be about outrageous renditions and artistic free rein. Or, possibly they’re more about the high level of variability in film chemistry and photo lab processing techniques?

There is a huge range of tonality in raw images that you can dig into for your finished photos. If nothing else, at least the digital revolution has given photographers total control over their creations like never before. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “Digital Film Stock Comparison – Part 3 – Superia and Astia

  1. The VSCO presets come into their own when using cameras that have custom presets. With my canon 5d mk ii they are amazing, with my fuji x100 they’re very good but with my omd or panasonic gf3 they’re hit and miss and normally disappointing when compared to the 5d mk ii or fuji x100.

    • Thanks Daniel, it sounds like having a camera with custom preset support makes a significant difference. I wonder if they’ll add the Fujifilm X20, since they already cover the X10?

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