By Ben Long Macworld.com | on May 21, 2009
Price: 64 . 192 . 383
Pros: Excellent collection of useful effects; parameter control allows lots of customization; previews make for easy filter selection; very good built-in masking tools.
Cons: No way to save out DFx’s internal masks; no way to automatically apply the effects to a copy of a layer; Photoshop version is pricey.
To photographers of a certain generation, a filter is an optical element that you screw on to the end of your lens; it alters the light to achieve some kind of effect. To the digital photographer, a filter is usually a plug-in that you add to your image editor. It's very fitting, then, that Tiffen, one of the leading manufacturers of lens filters, has released a package of plug-in filters that simulate the effects of their real-world lens filters; and it's very exciting that Tiffen has done such a good job in producing a plug-in collection that's useful and performs well.
This program ships as a stand-alone application for $99.95, or as a suite of plug-ins for Photoshop (and applications that support Photoshop-compatible plug-ins, such as Apple Aperture) at $299.95 or for video applications including Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid Xpress, and Adobe After Effects for a whopping $599.95. We looked at the Photoshop version for this review.
The complete Dfx Version 2 package provides 110 different filters, but each filter has a number of customizable parameters, and these parameters can be saved as presets. Tiffen ships over 1,000 presets bundled into the program. Because the presets provide such huge latitude for editing, you can almost look at the package as having 1,000 completely different filters.
What the filters do
Over the 20 years of Photoshop's existence, there have been gobs of plug-in collections, and the majority of them have long since fallen by the wayside. The fact is, it's possible to come up with a really impressive plug-in technology, but it's hard to create an effect that people actually need, especially since Photoshop ships with so many useful plug-ins.
That's what's so impressive about Tiffen's collection. Designed primarily to make color and tonal adjustments, these filters provide effects that you might find yourself using every day, depending on the type of photography you do. For example, wedding and portrait photographers will appreciate the collection of diffusion filters, which greatly enhance skin tones and provide a soft, romantic look to images. Landscape photographers will appreciate the gradient filters that allow you to greatly improve the look of skies, while photographers of all kinds will find uses for the warming filters, glows, saturation enhancers, and more.
If you use Tiffen lens filters, then you'll recognize the names of some of the filters, as Tiffen has taken care to model both the effects and the names on real-world filters. So, if you already use a Tiffen ProMist filter to create a glowing diffusion effect, then you'll know what to expect when you apply the ProMist plug-in to a digital image.
In addition to crafting very good effects, Tiffen has done something very smart with Dfx. Rather than simply provide a collection of pre-built filters, Tiffen has created an entire editing environment that allows you to customize and combine filters, and even create masks to constrain the effects of different filters.