By Ben Long Macworld.com | on May 21, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 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.
In a package this huge, with this many variations, the ability to quickly locate and preview effects is essential. Dfx shows tabs for different categories of filters: Film Lab, Gels, HFX Diffusion, HFX Gads/Tints, Image, Lens, Light, Photographic, and Special Effects. When you click on a tab, thumbnails of your image with each filter applied are displayed along the bottom of the Dfx window. Click on a filter, and you can see all of its presets. As with the filters, each preset shows a thumbnail of your image with the effect applied.
All of these preview thumbnails make it easy to zero in on the effect you're looking for. If you can't find the perfect effect, you can activate parameter controls that allow you to tweak and alter a preset to create your own look.
Extensive split-screen and before/after preview controls are provided, along with a histogram, zoom, and pan tools.
As powerful as these filters are, you'll probably get the best results by combining them, and you can easily do that within Dfx. Filters can be stacked up, with controls provided for deactivating individual filters, altering the opacity of a filter, and more. Most importantly, the program includes seven different masking tools, which allow you to constrain the effect of any filter. In addition to linear, gradient, paintable, and circular masks, the excellent Snap mask can create a mask for you after you paint a few simple strokes to indicate the foreground and background elements in your image.
If you tweak any of the filters, you can save those settings as a new preset, and if you create an effect out of a combination of filters, you can save that whole configuration as a special "setup" file. These features make it easy to apply the same look to multiple images.
Final output quality is very good, and the filters work on both 8- and 16-bit images. In Photoshop, effects are always applied to the currently selected layer, and there's no option within the program to create a new layer for the effect, but you can do that yourself. It would be nice to be able to get the program's masking information back into Photoshop, as an Adjustment Layer, so that you could refine the mask further using Photoshop's tools.
For those who don't have a copy of Photoshop or Aperture (or any other compatible host program), Dfx is also available as a stand-alone application, which offers the same interface and effects. So, if you're an iPhoto user, you can still make use of Tiffen's excellent features.
When I first heard about Tiffen Dfx 2, I wasn't expecting much. Not because of anything to do with Tiffen -- I've used their filters for years on still and video cameras -- but because when hardware companies try to venture into software, the results are often very amateurish. But that is absolutely not the case with the Dfx 2 suite. It is an excellent if pricey collection of effects wrapped up in a smart interface that provides a tremendous amount of customization.