Wednesday, July 18, 2012

REVIEW: Tiffen Dfx 3.0

Tiffen Dfx 3.0

When I first heard about it, I thought it was little more than a bunch of Tiffen lens filters in digital form – boy was I wrong! There’s A LOT to this program! Sure, it has a lot of stuff you’d expect like digital filters and processing (including the largest collection of film simulations that I’ve seen to date), but it’s a whole lot more!

The collection of gobos, light rays and textures are unique and massive enough to warrant the price. I wanted to experiment more with these, but ran out of time. However, this is one of those things that nobody offers that is really compelling!

The User Interface

Mac Edition using Rays Filter

You’ve gotta love changing values with sliders or clicking through presets when using this product because it has a bunch of both. It’s fairly well organized and fortunately supports dual screen right out of the box. Fortunately though it’s super fast, so it’s easy to experiment with different effects.

It supports RAW files and 16-bit processing in the stand-alone version, or it can process whatever you send to it from Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere and more.

One really cool feature that you don’t typically find in add-ins is that it has dual screen support built-in. In the screen shot below, I’m running at 1920x1200 on my left display and 1200x1920 (portrait mode) on my right display. Even with all of this space, scrolling was still required for its wealth of built-in presets:

PC Edition with Dual Screen Layout

There’s simple masking features built in which at the surface sound great, but in practice I hated them. Of course it could be partially because I never got comfortable with them during the I’ve used this product. I find using Photoshop (with the aid of ReMask or Perfect Mask) to be more effective. I also don’t find the built-in masking to offer the benefit of Nik Software’s U-Point controls, so I’d call the built-in masking a work in progress feature. (UPDATE: I should note that the masking feature is not a composite mask or an extraction tool like ReMask and Perfect Mask).

The big gripes I had about the user-interface was the fact that the work you do can’t be layered within the UI (very helpful when using Lightroom), and when using it inside Photoshop it won’t create layers (so be sure to duplicate your layer BEFORE opening this plug-in). 

While using this article I was impressed with how fast it was. It’s by far the overall fastest plug-in I’ve ever used which makes it a pleasure to use and experiment with. It’s also something that in the right hands has tremendous potential – especially those who are coming from the film days.

I was disappointed that it had an irrelevant and inadequate black and white presets built-in. Both Photoshop and Lightroom out of the box are better which struck me as odd given the potential this app has for being so much more.


I could spend months trying out all of the features in this product, but honestly I don’t have that much free time. As a result I’d encourage you to:

  • Click here to see some examples of what all of the filters do with before and after images.
  • Click here to view some video tutorials.

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Before image (mouse over image to view) was an unprocessed RAW file from a Nikon D4
After image (mouse out) was processed using only a series of Dfx filters

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Before image (mouse over) is some basic default processing in Photoshop
After image uses the Fujifilm Velvia 100 filter with grain turned off and the effect reduced to 67%

If I would have had more time with this product I certain could have done a lot more with these photos and come up with some more interesting examples, but I ran out of time.


Overall I was pleased with the performance and the wealth of features. With that said, the wealth of features is rather overwhelming which makes it a bit cumbersome to become familiar with. However, those who invest the time will be rewarded with a lot of features that I haven’t found in any other plug-in I’ve used.

The fact that it won’t create its own layers (and ideally name them like Color Efex) is a huge disappointment, and honestly wastes lots of time. The lack of internal layer support means lots of round trips between Photoshop and Dfx (and lots of round trips in Lightroom), but it’s fast enough that loading it is less painful to have to re-load the UI all of the time.

See my What Plug-Ins Should I Buy? article to see what products I recommend. I’d this product right under the Perfect Resize for its usefulness when compared to other products. I do think this is a niche product that can help you set yourself apart if you are willing to invest the time mastering it. It has a lot of things no other product offers, many of which will appeal to seasoned film photographers so some may find it it deserves a higher place on their own personal “must own” plug-ins list. I’d encourage you to try the demo or watch the videos to see if it is right for you.

If you are looking for something different and/or you are obsessed with the look of film, then I think this is a great product to own. If you are happy with your current workflow and have one of the bundles from Nik Software, Topaz Labs or onOne Software then I think you are set and you can pass on this one – until you’ve outgrown those plug-ins.

Where to Buy

As of the time of this writing, B&H had the best prices. There is a stand-alone version which supports RAW processing, or you can get the plug-in version for a Photoshop and Lightroom. There’s also a plug-in version for doing video processing (for use with select video editing software).

You can also click here to get a free 15 day trail version that is very obnoxious with its watermarks, so it’s not a freebee – it really is just a demo.


If you make a purchase using links in this article, I may make a commission. I was also provided with a review copy of the plug-in version of this product for the purpose of doing this review.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity


Anonymous said...

Hi Ron, really enjoyed your review of the EOS-1D X. I am still sitting on the fence about purchasing one. I have two, 1D Mk IV bodies and am very satisfied with them. I am considering selling one of them to get the 1D X and your article has encouraged me to do just that. Now, if I can just get a fair price for the 1D4, I'll make the move. P.S. did you find the new AF as complicated to learn/master as the 1D4?
Steve Todd
Albuquerque said...

Steve, can you repost your question on the 1d x article?

I'll be sharing more findings and comparing them soon.