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Tiffen's Dfx3 Filter Suite Review

June 2013

I first encountered Tiffen's filters at a demonstration during PDN Photo Expo last year. Their Dfx 3 filter suite provides over 2,000 presets, some of which emulate Tiffen's popular lens filters. This review is based on my first significant use of preset filters to enhance an image.  With the exception of the initial import of the image into Lightroom, all of the work was done using the Dfx 3 plugin within Lightroom .  As you would expect, the plugin also works with Photoshop. During this evaluation, I also created masks, which I have seldom used in the past.

This article is has three elements, in sequence:

  • The method I used in the review
  • Questions presented to Tiffen about the filter set
  • A step-by-step, annotated illustration of enhancing an image using only Dfx3 filters.

I approached the process of evaluating Dfx 3 filters by NOT reading their user guide. (Sound familiar?) I allowed myself two hours to poke around in the many toolbar and filter options and change filter sets, getting a sense of what preset filters were available and how they were grouped, how to adjust filters, using layers, and how masks are incorporated into the process.

Still not having looked at the instructions, I brought in a test image and set out to apply as many features as possible -- regardless of how ugly it made the portrait of a beautiful model. In total, I spent about three hours becoming familiar with Dfx 3 features and capabilities.

Then I set out to "enhance" an image with a specific intent in mind. I opened a photo of a model's eye in Lightroom, selected Photo from Lightroom’s tool bar, then Edit With, and then selected Dfx 3. This automatically opened Dfx 3's import settings screen. Using the default import settings, the eye opened in the middle of the Dfx 3 work screen.  In the following images I'll tell you what I did and show how Dfx 3 is intuitively simple to use. Admittedly, I did have to resort to Tiffen's well written manual to learn how to best use the EZ mask. It turned out that masking is very easy and flexible in Dfx 3.

The only limitations I discovered are that all files are saved as Tif files and that the maximum resolution is 240 ppi, not a big deal. Following the next section with annotated screen captures of using Dfx3's filters to create an creative effect.

Questions I asked Tiffen's representative:

Are there plans for supporting PSD files?

T: You can work your image layers as a smart filter within the actual psd. However the entire psd file may have layers that Dfx does not understand or utilize , like the type layer.

Does Dfx3 support RGB color space?

T: In Dfx Photo plug in for Photoshop, the color space is derived from the LUT that Photoshop provides and then maps the data accordingly for export.  In Lightroom , DFX reads a profile from the embedded proprietary Tiff file using the little CMS library which is then output to export. In Standalone, the software understands the RGB profile but will only export as a sRgb as a choice.

How does Dfx3 handle importing LR or PS images with resolution higher than 240ppi?

This software handles most RAW files in 8 or 16 bit.  240 PPI is the norm for RAW, and  Resolution has not presented an issue. However depending the machine, processes could be slower with larger files.

Please confirm: There are more than 2,000 filters, which I'm assuming are the preset filters plus their variations when one filter is selected.

T: (There are) 125 filters in the photo plug in, with over 2000+ when you add in presets and variations

Is there a standalone version of Dfx3?

T: Yes

Does the plugin work with other products, such as Corel's Paint series?

T: No

Annotated step-by-step process I used. (requires a pdf viewer/reader)