Can Digital Do Film? Fstoppers Reviews the New Plugin From Dehancer

Can Digital Do Film? Fstoppers Reviews the New Plugin From Dehancer

With so many plugins out there to choose from and with nearly everyone trying to emulate old film looks, is this new plugin worth considering? Check out our review. 

There are a lot of plugins out there for creating digital film looks. Some do pretty much what you would expect them to do in ways that you can’t control. Others take a bit more precision but are still limited by the fact that they are trying to emulate old film stocks. With so many presets out there to choose from, it’s easy to lose sense of context or comparison. Dehancer is one of those plugins that doesn’t quite fit into either of these categories. It is not exactly a preset pack, but it is not a plugin either, at least not in the conventional sense. It doesn’t give you the typical slider controls that most plugins do; rather, it offers you a list of film stocks and assigns each one a numerical value that represents its effect on your image. In other words, instead of sliding controls and hoping for the best, Dehancer helps you achieve specific looks by giving you precise numerical values for each look so that you can achieve them every time with ease. 

Now, there's a lot of controversy in this area, with everyone having different opinions on what a film look should be. We all have our interpretations, with the problem being that there are so many different looks out there, with most of them touted as looking like a specific stock. This is why Dehancer sparked my interest. Between its use of film profiles, halation, bloom, and grain editing techniques plus other finite adjustments, Dehancer promises to make all digital images look like they were shot with old film stock.


The Dehancer plugin works in both Photoshop and Lightroom, with the interface being the same for both. The interface is simple and uncluttered but has some powerful features for emulating film. I am currently testing the beta version, and I hope there won't be too many changes if anything in the final release, as it's intuitive and easy to use.

  1. Film Profiles can be found here, and there are also options to save your favorites for easy access later. Just choose a profile, and your image updates in the main viewing window.
  2. The main viewing window can fit the screen and is also scrollable.
  3. The business side of the plugin. Here, you can tweak your images to your preference. A lot is going on here, so it's worth spending your time here just to see what you can do with your images. Any edits you make to a film profile can be saved as a preset for future work.
  4. In this panel, you have your basic reset, undo/redo, hide sidebar, and settings cogwheel that allows you to update film profiles, set your processing GPU, and choose the rendering of your preview based on the megapixels of your image.

The editing sidebar is collapsible, allowing you to work as you see best. Each of the editing parameters is based on calculations of the film profile and not just a slider to increase or decrease the effect. As I edited my images with the panels, even with slight movements of the sliders, the difference was clear, and I was impressed by how much work has gone into the backend of the software to produce the results it does.

Even the grain filter isn't just a distribution filter of grain in either uniform or Gaussian distribution. There are finite adjustments that can be made that have a different effect each time a slider is moved. I've included a few examples with varying adjustments below, some subtle and some pushed quite far, like in the last example. Hopefully, this will allow you to see that it simply doesn't just increase the noise but varies it based on the chroma of the image, tones, shadows, and highlights within it also, with each one separately controllable.

Film Profiles

With the choice of 62 film profiles and the ability to adjust and tweak them to your preferences, you can certainly create unique profiles for your images. Straight out of the box, the profiles provided are an end to themselves, but if you want to tweak them slightly, you can. Be warned, though: once you start with this, it'll feel like you are in the darkroom again, as it's addictive.

Ease of Use

Things are straightforward when it comes to using the plugin. Run two installations, one for Lightroom and one for Photoshop, and you are up and running. The registration key is applied in the settings cogwheel window.

A simple layout and intuitive editing sliders panel make for a no-nonsense and very effective plugin that can become quite addictive to use.

What I Liked

Everything, simple as that. It is refreshing to see software that has a unique approach to the result. It feels like every little detail has been considered, from the initial film profile settings, to the editing approach of the sliders, to the straightforward layout of the interface. 

What I Didn't Like

As I mentioned, this is the beta version, but one thing I would like is to be able to view the edited image against a white background, so that you can check the color, luminosity, and contrast for printing. 

Should You Buy?

Digital film has been around for a long time now, but with the advent of new techniques and software, it is now possible to emulate classic films stocks. This can be done using software or added via LUTs, but the finite control isn't there. The Dehancer plugin is a way that you can take your digital footage and emulate classic film stocks and still have total control of the result. If you come from a film background or even if you are relatively new to film looks, I don't think you will be disappointed with the software in any way. This is a fantastic plugin for those that want to achieve the look of classic film stocks without ever having to go out and shoot on film again.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Gary McIntyre is a landscape photographer and digital artist based on the west coast of Scotland. As well as running photography workshops in the Glencoe region, providing online editing workshops, Gary also teaches photography and image editing at Ayrshire college.

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$400 is for the Davinci Resolve suite.

For Photoshop/Lightroom, it's $199:

I seem to recall a software program similar that offered all kinds of b&w film profiles. So what compares to this software?

What does blow out of the water mean?

All righty, then...

In the past I have shot lots of film, these plug-ins are a gimmick at best and a con at worst.

and as we all know now, you can't trust the Russians.

Why? If you want the look of B&W film just shoot B&W film then process it yourself. I don't get it, what is this obsession people having with trying to "get the look of" a product/item. Why pay for this or that for what? You can buy a lot of film for $400 USD and process it yourself. Plus your have to have the right computer, the right monitor, the right back up hard drives, plus the other pay as you go software.
I bulk load my B&W film from a 100ft roll, and process it myself, been doing it for 40 years now. Easy.
So if you want the look of film shoot film if you want the look of a Foveon shoot a Sigma,. At this stage of the game I shoot Foveon for my color/digital stuff, digital dust, and my Olympus M1 with a 35mm lens for my B&W work. If I do convert my color to B&W I use Sigma Photo Pro for the Foveon and PhotoScape X for my bayer stuff. Both are FREE and work great, just great. You can still tell the difference between digital print and a darkroom print or film and digital. Why is it people customers prefer a film print over a digital? They'll pay more for a darkroom print, a lot more. Weird.
I pay less do more.
Have fun

"just shoot B&W film then process it yourself" - Sure. Know anybody with a time machine so I can revisit some locations that cost me thousands of dollars to visit and are now completely different?

What? Yes, just shoot film. Bulk load from a 100 ft. roll and process the B&W yourself. Total cost about 45 cent a roll.

The point is, I shot events and locations on digital and these events won't happen again and some of those locations are no longer the same and cost me thousands to get to. Processing the digital for a look I like is the only option.

Also, it may be that cheap in Oregon, but even in 2000 it was costing me over $1 per frame when buying multipacks in New Zealand. It's a hell of a lot more expensive here now.

Also, I love resolution and shooting wildlife at 14 fps, For me, there is never any going back to film. Not for love or money.

I think the term "film emulation" needs to be changed. There seems to be hundreds of different plug ins that are suppose to look like film. Most photographers today have not shot film so they are taking the word of the folks who create the plug in. What real world experience do they have with the selection of films that they emulated...
Add into the equation the ability to adjust all the variables using sliders then you get pretty far from the the "film look" and it's just a "look". Not saying that is bad. But it may not be filmic.
I used to shoot tri-x and plus-x in 35 and 120. I have found a couple presets that are pretty close.
Bit not like printing a negative on a condenser enlarger. Which I was not great at!

I used to use Fuji Superia a lot. It was cheap and I didn't have much $$$.

I really like the look of Superia 400. Not been able to achieve that look on the few times I've tried, so something like this is interesting.

That said, I agree that the emulations are (probably) never going to be a 100% match for the original stock, ignoring whatever dmax you had on the paper stock if you only looked at prints.

The emulations can make an interesting look though and I find it funny when some photographers get upset that it's not the same as the original stock - Who cares? The goal is to present an image that the photographer (or client) likes the feel of. Perhaps those who get offended should pivot towards thinking of the emulations as "inspired by" the original stock instead?

I loved the smell and tactile nature of film. Hated the cost and the numerous limitations. :-)

A film look these days is just an aesthetic choice that is either demanded by the subject or because the photographer just likes that look. There are numerous plugins that offer this ability, Exposure and Optics to name just two. I’m not sure if this one trick pony is offering anything new or is worth the asking price. The new version of Optics is really worth a look not just for its range of film stocks but for all the other possibilities it offers especially the new particle options which are pretty impressive. Shooting digital is akin to having your cake and eating it with the options of a digital non destructive workflow being endless while shooting film is reserved for those who enjoy the limitations imposed by the film workflow and the end result. I fail to understand why film purists mock the digital approach or visa versa. Each to his own. At the end of the day it’s all about how the print. How you choose to reach your goal is a personal choice. When I look at print exhibitions I don’t judge the images based on their historic hidden workflow. They are out in the world and have to stand or fall on their own aesthetic merits. There is room for all approaches. As to this new software I’m not sure if it’s offering anything new and it’s hefty price tag is a real turn off. Anyone looking for a plug-in to extend creative possibilities I’d have a look at Boris Optics that offers so many creative possibilities.

Film was fine when it lasted
So were cars with crank starters

With the dozen existing tools, one can get whatever result one wants - without limiting to the replicating of some obscure combination of Tri-X soaked in a bath of DelMonte Tomato Juice and turkey giblets.

and to what end - the ultimate display of your efforts will still be through the medium of a computer screen with a digital file interpreted by some software that works its magic the way it want to, not the way George Kodak or Murray Ilford planned