11 November 2015
Really Nice Images is known in the professional photography world as a producer of analog film presets for Adobe Lightroom. RNI Lightroom filters are praised for their subtleness, beautiful color separation and rich skin tones. In August 2015 the company has released an iOS mobile app, that promises to have all the power of desktop filter in the palm of your hand.
The app, named RNIFilms, has been getting quite positive reviews on the net, mainly because of its high-quality analog film simulations. RNIFilms does only one thing – film simulation, as opposed to some of the competitor apps which aim to provide all-in-one solution.
The app is an iPhone-only app and works best on iPhone 5 or higher. It also works on iPhone 4s, but some of its functionality is disabled (eg. Clarity and Vignette tools).
This review is based on version 1.1 for iPhone, released in November 2015. The app was tested on iPhone 6, running iOS 9.1.
The app has very minimalistic interface and is therefore very easy to master.
The photographic workflow is extremely simple and efficient:
The welcome screen has the setting icon (top right corner), which allows to read what’s new, contains very short explanation of app functions and allows to restore your previous film purchases. LOAD PHOTO button allows to load the photo from Camera Roll or any other album from your iPhone.
In the next step, you can crop image or straighten it. Straighten tool allows to adjust titles photo by using fine-grained ruler; crop tool allows to crop in one of the predefined ratios. The advantage of crop tool over eg. the one in Snapseed is that the crop frame fill majority of the screen and you decide which part of the image goes in by zooming with pinch gesture. It simply allows to see better who goes in and what out.
From this step you can either go back to the image selection or by clicking on USE you can start editing. One thing to note: your choice of crop and straightening is final once you press on USE, you cannot refine it later. I personally tend to perform those two operations at the beginning, but I would welcome a possibility to refine my decisions later, if needed.
After loading, the image is presented in the upper part of the screen. The lower part contains one row of buttons, allowing you to go back (select another image), select film simulations, tools or save/share image.
I have one remark about the interface. Although extremely simple, it occupies almost half of the screen, leaving only the small thumbnail of an image. I would wish that the rows of buttons are much more compressed at the bottom (or even dynamically hidden) and I can see much bigger image. Bigger image allows for more precise editing or better judgement on the correct film simulation to be applied.
Let’s start with film simulations, which are the core functionality of the app. When the film simulation button is active (yellow), middle row shows film categories, and the bottom film simulations available within the category.
The app has the following categories available:
Every category contains set of real analog film simulations. This is one of the main differences between the RNI and the competitor apps. You will see there many names, which sound familiar, if you were doing analog photography before. This really resonates with me, I can try to use the films used by the photography masters, eg. Ilford HP5 BW film, used by Henry Cartier-Bresson.
Many films simulations have been developed in various versions (which differ slightly), so once you fix yourself on particular film, you can still choose the variations of it.
The way to use the film simulations is very simple:
It is unfortunately not possible to compare between the different film simulations other than by applying them.
The table below contains the exhaustive list of all film simulations available in RNIFilms, version 1.1:
|Free Films included||Paid Film Packs (in-app purchase)|
||Negative Films Pack #1
Negative Films Pack #2
Slide Films Pack (available after sharing the post about RNIFilms on your Facebook feed)
||Instant Films Pack
||BW Films Pack
||Vintage Films Pack
It is worth to mention that the app comes with some film simulations, available for free, while the other are available as in-app purchases. If you want to experiment with the app before taking the purchase decisions, I highly suggest to use the opportunity and promote the app via Facebook post, for which you are getting Slide Films Pack completely for free. This particular pack contains many Fujifilm simulations, which are ideal for landscape photography, especially if a lot of vegetation is involved.
The problem with in-app purchases (every of them worth $1), is that you don’t really see what you are buying. The interface shows you a handful of sample images, but you cannot really see which effect has particular filter on your image, before you buy it.
If you decide to buy all the packs, this will cost you $5. My recommendation is to at least purchase Negative Film Packs #1 and #2. The simulations there are really beautiful and you will not regret it. If you are a fan of BW photography, then BW Film Pack is for you, vintage/instant photography fans will find the corresponding packs contain set of film emulations for this type of photography.
I would welcome an option to buy all film packs (5 of them ) for discounted price (eg. $3 instead of $5).
The fact that RNIFilms uses real names of film simulations, rather than some cryptic symbols, or invented names, makes a real difference for me. For the first time, I started to remember films I use frequently, and those usually contain several different flavors (versions), with which I can further experiment.
Note that RNIFilms does not contain intensity slider. You either apply a film, or no. Nothing in between. For flexibility, it would be nice to have an intensity slider in the future version of an app.
The app remembers the film simulation you used for your last edit, so you can easily apply it for new image.
To show you some of the film simulation, I’ve taken the landscape image I’ve done during one of my recent hikes in Swiss alps. Below you will see the original images and one example of film simulation from every category.
That is by no means a spectacular image. If I can remember well, it was taken from the moving train. Nevertheless let’s see the film simulation magic applied to it.
I couldn’t help but show you the what Fuj can do to the landscape image. Fuji Pro 160NS simulation emphasizes the green elements, but gently. It also increases overall contract, by tiny bit.
By contrast a Kodak E200 slide film makes images much warmer overall. More details are visible in shadows as well. It makes the vegetation look like it’s dried out.
Not all Instant films are my taste, but particularly Polaroid 669 simulation fits nicely to this image. It makes it cooler overall, adding a specific tint to it. Greens are much darker, shadows more exposed. Good for achieving cold mood.Image processed with film simulation Ilford Delta 400 from BW category.
Ilford Delta 400 from BW category doesn’t disappoint, either. Quite contrasty, but you can still see enough details. I particularly like the overall ‘silver’ look of the photo after applying the film. Plenty of Ilfords to choose from (if you have a BW film pack).
Image processed with film simulation Technicolor 2 from Vintage category.
The last film simulation represents Vintage category. Technicolor 2 quite substantially modifies the tones. The greens are tuned down and quite color, all the oranges are popped up. By applying this film alone, you make the main subject of the photo pop quite substantially, without using any darkening brushes.
When you have selected the film simulation you want to use, you can go to editing tools to further refine the image. That is my proposed workflow – don’t start with the tools, start with film simulations, see if you can get the required tone/feeling in the image, and only then refine it with tools.
The tools section contains plethora of tools, many of the being relatively standard, so I will explain more about those that are more exclusive to RNIFilms app:
During the editing, but also while choosing the right film simulation, I would welcome the possibility to zoom the image. Especially when using tools like Grain or Sharpen, I would like to see in detail, what’s happening.
When you finished all the edits and you are ready to share your creation with the world, the last button in the top row will allow you to save the image in Camera Roll or share it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
Even when the image is shared, it will be still saved to Camera Roll for future use. RNIFilms will also add it to the album named RNI Films, so that you can fill all images processed by the app easily.
While saving, I would welcome an option to choose image quality. The app is saving the JPEG, which more or less looks like JPEG saved from Camera app (approx. 90% quality). For pixel peepers, an option to use TIFF or PNG would be good. Or at least to choose the quality of JPEG. After using a high quality film simulation, it should be possible to save high quality image.
Please notice that from the sharing screen you can easily go back to film simulations or editing screen, by tapping on corresponding buttons. This allows you to easily saved a couple of different version of the image to Camera Roll and compare them later.
I’m overall extremely satisfied with RNIFilms. It contains beautiful subtle film simulations that can transform your photographs into masterpieces, and it is extremely easy to use. Below I summarized a couple of points I noted while using the app on the daily basis:
Things that work well:
Things that could be improved in the future version of an app:
I hope that RNI will not sit on their laurels and will keep innovating the app, bringing some of the features to the next version of the app as well as making it available on other device sizes/platforms.
From what I have heard, RNI has a new app being cooked as we speak. The app is named RNI Flashback and you can find more information about it on their dedicated page. Stay tuned, it should be released soon.
I would like to thank Really Nice Images for making all the film simulations available for the purpose of the review.
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