Film vs. VSCO

Challenge: putting VSCO filters up against film

Below we have a few photos made using film, and replicated using VSCO for Android. I’ve tried to match the angle closely, and used a VSCO preset to personal taste. All of the left photos are from one method, all the right photos are the other: so which is which? Find out at the end… or just scroll down to cheat.

Ilford HP5+

Cresswell Beach, Morpeth – September 2016
‘Wires’ – Drift Cafe, Cresswell – September 2016
Rock Shore, South Shields – September 2016
Fontburn Resevoir, Northumberland – September 2016

Kodak Colorplus 200

Souter Lighthouse, South Shields – August 2016
King Edward’s Bay, Cullercoats – August 2016

So which is which?

Drum roll please,

  • Left: VSCO for Android, shot with my Samsung S4,
  • Right: Film, shot with my Nikon FM2n.

Looking through the photos, some are easier to tell than others for keen eyes. VSCO did a good job of mimicking the grain and colour shift of film, but couldn’t quite keep up with its dynamic range. You can see this effect in the first image as a wider tonal range of red is seen on the lighthouse stripes, with the VSCO one showing a flatter block red. Again, more detail can also be seen in the shadows in ‘Wires’ and in the highlights in the final image.

This isn’t a definitive test though I admit, the VSCO photos were taken on a phone, not a comparative level DSLR. If I find one of those lying around though I’ll be right on the case. For now though, this does show that VSCO can produce nice looking film emulation even just on a phone, a few more tweaks to the settings and a better camera might even give it the edge – that all depends on your taste. The ability to tailor presets and save them for future use (copying settings from other images) and trying out different film emulations on the same image is enticing with VSCO. Personally, I prefer the hand made approach of film and avoiding Photoshop edits as much as possible, but it’s interesting seeing how close VSCO can come to looking like film – I’m still not paying for the filters though.

Which won? That’s up to you, but I’m voting for film (well I would be wouldn’t I).

// DC

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