Boris FX is a company that has established itself in the world of cinema by supplying stunning VFX and DFT (digital film tools) to major productions. Their products are used on a large part of Hollywood film productions, Lion King is one of them. So when a film company released a product for photographers, I got excited. The two verticals have a shared experience and I was intrigued. Making the most of the VFX and DFX worlds, they created Optics, a Photoshop and Lightroom plugin for still photographers. I took Optics for a ride with real images, real photographers and real life situations. Here is what I have to say:Disclaimer: Borix FX has provided me with an exam license. This is where their involvement ended. I share my honest opinion of the product below.
While this review is unpaid, Boris FX was kind enough to provide DIYP readers with a 20% discount with the code. diyphoto-20
I paid particular attention to the rise of plugins which greatly facilitate the addition of effects. They allow photographers to add effects to their images that they could not have done in camera. Sometimes there isn’t a particular gobo mask or spare light to make an effect. Products like this open up a world of creative possibilities, especially for beginners and enthusiasts.
How is Optical different?
The optics go further. The optics combine lens reflections, film color tones and various lighting effects. You might be wondering how is it different from Luminar? Well, Luminar is a lot more about altering the details of the raw image or replacing the sky. Optics, on the other hand, is more about enhancing the light and color properties of your images, adding a final look.
Familiarize yourself with optics
I love the things you plug in and they work. Installing Optics (on a Mac) is the same as any other program, and once installed, it automatically appears in Photoshop’s filters panel. Getting to know optics is easy and it makes people happy. When opening the UI, it’s pretty easy to navigate, although it can be counter-intuitive at times.
What does optics do?
Boris FX has packed an impressive list of features into Optics. Even I was a bit overwhelmed.
Emmy-winning VFX put to the test
The most exciting for me are the Sapphires. There are 75 of them. The most impressive thing about Sapphire filters is that you can recreate lots of complex VFXs for your images. I had no problem adding clouds, lightning bolts and even light leaks, as well as tweaking them to be perfect in the overall composition. This feature works pretty quickly, but you’ll need a good enough computer to render it all. When I added some visual effects it started to struggle a bit. This is not unexpected as these are actually being rendered and not just overlaid. (swipe left and right to see added effects)
Here are the commands to create the above effects, as you can see they are quite comprehensive
Real Hollywood Presets
Building on the theme of movie making features, let’s talk about the 89 preset colors of various movies that it showcases. Sometimes when you’re shooting a certain location, a film preset can be the right thing to bring your work to the final vision.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the Film Preset section of the plugin. There are movie presets that mimic the look of real movies. Although I haven’t shot all the films, the ones I have used are comparable to what Optics offers. There are also presets for those looking to emulate historical effects and methods. While that’s not the real thing, it’s as close as it gets without investing in a camera and chemicals to produce wet plaques. I would say the movie presets are pretty accurate for the presets, although some would definitely be able to tell the difference between the real thing and the preset.
Custom gobo effects
Since the folks at Boris FX are VFX wizards, let’s talk about something photographers have wanted for a long time: custom gobo effects. There are 751 different ones. Gobos are very popular light shaping tools in the fashion and portrait world, however, they are very expensive and can be quite fragile. In addition, having 751 different gobo masks becomes quite impractical. With Boris FX this problem is eliminated, as their gobo effects are very precise and adjustable to perfection. After trying them I was surprised how good they are.
There are also a few additional features like different brushes (clone, erase, mosaic, red eye repair, etc.), overlay, masking, cropping, as well as batch processing. Although batch processing is only available for standalone software, I see it very useful for photographers who want to add a final look to a batch of images. Knowing how exhausting it can be to add the same thing over and over again, the batch processing feature is also very useful.
The UI looks like the Lightrooms UI, but instead of having the Image Library at the bottom, there’s a menu to navigate and select the effect you want.
Once you’ve done that, you can choose from the many variations of this effect. For example, there are dozens of options to choose from. Shards of anamorphic lens lenses and specific Zeiss rockets with abstract names of “the changes we are facing”.
The number of fine adjustments you can make in Optics is quite impressive. I guess the origin of cinema shows where it is required to be exactly perfect with every little detail, rumor has it that the Starbucks mug in Game Of Thrones was a cheeky addition from Boris FX as well.
Here’s how much latitude there is with the moon setting. Everything from physical properties like phase to photography options like brightness.
If you feel like fine-tuning the colors, you’ll find this menu very useful – it has plenty of controls and dials that let you get the perfect color. In fact, I don’t remember Lightroom or Capture One having the same color adjustment possibilities. Of course, they do, but not as much as the optics.
Who is this plugin for?
Optics is wonderful, inexpensive software that provides world-class VFX and other features to photographs. But who can benefit from it and how?
I think the optics are primarily intended for landscape photographers. and digital artists. With a wide range of visual effects such as lighting, lens flare, etc., many landscape photographers can begin to add the final look to their work.
As a fashion photographer I sometimes see myself using gobo effects because they are indeed very well done.
People interested in other genres will find the movie stocks useful, and maybe even some of the visual effects. So in conclusion, Optics is a very useful plugin that caters to all photographers regardless of the genre. As a commercial photographer, I could potentially see the optics being used for a few commercial briefs as well, but these would be very unique isolated cases.
I kept saying optics are quite affordable for what they are. The reason I say this is because the optics only cost $ 9 on a monthly license and $ 99 on an annual license (get 20% discount if you use the code diyphoto-20). If you’re like me and steer clear of subscriptions like the plague, you can spend $ 149 on a perpetual license with one year of updates.
Photoshop plugins come in two versions: those that claim to do something and are great at it, and those that are straightforward. Optics is the first type. He claims to do wonderful things and he does them very well indeed. Optics offers many effects at a very affordable price, as well as an easy to navigate user interface. If you don’t feel like using Optics as a plugin, it’s available as a standalone program. That said, if you’re shooting with modern cameras that capture over 30 megapixels, you might want a fairly powerful computer. Other than that, I would recommend optics for people who are looking for a unique and different look, but who are not able to create those effects in camera.
The optic is available for purchase from the Boris FX website.