RNI Films- An App Review

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Recently, when I posted my review of some iPhone photo editing apps I love, here, a guy (@daveday on Twitter) tweeted asking me if I’d ever heard of, or tried RNI Films. I hadn’t, but now it’s one of my absolute favorites. (Thanks, Dave!)

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My usual go-to remains, VSCO, despite shorter-lived favorings of Litely and Mextures. I still love the latter 2 apps, and use them, but I love film-emulators, and VSCO just has so many options, beautifully-toned filters, and endless possible adjustments. I always go back.

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However, this time, something is different. I had my usual obsession with RNI Films, went back to VSCO, and then something strange happened: I went back to RNI Films again, and use it at least 50% of the time. Previously, my go-to for black and white filters, especially when I wanted them to truly look like film, was BLACK App. I love it, and I’ve reviewed it before, but RNI has more black and white film filters, and they are beautiful.

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RNI stands for Really Nice Images, and it’s true. Also, the app is free in the app store. I can’t even believe this beautiful app is free. With the free download, it offers a good amount of filter selections already, and allows you to purchase more selections via in-app purchases: 2 negative films packs, a black and white films pack, a vintage films pack, and an instant films pack. Each pack is $3.99, which I believe is well-worth it, yet you can get by without purchasing any of them, and still have plenty of nice choices. There’s also one pack, that you can get for free if you share it on Facebook. Initially, I only purchased the black and white pack and the negatives packs. It’s within the last week, after loving the app so much, I bought the rest.

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The film filters truly look like film emulsions. The resulting images are richly-toned and beautifully-textured. It offers film stocks from Kodak, Ilford, Agfa, Rollei Digibase, and Fuji. There are 5 types of film presets divided up into categories: Negative, BW, Vintage, Slide and Instant. I use the Negative and Black and White packs the most often. My favorites of the filters for color in the Negative group are the Agfa Optima 200, the various Fuji Superia options, and the Kodak Portra options. My favorites for black and white in the BW group are Agfa Scala 200, Ilford Delta 100 HC, Ilford Delta 400, 800 and 3200.

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The app is simple to use. First, upon opening it, you load your image, and it asks you whether you’d like to straighten or crop. Then you move to the next screen, where there are 4 simple icons to select from. Click on the little arrow to go back to the previous, first screen. Click on the film icon to select an emulsion, on the wrench and screwdriver icon to fine tune, or on the arrow to export back out to the photos folder. It’s intuitive and clean, no library of previously-edited images to wade though, gallery to publish to, or shop to accidentally click on, a la VSCO. It’s purely editing.

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The fine-tuning features are similar to VSCO, with the ability to adjust brightness, contrast, clarity, grain, shadows, highlights, pre-warmth, post-warmth, pre-tint, post-tint, saturation, sharpen, vignette, fade, and dust, all on a sliding scale, which I appreciate, and prefer to VSCO’s tick scale. I rarely, if ever, use these features, and if I do, it’s mainly opting to up a little brightness, contrast, or sharpen a touch. I’d like to think it’s because my images don’t need it past the filters, but I think RNI just does a really great job with their emulsions as-is.

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It would be easy to say that RNI makes my images look like film, because I shoot with a Fujifilm X100T that already makes my images look like film. But, even my iPhone photos end up looking like beautiful, authentic film. Every one of the images in this post, is shot with my iPhone 6S Plus, save for this last one, which was shot with my iPhone5.

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Of all of the film-emulating apps so far, this is my favorite, and I believe it’s the best when it comes to capturing a true film look.

You can download RNI Films here in the app store.

Fujifilm X100T- A Camera Review

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“Look, I’m not an intellectual – I just take pictures.” -Helmut Newton

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This quote is perfectly how I feel about photography, and why I feel unfit to give a super-techinal review of any camera. I believe it’s more about the eye of the shooter, than the gear that takes the shot. I am an avid iPhone photographer because it’s a great camera that I usually always have with me. I occasionally dabble with film, but it’s not as convenient. Recently, another camera has stolen my heart. The Fujifilm X100T is an incredible tool, and I now use it about half of the time, using my iPhone6S Plus, the other half.

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I’m not into all of the stats about the camera, but there are plenty of reviews out there to tell you all about that part of it, if you like. For me, it’s less about the numbers and settings, and more about the art. It’s about how simple it is to use to get a beautiful result. I really love that this camera is small without tons of options, has a fixed lens, and isn’t intimidating like a DSLR could be to someone just getting into photography. It has a 35mm equivalent, f2 lens, and a hybrid viewfinder, which means I can get a decent portrait, and I can go old school and hold it up to my face to shoot, or use the screen on the back.

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Things I Love

The camera is digital, but the results are made to look like film, and it has film filters built in that I can select before I shoot a photo. I love the look of film, so this is a huge bonus in my eyes. The tones and colors are nicely dynamic, with lots of detail captured in shadows and highlights. It’s not exactly the same as film, but it comes close enough for me to enjoy that part of it thoroughly. And, the fact that it’s digital means I get the immediate gratification of having my photos right away. It’s the best of both worlds as far as getting a film look, without the wait to develop the roll. I still usually edit my photos in post, but honestly, I don’t have to with most of my FujiFilm X100T images if I don’t want to: they already look beautiful straight out of the camera.

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It’s so easy to use. Even not knowing all of the technical rules about cameras and photography, a person would be able to get fabulous shots using this camera. There aren’t a lot of settings that I need to tinker with, so I can have a basic understanding of how a camera works, and get the shot quickly, without much thought toward the set-up. I like to shoot in aperture priority mode, which means I select the aperture and let the camera select the shutter speed, based on the light, and focus on the moment at hand, instead of on my camera settings. I do this because my subject matter is often wiggly kids, and I want to be able to capture them in motion, quickly and easily. I could also set it to shutter priority and set it to the speed I want, and the camera will select the aperture for me, or I could shoot with everything set to A, or conversely select each setting myself in M mode. I love how many options there are to use this camera depending on comfort-level, type of shooting I’m doing, and the look I want, and I think it increases basic camera knowledge at a less-intimidating pace.

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There’s also a really handy exposure compensation dial that allows me to go up or down by 3, and I use it a lot, by knocking the exposure down -1 to increase the shutter speed if I’m working with low light. I also knock it down sometimes just to get an end result that’s a little more moody and darker, with more detail. In my opinion, sometimes the camera shoots just a tiny bit lighter/ overexposed than what I want, so this dial corrects that, with the added bonus of increasing my shutter speed.

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A really awesome feature: I can wirelessly transfer my images straight to my devices. For me, that’s my iPhone, where I do all of my editing. It’s so simple, and fast, and makes it really easy to send images to friends and family, almost instantaneously.

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There is a macro setting that allows me to take some nice, close detail shots, as well as an ND filter. These two features are useful, but to be honest, I rarely use them. I find I mostly don’t need to, even when shooting outside in bright light, or up close. They are still nice to have available, just in case.

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Lastly, the camera is a really nice size for my hand, though I could see it being a bit small for larger hands. It’s not too heavy, so it’s quite easy to tote along on an outing, and it has a nice, grippy texture, so I’ve never dropped it. I can’t say the same for my poor iPhone.

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Caveats

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The battery life is abysmal. I cannot leave my house without at least one spare, and I usually bring more. It’s honestly so bad that I can’t even get through an hour of shooting without changing the battery.

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I love that it’s fixed lens, but I also don’t, because as I become more and more comfortable with the technical aspects of photography, I find myself wanting to use alternate lenses. There are lens adaptations I could buy for it, but I feel like that’s not the point of this camera, and in that case I should buy a different camera that’s made for interchangeable lenses.

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It’s expensive. Retailing currently for about $1,100, it’s much more expensive than my Nikon film SLR for sure. But, I don’t have to buy film for it.

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Final Thoughts

I truly love this camera, and love how much it has taught me, all the while giving me some great keepsake photos along the way.

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I get a little aggravated with the question, “what camera do you use?” Not because I mind sharing, quite the contrary: I love to share all of my photography processes and help anyone get photos they love, and I truly and absolutely love this camera and think almost everyone would. It’s a frustrating question because in the end, it’s implied that the gear makes the photo, and it’s just not about the gear, it’s about the eye, perspective, and personal touch of a shot. It’s the ability to tell a story with an individual look into your world, that no one else quite has in exactly the same way. It’s the ability to capture and express a feeling.

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Ansel Adams shot with gear far “inferior” to the technology we have now, and his photos still hold up. It just wasn’t, and isn’t, about the gear. That’s surprisingly a draw to this camera, because it is so simple, I spend less time thinking about settings, lenses, etc., and live in the moment to get the shot, and get it well. (This is not to knock DSLRs, which are wonderful tools, just different.)

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It’s a throwback to simpler days of using a camera as it comes, and learning how to do so skillfully, focusing on the shot and the message, rather than relying on the gear to do the artistic work.

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You can purchase the Fujifilm X100T here.

*all photos in this post, except for the image of the camera itself, which was taken with my iPhone6S+, were taken with my Fujifilm X100T.