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“Today, photos from many cameras look perfect and almost the same; there is no individuality.”, says web developer Dmitrij Pirang about digital images. “Photographers are creative people, and they are looking for something special, different from others.” He observed that Nikon DSLRs allow for using picture profiles to produce creative effects directly in-camera. However, several users felt that these stock profiles were limited. Currently, Nikon does provide software that can tweak these profiles a bit. But, there was and still is a huge demand to replicate classic film looks in this manner. This is where Dmitrij stepped in and created a website of his own to support this need.
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Fuji does a great job with film simulations in-camera. Their X-series line of cameras is hugely popular for this reason. Provia, Velvia, Astia, Acros – you name it, and a Fuji mirrorless camera can create this look in camera for you today. Camera buyers love being able to see these effects in their Fuji camera viewfinders. It helps them try and feel the mood of the simulation in their frame before clicking the shutter. Until Dmitrij’s website, Nikon photographers like myself had to resort to post-processing tools to replicate film looks. The quickest way was to slap on one of the innumerable film presets for Adobe Lightroom over your image. This way, you could somewhat recreate that vintage feel in your jpeg or NEF file. There was no way, however of visualising what the result could look like before you clicked it. And there was still no way of getting an Agfa Optima or Kodak Portra or Kodachrome look in-camera as these profiles weren’t available. Using his skills as a programmer and with the aid of considerable research, Dimitrij developed nikonpc.com. As the go-to place for downloading film-look picture control profiles for Nikon owners, he’s ensured that the site has sufficient choice to pick from. For a better understanding of how Nikon’s picture profiles work, check out this link.
What I’ve found lately is that Adobe Lightroom now matches the profile used in-camera and can almost match the look once you import your NEF files to it. This seems to work only with the Z mirrorless cameras though. Adobe doesn’t even recognize black and white NPC profiles applied to my D810 as of now. Also, since the matching is not 100%, I tend to shoot in RAW+JPG to have a 100% applied profile image (jpg format). This is only because I tend to do most of my editing in Adobe Lightroom. You can always see the NEF with the exact custom profile applied if you open it in Nikon’s Capture NX or NX Studio software.
If you’re really into film emulation sciences, you will probably be disappointed with the accuracy of some of these profiles. But the good thing is that you can tweak existing profiles a lot more on Dimitrij’s website than the Nikon Picture Control software. I’m hoping he gets an investor sooner than later. There are quite a few emulations so far on the website, but the potential is seemingly limitless.
The Phoblographer: Hi Dimitrij. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography
Dmitrij Pirang: My name is Dmitrij Pirang. I live in Germany, near Cologne. I am a web developer. My job is my main hobby.
Photography is one of my hobbies. I’m just a photo enthusiast. My interest in photography started in 1999 with an Olympus film camera. With this camera, I travelled all over Europe and took beautiful photos. I was young then, and those were my best photos.
My first digital camera was the Nikon 4300. After a few years, I bought my first DSLR camera, the Nikon D80. With this camera, I took many travel photos on Canary Islands, Mallorca, Barcelona, etc. This camera produced very good photos with beautiful colors. It helped deepen my knowledge of photography.
Then came the Nikon D7000. With it, I started filming videos for myself. But the standard presets in the camera were not ideal for video. I started researching how camera profiles can be used to improve image quality.
I still wanted a full-frame DSLR, and a few years later, I got my Nikon D800. I also bought several fixed lenses. But this camera didn’t last long for me, and I upgraded to the Nikon D810 in a short time.
The technologies continue to develop, which also instigated me to buy a nextgen mirrorless camera. My current camera is a Nikon Z6.
The Phoblographer: What inspired you to create the nikonpc.com website? Tell us especially about the day you realised you wanted to make this dream into a reality
Dmitrij Pirang: When I started experimenting with camera profiles in 2012, I used the original Nikon Picture Control Utility (app for desktop). This utility was very horrible for me to use because:
– the Custom Curve is too small that makes precise manipulation with points impossible. It’s just a very rough adjustment. (until today)
– the N
PC format can have up to 20 curve points. But in reality, you can set manually only 10-12 points on such a small curve in utility.
– the Utility has no input fields for curve points. (until today)
– The preview shows changes after the manipulation with a mouse by custom curve, not in real-time. I want to see all changes in preview in real-time. (until today, it not work)
– No preview gallery. You can only select one picture. It’s uncomfortable to change the image every time. It was important for me to try out a curve on different pictures and do it very quickly.
For the reasons mentioned above, I decided to create my own tool for my requirements. Also, I wanted to have a central location for all existing NPC profiles. When searching for profiles on the internet, I found them at various open resources (sites, forums). There was no one location for all profiles. I have collected all profiles from all possible open resources and would to share them with the people who need them.
So, in about 1 month (I worked on it evenings after my main job), my first alpha version could edit the basic NPC adjustments. After the closed test and bug fixes, I opened my utility for the world.
The first public announcement was on July 8th 2013. The domain name was different than now (I don’t want to show it here, so google doesn’t index the false URL). Can only say that in the domain name was the letters: “npc. #####. com”.
Since July 29 2014, the site has been working as https://nikonpc.com.
The Phoblographer: Even though they are using digital cameras, modern photographers really enjoy the look of old film in their images. Why do you think classic films are making a comeback in this manner? What is that charm that it provides?
Dmitrij Pirang: Earlier, when the first digital cameras were not perfect, we wanted more: better color deep, more dynamic range, higher resolution, etc. The previous quality did not suit us. We wanted to achieve picture perfection. We have mostly already received this. Modern digital cameras produce too perfect a picture. The photo quality even surpasses the real world.
But the human being is so constructed that he cannot stop at what has been achieved, and if we cannot go forward (this is how we have almost reached the limit of perfection), then in order to change the photograph, we can look back and try to use “forgotten” techniques from the past. There is a huge field for the realization of creative potential. Different films makers provided special colors, which allowed photographers to choose according to their creative intentions.
Today, photos from many cameras look perfect and almost the same; there is no individuality. Photographers are creative people, and they are looking for something special, different from others.
One way to do this is to use presets for your cameras that simulate the characteristics of analog film.
Camera presets do not accurately convey the film’s color but only distantly parodies it. For more or less accurate color reproduction, additional preset settings are required, for example, RGB channel custom curve, but this is not available.
The Phoblographer: Companies like Fuji created their entire X-series models of cameras around the nostalgia of film. Even Olympus did this with some of their cameras like the Pen-F model. Why are other camera manufacturers hesitant to do this with their cameras?
Dmitrij Pirang: Money rules the world. I think it is not profitable for some manufacturers to invest a lot of money in the development. Or engineers do not consider it necessary to do this for their cameras natively because almost everything can be achieved in a photo editor.
But if there are manufacturers who make such cameras, then all is not lost. Perhaps, in the competition for the market, other manufacturers will also want to add it as a new feature.
The Phoblographer: Did you create all the picture profiles on the nikonpc.com website?
Dmitrij Pirang: I did not create new presets myself but only changed and tried those already created. I don’t know the technical characteristics of the films to simulate them well. I just put together a collection of ready-made presets. Periodically, users send me their presets so that I can rate them and add them to the site.
The Phoblographer: There are still many classic film presets that we would love to see. Fuji Classic Neg, Fuji Acros, Cinestill 800T etc. Do you think these will be added to the site some day in the future?
Dmitrij Pirang: If someone creates such profiles and lets me know about them, I will certainly add them to the collection on the site.
The Phoblographer: Your website nikonpc.com is the most popular one on the internet today for Nikon camera owners who want in-camera film looks for their images. How does this popularity make you feel? Is there a way that customers can request for new picture profiles and even monetarily contribute to their creation?
Dmitrij Pirang: First of all, I created this site for myself, my friends, and those who might find it useful. For me, it was just a hobby. I created it for fun as a technical demonstration of the capabilities of the browser. If my site is useful to someone, then I am pleased to know.
The site is hosted on my personal server at my home. I pay for electricity and pay for the domain name. To cover the costs of maintaining the site, I added a banner at the top. This banner can and should be disabled when using the utility. To do this, just uncheck the Adsense checkbox in the site header.
I’ve seen some people sell these presets for very good money. I did not strive for this.
I’m just a programmer, and if anyone sees the potential of how to monetize a resource, then I’m ready for a business proposal for the further development of the site. If there is an investor, I could quit my main job and devote myself entirely to the project’s development. To be honest, this is my dream.
The Phoblographer: What was the feeling when you successfully created the first profile? How did it make you feel to see that a Nikon digital camera can match what Fuji is doing with their simulations inside their cameras?
Dmitrij Pirang: To a greater extent, I concentrated on the technical aspect of implementing the utility. It was very important for me that profiles be easily and conveniently created and edited with maximum accuracy. I created a tool for myself and others who can create presets.
It’s hard for me to judge how closely and accurately the presets on Nikon match Fuji.
The Phoblographer: Would you say that digital recreations of film still cannot match actually using film inside a vintage camera? Why or why not?
Dmitrij Pirang: It’s not all so simple and categorical. In theory, on a computer with software, you can create incredible things.
But, talented people are needed to create instructions on how to make simulated films. I think that this is technically possible as a plugin, for example, for Photoshop.
But in the camera presets, this is definitely impossible today due to the restrictions on configurable parameters. Camera manufacturers cannot yet add the necessary parameters; perhaps their processors are not fast enough because they must manage not only to apply styles to RAW photos but also to 4k 60fps video. I admit that camera manufacturers simply do not know that photographers need more options in presets. So let’s write a petition outlining our wishes. Maybe then they will pay attention and add to future cameras.
The Phoblographer: Mine is the Kodak T-Max 400 and I love using it for portraits. Which is your personal favourite picture profile on your website and what sort of photography do you enjoy doing with it most?
Dmitrij Pirang: First of all, I used presets for shooting videos with maximum dynamic range. At the time of my cameras D700, D800 I used Flaat_11p and TassinFlat.
I shoot photos only in RAW in a neutral style and develop in Capture One. Personally, I like natural photos without color madness from which I want to tear my eyes out 😉
The Phoblographer: What is the future of nikonpc.com? Again, there are many people who love this website and would really like to see more picture profiles added to it.
Dmitrij Pirang: I personally do not create profiles myself, but I accept and add user profiles.
For the last 6 years, I practically did not develop my site, as it was completely loaded at my main job.
But this does not mean that I abandoned the site. I have a lot of ideas and plans to improve the site’s capabilities.
One of the first changes will affect UI optimization. Support for NP2 format will be added. It will be possible to upload your own photos for previews and not only provide a link to an external source, as it is now.
I will need to consider how users can upload their own preset files. Currently, I do it manually at the request of users who sent me their presets. Perhaps users can create their own styles and sell them.
For it all, I need time.
I do not need single donations. It is not my target. But I am open to a business proposal. If there is an investor so that I can work on my project full-time, features will be developed faster.
The images seen here were clicked using various picture profiles from nikonpc.com and are the author’s copyright. Visit Dimitrij’s website to download these profiles for your Nikon cameras.