Last year, we talked about FILMOMATS' new software product, SmartConvert, on our social media feed. This is a simple, speedy stand-alone program for converting camera-scanned film negatives into positives. It's a standalone tool, meaning it requires no additional software such as Lightroom. It has an intuitive user interface making image editing both easy and efficient. Moreover, a one-time purchase guarantees lifetime use, with updates included.
After spending time getting to know this new software, we believe it's a very useful, uncomplicated solution for all your conversion needs. Despite being a recent release, it has seen numerous updates, with the latest version being V1.35. Like all new indie projects, there is room for improvement. However, we're confident that with Lukas Fritz maintaining and improving this software, it will only get better. We also have a direct and open dialogue with him about improvements for the future. His availability for support and feedback is commendable, which is why we highly recommend SmartConvert. We're excited about this new option and recommend it to our users, particularly those seeking a simpler, more direct workflow.
SMARTCONVERT in use
Begin by clicking the button “Load images” at the top. At this point, select the negatives you want to convert. Both RAW and TIFF files are supported. Unfortunately, at this time, drag-and-drop for files is not supported.
Your images are immediately and automatically processed, typically taking between one to three seconds per image. Once processed, the conversions appear on the screen in low resolution to enhance performance speed - but don’t worry, the exports are in final resolution. At this point, you can use the editing panel to customise the colours, contrast and brightness as you like. Select “Grayscale” at the bottom if you are converting black and white images.
Below are some key points about the editing process:
Contrast, density and saturation
Contrast controls the difference between the black and white of the image, or the contrast. A higher number will give you a more punchy image and a lower number will make it more flat. You can also go into the menu at the top of the screen under “Presets” to set a default profile “Flat”, “normal” or “high contrast”
Density refers to the overall brightness of the image, with a higher number giving you a darker image and a lower number giving you a brighter image. This can generally be left at 1.00 unless your image has particular focus. Also consider using this for creative effect, such as in the image pair below, where the darker image helps to focus the viewer towards the subject more than the brighter image
Saturation is only used for colour images and is for adjusting the intensity of colours in the image. Generally SmartConvert provides a low contrast, low saturation image as a starting point and you can then apply what you want on-top.
The control panel of this software is minimalistic, reflecting its purpose and desired functionality. Drawing inspiration from old commercial scanners, the editing process is straightforward with buttons for adjusting colour balance. In line with this, SmartConvert's features can be manipulated using intuitive keyboard shortcuts, catering to those who prefer using hotkeys over clicking buttons, enhancing workflow efficiency and enabling quick image processing. We highly recommend you learn the keyboard shortcuts found on the website of the software.
White balancing is a crucial step in negative conversion. In other programs like Negative Lab Pro, you typically sample the white balance from the film base. However, in this case, the initial conversion is automatic. After that, you can select a neutral grey point within the image to see if improvements can be made or you adjust manually. The manual CMY buttons can help optimise the white balance with just a few clicks. The native increment on these buttons is a 0.05 adjustment, which can be a bit coarse for fine adjustment. You can make precise adjustments by clicking on the values, or enter a value using the keyboard. Often images only need cyan/red adjustment, so we typically start there. For black and white images, the colour is of course not there and you will use only the contrast and density settings.
This program also includes a simple auto-crop function that can automatically tilt and crop the frame. If it correctly identifies the crop, it significantly speeds up your process. The software is quite dependent on your capture having a border around the film. If you find it is consistently off in one direction or another, you can go and adjust the ‘offset’ under “Presets” in the menu at the top.
However, there are occasions when manual editing of the crop is necessary. Click on "Edit Crop" (cmd+C). In this section, you also have the option to tilt the image. This feature holds a lot of promise, and we look forward to potential improvements, as its utility could be highly beneficial.
One beneficial aspect of this editing workflow is its efficiency. Once you finish editing an image, simply hit enter to move to the next one. Once you find a rhythm, you can quickly progress through a roll. To return to a previous image, press "Previous Image" or use the shortcut (CMD+LeftKey). There's also an option to apply the same settings to the next image. To do this, ensure you select "Keep Settings".
This functionality copies the settings, such as crop, density and colour adjustments, to the next film. This can be beneficial if you are working on a roll of film where the images are similar and only need small adjustments between each image.
Working with slides
SmartConvert can be powerful tool for working with and correction slides. For example in this image, the slide was exposed indoors under fluorescent light, making it very green. By putting it through SmartConvert, you not only get to adjust things like density and contrast, but it also automatically white balances the image almost perfectly.
Once you've finished editing your image or batch of images, click "Save Images". This exports the image files in your preferred format (JPG or TIFF) to your chosen directory. The process only takes a few seconds per image, depending on the size and complexity of the file type. For continuity in other programs and downstream edits, all images are processed in the AdobeRGB colour space and have the AdobeRGB colour profile embedded.
This software is primarily a conversion and tone correction tool. It lacks some of the more advanced features found in Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, or similar software suites, such as adjustments to sharpness, noise, and dust removal. These features might be crucial for some photographers' workflows, which is why we suggest SmartConvert as a dedicated conversion tool for those who don't prefer the Adobe subscription models with its accompanying plug-ins.
SmartConvert is a sensible starting point in any workflow, even if you are a user of other editing software, as it does automatic processing and balancing of negatives and slides very well. Finishing touches can be made in any other one-time purchase editing software, or even freeware, for a secondary round of edits and image refinement. Enthusiast users, less interested in these detailed adjustments, might prefer it as their all-in-one solution for sharing their analogue photography. A beneficial feature to add to this conversion software would be a vignetting correction tool. This would compensate for light fall off and help users address artefacts in their scans caused by their light and lens combinations.
We are very excited to witness new developments in the field of conversion software. Like everything in this industry, we understand and embrace that it's continually evolving and improving in real time.