Film photographers all over the world are doing a little jig now that FILMBORN has been released for iOS. The new iPhone app is unlike any other on the market and has truly revolutionized how we approach emulating film with digital photography.

Daniel Kim / 400H

The creators of Filmborn, Kirk Mastin and his team, are the brains behind Mastin Labs, the LR presets designed to make a hybrid photographer’s life easier. Mastin Presets focus on the main film stocks still readily available and often used in client work, and allows the user to “match” their digital images to their film through a series of simple steps. Unlike many other film emulation presets, the results are very accurate and most hybrid photographers are huge fans.

Mastin has taken this concept and applied it to the iPhone world. With Filmborn, Mastin has created an interface similar to his LR presets with many of the same functionalities.

Chad Syme / PanF

Filmborn allows you to either use the native camera and simply edit photos, or to use the app to its full potential, you can use the in-app camera with live film preview which increases your functionality. The app connects to your camera’s library, so there is no need to import photos into the app. You can even copy and paste your filmborn edits to multiple photos in your library to quickly batch edit photos.

Furthermore, you can preview your film stocks, crops, preview blown highlights, use the level, manually adjust focus, and with a simple swipe adjust white balance and exposure to get the perfect “zero click” edit. You can also save a “kit” (which is an in-app purchase) to have your perfect film emulation on the go. If it seems like a lot to take in, it is robust, and there is a pretty detailed user manual that comes with the app; it walks you through the different functions of the app and is worth the few minutes it takes to read through.

Kirstin McKee / P160

Almost all of the film stocks are represented in the first panel – the FILM PANEL – (Fuji 160NS, Fuji 400H, Fuji 800Z, Ilford Pan-F, Ilford HP5, Ilford Delta 3200, Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Portra 800) with plans for future stocks to be added most likely as in-app purchases.


An added bonus to each of the film stock presets is the information sheet which can be accessed by pressing and holding any film stock in the ‘dark room’ film panel. The detailed specs on each film stock helps users learn more about real film and how to shoot it effectively; a goal of Mastin’s. The info sheets provide useful information on the strengths and weaknesses of each film stock, best shooting conditions, and sample photographs. The detailed section explaining how to shoot film delves into teaching how to meter for each film stock and even where to buy and develop film. It’s clear that the goal of Filmborn isn’t to just create a way for digital to simply “look like film” but rather seamlessly blend the world of film and digital together and encourage more people to shoot real film in the process.

Professional and amateur photographers alike will appreciate the clean, easy to use interface. Filmborn is designed to bridge the history of film photography with it’s digital future. Filmborn is built not only to emulate film but to educate photographers on the techniques and history of it. Like traditional cameras, Filmborn comes with an in-app user manual that provides knowledge about every feature of the app and how it relates to its film counterpart. – Mastin Labs


Users also have the ability to make tweaks to the presets in the next panel, the DEVELOP PANEL – which allows for applying highlight/shadow softness/hardness, adjusting exposure, white balance, tint, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and also features (with an in-app purchase) the beloved custom-curves adjustment. The custom curves adjustment is a game changer in the iPhone app editing world. The amount of control over the photo this feature gives you is incredible. You can tap the line and create multiple points to adjust. It goes well beyond what most photography apps currently have available.


In the ALTER PANEL – you can crop to various ratios (4:3, 3:2, 1:1, 6:7), straighten, and even correct perspective issues with vertical and horizontal transform sliders (highly useful in architectural or street photograph).


Kirk Mastin / P800

My Review

I’ve had the opportunity to beta test Filmborn since the Spring of this year. At first I used it primarily for travel & street photography, and found it to be excellent for this use. The overlays of the leveler and highlight clipping were extremely helpful for accurate, one click photos. The rangefinder mode made it feel more authentic to shooting my film cameras and helps me visualize my in-camera crops.

But when I’m not galavanting around the world, I’m at home being mom, so my Filmborn test photos are either really exciting travel photos, or an insane number of photos of my kids in various lighting situations. I found that I loved using the in-app camera most indoors because of the ease of adjusting white balance and exposure to get a near perfect photo as a start to each edit.

Christina Blanarovich / PanF / Filmborn Camera
Christina Blanarovich / HP5 / Filmborn camera
Christina Blanarovich / P800 / native camera
Christina Blanarovich / Fuji 800z / native camera

Over the months, I’ve replaced all my other editing apps with Filmborn and have integrated it into my wedding day workflow. As a “mostly film” wedding photographer (I use digital only during the reception), I don’t have anything to show my couples until the film comes back from the lab weeks after the wedding is over. In this world of instant gratification, I want my couples to have something to walk away with, even if it’s just a little token. I use my iPhone to take quick photos throughout the day and then during dinner, I process them with filmborn and print them with my Fuji Instax Printer. I deliver the mini prints to my clients at the end of the evening so they have something tangible to walk away with, and I also have digital copies for both our social media accounts (which results in more sharing and referrals). The images are consistent with the final film images the clients will receive, which is important for my brand, and Filmborn has made integrating a digital preview into my day of workflow seamless and simple.

With the new iPhone 7+ dual camera portrait mode (which will be compatible with Filmborn in an upcoming update), I can foresee the quality of my “instant” photos greatly increasing. Filmborn and Portrait mode are a made for each other.

Christina Blanarovich / P400 / native camera
Christina Blanarovich / Fuji 400H / Filmborn camera


Filmborn edits actually look like the film stocks I use for client work, not just “vintage film-like” oversaturated, over-grainy, deep matted messes with heavy vignettes that scream filter.

Christina Blanarovich / Contax G1 / Ilford D3200 / developed & scanned by The FINDLab
Christina Blanarovich / iPhone / Filmborn Ilford D3200

“Kits” create a zero-click workflow which is great when you are on the go, and I find it very useful for street photography and just photographing fast in general. I have a one black and white kit and two color kits I can switch between depending on the lighting situation.

You can go back and reedit and tweak your photos because filmborn creates copies and allows you to have a non-destructive edit.

[RELATED: Your iPhone & iPad Can Shoot Raw As Of Today, With Lightroom Mobile]


Using the in-camera app kills my battery life if I play around with it too long. However, my iPhone is in dire need of an upgrade and my battery doesn’t last long anyway. When I’m on the go, I tend to be lazy and use the native iPhone camera and then edit in Filmborn because it’s easier, but I do find that my images match better when I use the Filmborn camera; The micro adjustments you can make in the app camera are better.

Most other “cons” are simply issues I have with elements that have yet to be released, such as RAW capability (not yet supported), addition of grain, more film stocks (come on ACROS and EKTAR). However, these things are certainly on the horizon so I can’t count them as a major drawback.

Things To Come:

  • RAW capability
  • Ability to access iPhone 7+ dual camera function
  • Android compatibility
  • Grain (because film lovers like me NEED grain on our photos)
  • More film stocks
  • Who knows, because the Mastin team is always thinking of new ways to improve things!

Overall Assessment:

Get the app. You won’t be disappointed. No, it’s not a replacement for film, and it was never intended to be that! It’s a way for film lovers to bring a true-to-life look of film to their digital iPhone photos (or other digital camera photos imported in). It’s a great tool in any photographer’s bag!

You can get Filmborn here, and check out more on the official Filmborn site, and join the Filmborn Facebook Group to see how others are using it, and to get updates. The app is free and comes with film packs, with a few small in-app purchases to unlock all features.

Kirk Mastin, iOS FILM: Ilford Pan F| Kirstin Mckee, iOS FILM: Fuji 160NS
Dan Rubin, iOS FILM: Fuji 400H | Jeremy Chou, iOS FILM: Fuji 400H | Paul Edmondson, iOS FILM: Ilford Delta 320