More expensive than previously No option to get the plug-ins alone The Nik Collection is a set of seven plug-ins originally developed by Nik Software and sold individually, then bought by Google and sold as a single suite, then discontinued and given away free, and finally rescued by DxO and relaunched as a commercial package.
During all that time, the plug-ins have hardly changed at all. Google added the Analog Efex Pro plug-in during its time as owner, and DxO has updated the software to be compatible with the latest Mac and Windows operating systems since it took it over, but otherwise the Nik plug-ins look much the same as they did when they were launched. In fact, they still rate as amongst the best photo-editing software applications you can get.
They also include some of the best creative tools and presets available to photographers. The really big change is separate. Its solution has been bold, some might say obvious, but also rather clever. PhotoLab applies lens corrections automatically for over 40, camera and lens combinations, even correcting edge softness in lower-quality lens. PhotoLab Essential has powerful and actually quite complex image adjustment tools, and also offers local adjustments via gradient masks, radial masks, a manual brush tool and the clever control point adjustments also found in the Nik Collection plug-ins — more on this shortly.
You can use the plug-ins for specialised creative effects, but you might find PhotoLab alone does much of what you need for everyday adjustments.
The addition of PhotoLab Essential makes the DxO Nik Collection 2 a self-contained photo-editing solution, with browsing, raw processing and local adjustments thrown in. The Nik plug-ins There are seven plug-ins in the collection, but they are not all creative tools and not all equally useful, to be fair. Analog Efex Pro is one of the most spectacular.
Analog Efex Pro is the only plug-in added during Google's ownership. It offers an amazing array of analog film and camera simulation tools, and has ten new "En Vogue" presets. Silver Efex Pro is dedicated to black and white photography.
Like other Nik plug-ins, it comes with a range of preset film and darkroom effects, built with manual adjustment tools displayed on the right of the screen.
Silver Efex Pro enjoys a similar reputation for black and white photography, which is about so much more than just the absence of color. It recaptures the depth, intensity and subtlety of black and white films and darkroom processes in a way that other programs and plug-ins struggle to match.
Color Efex Pro offers dozens of photographic filter effects which can be combined in an almost endless array of different permutations, or 'Recipes'. HDR Efex Pro is good too. It can merge a series of bracketed exposures or create a tone mapped HDR image from a single photo, and it has a wide selection of preset HDR effects to choose from. From this high point, the remaining three plug-ins take a bit of a downturn.
Viveza's appeal is more limited in that it's designed solely to leverage the Nik Collections control point adjustment technology, but it can still be really effective.
Here, we've used it to give the distant background in this cathedral a cool, dark tone to contrast with the lamps in the foreground. The last two, Dfine and Sharpener Pro, feel increasingly irrelevant in the modern age. Dfine is a noise reduction tool that works well enough, but most photographers will concentrate on applying noise reduction at the raw processing stage, not on already-processed images. Quality of results The Nik Collection plug-ins may have been around for a long time, but their preset effects, their tools and controls, and the sense of excitement and discovery they create, are as fresh as ever.
Have you ever felt jaded and bored by the effects in your current photo editing software? Image 1 of 5 Here are sample images we made for this review with the Nik Collection plug-ins. Image 2 of 5 Here are sample images we made for this review with the Nik Collection plug-ins. Image 3 of 5 Here are sample images we made for this review with the Nik Collection plug-ins. Image 4 of 5 Here are sample images we made for this review with the Nik Collection plug-ins. Image 5 of 5 Viveza Here are sample images we made for this review with the Nik Collection plug-ins.
There are a couple of snags. For new buyers, the DxO Nik Collection 2 is a great deal. Verdict The addition of PhotoLab Essential to the Nik Collection is a good deal for new users looking for an independent standalone solution, but not so much for those who just want the plug-ins. The addition of 42 new presets, meanwhile, hardly constitutes much of an upgrade to the plug-ins themselves, whose actual tools and features are unchanged. But despite all these caveats, the Nik Collection 2 is such an important, powerful, wide-ranging and inspiring suite of creative tools that we would still recommend it unreservedly.
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