The Nik Collection is one of the best-loved, and indeed most comprehensive plug-in packages available to photographers. And after years of stagnation, the software has been updated since being bought by DxO from Google back in 2017, and we now see a new and further improved version.
The Nik Collection 2 includes seven plug-ins for Photoshop, Elements and Lightroom Classic. And this new version also comes with a copy of DxO Photolab 2 Essentials, which can be used for editing Raw files, JPEGs and TIFFs, which exports images directly into the Nik Collection, so even if you’re not an Adobe user you can use the plug-ins with powerful image editing software out of the box. New in version 2, there are 42 new ‘En Vogue’ presets available (raising the total number of presets to 198); ten are in Color Efex Pro, ten in Silver Efex Pro, ten in Analog Efex Pro and 12 for HDR Efex Pro. Alongside these one one-click and fully customisable effects, Nik Collection 2 now supports high-resolution monitors (HiDPI) with Windows.
- ## Color Efex Pro: Color Efex Pro provides 55 filters and 20 recipes for applying a range of colour effects to your images at the touch of a button. You can use just the presets, but if you’d prefer to create a more unique and personalised effect, you also have access to a control panel to completely customise the chosen effect as well as being able to apply multiple filters. It’s incredibly quick and easy to use, and the results are highly effective.
- ## Silver Efex Pro: Silver Efex Pro is easily the best-known and most respected plug-in of the collection, and for very good reason – it makes converting colour images to black & white incredibly easy, and the results are arguably the best available from any in-software or plug-in presets. There are 48 presets and as with the other options, you can customise the presets to your own liking using the control panel. This plug-in is powerful and a pleasure to use.
Viveza is a little different to the other plug-ins in the collection, in that it focuses purely on the U Point technology for localised adjustments using control points that are present in the other plug-ins. But rather than applying effects, Viveza allows you to adjust colour, contrast, brightness and structure in localised areas with incredible speed and intelligent precision. It really does take the hard work out of editing with powerful adjustments possible in seconds.
Analogue Efex Pro:
As the name suggests, Analog Pro allows you to apply film-style effects to your images for a more traditional photographic look and feel. The presets available offer a great starting point, with some offering control over texture overlays and where blur is applied, alongside the ability to fully customise effects. From stronger presets you can’t miss to the more subtle, this is a must-have for lovers of vintage photographic effects.
HDR Efex Pro:
HDR may not be for all, but with careful editing HDR images can be almost impossible to identify. HDR Efex offers a range of presets ranging from dark and dirty to more natural results, and with extensive controls available you can achieve the HDR style of your choice. This is one of the more difficult plug-ins to learn how to use by its nature, but the clear interface and labelling of settings helps with this.
Software such as Adobe Lightroom does a great job of sharpening images before they’re exported to other image editing software for additional work. Before using Sharpener Pro you’d think that your images are as sharp as they need to be, but with both a Raw Pre-Sharpener and an Output Sharpener for the desired output, such as screen or print, Sharpener Pro takes images to a much higher level of sharpness without introducing artefacts.
- ## Dfine: Dfine uses algorithms to reduce noise in high ISO images, across the image as a whole and with the ability to work on the individual RGB channels. Control is over chroma (colour) and luminance (grain) noise, and it’s incredibly easy to use. Ease of use is the key feature here, but the results aren’t as effective as those possible with Lightroom, and look near-identical to those possible with DxO Photolab 2 Essentials.
The overall look and feel is almost identical to the original, so previous users of the collection will feel very much at home, but Windows users with high-resolution screens will see a much sharper interface like that on Apple Macs. The inclusion of DxO Photolab 2 Essentials is a fantastic addition, as it makes the Nik Collection a standalone package for processing Raw files, TIFFs and JPEGs. Plus, the ability to use the collection with Photoshop, Elements and Lightroom is a real bonus. DxO Essentials costs £112 alone, so this plus the Nik Collection for £125 is great value if you need Raw processing software. Areas for improvement could be more control in HDR Efex Pro, while Dfine is also lacking in effectiveness compared to Lightroom and results look identical to Photolab 2 Essentials. Overall, it’s an excellent suite that makes applying complex effects quick and easy.