Reviews |Nik Collection 5

Nik Collection 5 Review

Nik Collection Color Efex Pro review
Review

Price when reviewed

£135

$149 / €149 / £69 / $79 / €79

Our Verdict

The changes introduced with Nik Collection 5 bring Color Efex and Analog Efex into line with Silver Efex Pro 3 and Viveza 3. The improvements made to the Control Points make targeting the area for adjustments easier and are a great addition. You don’t need to understanding masks or how the selection is made, you can monitor what’s being selected for adjustment with your own eyes.

Now that DxO has improved the creative plugins in the suite (Color Efex, Silver, Efex, Analog Efex and Viveza), we can anticipate the technical plugins (Define, Perspective Efex, HDR Efex and Sharpener) being targets for future updates. Dfine is also crying out for an update that enables it to use DxO’s superb DeepPRIME noise reduction technology.

The inclusion of DxO PhotoLab Essential is a nice bonus that brings DxO’s power automatic corrections.

For

  • 8 plug-ins in one
  • Enables global and local adjustments
  • Superb black and white conversions

Against

  • Overlap between the plugins can make it hard to decide which to use
  • Multi-page TIFFs are very big

What is Nik Collection 5?

Nik Collection, a group of Adobe Photoshop plugins, was originally launched by Nik Software but in September 2012 it was acquired by Google. At the time this was largely thought to be to enable Google to get hold of Snapseed, an excellent mobile image editing app.

Nik Collection continued to be popular, possibly helped by the fact that in early 2016, Google made it free to download. However, in Spring 2017, Google confirmed that it wouldn’t develop the software any further.

Thankfully, in October 2017, DxO, the developer of the widely respected optical correction software now called PhotoLab, announced that it had bought Nik Collection from Google. There then followed a period of stabilisation during which DxO worked on correcting all the compatibility issues and glitches that had arisen during Google’s tenure. More recently, however, DxO has switched to developing Nik Collection further and the latest version, Nik Collection 4 was launched on 2nd June 2021.

Nik Collection 5 is a group of 8 plug-in software packages for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and DxO PhotoLab (formerly DxO Optics Pro). These packages enable a range of effects to be applied quickly and easily to images, they include Silver Efex Pro, Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Dfine, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, Viveza and Perspective Efex. dxO has also added its PhotoLab 5 software which uses the company’s detailed analysis of camera and lens flaws to enable automatic corrections. It also has tools for making global and local adjustments manually.

Silver Efex Pro is the most widely known of the plugins and it’s a popular choice of software for converting colour images to black and white. Nik Collection 5 introduces the latest version of Color Efex Pro and Analog Efex Pro, bringing them into line with Silver Efex Pro and Viveza and the upgrades they received with Nik Collection 4.

The plugins can be summarised as:

Silver Efex Pro: for converting images to black and white, this is inspired by traditional darkroom techniques.
Analog Efex Pro: simulates the look of traditional film, cameras and lenses.
Color Efex Pro:  a collection of colour correction and creative effect filters, plus retouching controls.
Dfine: noise reduction software.
HDR Efex Pro: High Dynamic Range (HDR) software for single images or a series of images.
Sharpener Pro: image sharpening with the ability to apply localised or global sharpening.
Viveza: local adjustment of colour and tone.
Perspective Efex: This was introduced with Nik Collection 3, it is geometric correction software with distortion correction, horizon straightening and volumetric distortion correction.

Specification

  • Latest version announced: 15th June 2022
  • Product type: 8 Image-editing softwares, plug-in or standalone
  • Plug-in compatibility: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom Classic, DxO PhotoLab
  • Software suite: Silver Efex Pro, Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Dfine, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, Viveza and Perspective Efex, plus DxO PhotoLabe 5 Essential

What’s new in Nik Collection 5?

For Nik Collection 5, DxO has concentrated on making selective adjustments using the U-Point technology and Control Points in Color Efex and Analog Efex easier and more precise by giving them the same controls as were introduced to Silver Efex Pro 3 and Viveza 3 by Nik Collection 4. In addition, these selective adjustments can be saved with the Presets so that they can be applied to other images. They can also be adjusted to ensure they work for the new image.

The U-Point Technology Control Points allow you to make selective adjustments without getting bogged down in creating a mask. You just click on the area that you want to adjust and the software selects the area for adjustment based on the colour and tone of where you clicked. You can also increase or decrease the size of the area affected by your adjustments.

With the latest incarnation of the Control Points, you can refine the selected area using Chrominance and Luminance sliders.

DxO also introduced ‘Meta-presets’ with Nik Collection 4. These are a set of Photoshop actions that are accessible from within Nik Collection for quick, user-friendly adjustments.

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom workflow

With Nik Collection 4, DxO extended the ‘Last Edit’ function that enables users to re-apply the last Nik Collection preset they used in Adobe Photoshop to Adobe Lightroom Classic.

In addition, the Smart Copy & Paste feature enables the effect of a plugin to be re-applied to one or more images in Adobe Lightroom without having to launch Nik Collection.

Thanks to the availability of the Tiff Multipage file format, it’s also possible to make non-destructive image editing in Adobe Lightroom Classic. To do this, simply put a tick in the ‘Save and edit later’ box in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Then when you click on ‘Save’ the software will combine the input image with the Nik Collection 5 editing parameters and the output image in one file that can be re-edited.

How to use Nik Collection 5 in Photoshop or Lightroom

Once you’ve installed Nik Collection 5, a box is visible when you open an image in Adobe Photoshop. This box, aka the Nik Selective tool, was updated for Nik Collection 3. As well as looking much more modern and giving fast access to each plugin, it enables you to apply your favourite presets and last edits.

Nik Collection 4 review

All you need to do is click on the plug-in you want to use. If you’ve closed the box, you can access the plug-ins via Filter > Nik Collection.

In Lightroom, access the Nik Collection packages via Photo > Edit in. Meanwhile, in DxO PhotoLab, the button to access Nik Collection is in the bottom right corner of the screen, next to ‘Export to Disk’.

Once you’ve opened one of the plugins, the basic editing options are arranged on the left of the screen. You can see the whole list of Filters or Presets, or click on one of the groups (Landscape, Wedding etc) to see a more restricted range. The newer En Vogue presets are located in the Recipes section. You can also see the presets you’ve used in the past by clicking on History. Just click on a preset see its impact applied to a preview of your image.

There may also be sub-options to chose between – also on the left of the screen. The refinement and local adjustment controls are located on the right of the screen with the preview in the middle.

One of the great things about using Nik Collection with Photoshop is that the effects can be applied globally, or you can select the Brush option to paint the effect on your image. If you make a mistake as you paint in the effect, you can click on the Erase option to brush it out and start again.

Alternatively, the Nik Collection plugins can work on Smart Objects in Photoshop, which means they can be revisited.

The effect is also applied as a layer in Photoshop so you can reduce the opacity or add a mask if you wish.

Nik Collection 4 review
The Adoxical Meta-preset in action

Nik Collection Meta-presets

DxO launched the Meta-presets concept with Nik Collection 4 as a set of 10 presets that can be applied directly from within Photoshop. The company said it would monitor their use and may add more or add extra functionality if there’s sufficient demand. There are now 16 Meta-Presets but no changes have been made with Nik Collection5.

To apply a Meta-preset you need to open an image in Photoshop and click on the arrow to the right of the Meta-presets option in the Nik Selective tool. This expands the list of presets available with icons indicating which Nik Collection plugins are used in their creation.

Nik Collection 4 review

DxO has opted for a rather random collection of names for the presets which don’t really help with their selection. Names like ‘Golden Haze’ and ‘Purple Haze’ hint at their effect, but ‘Adoxical’ and ‘Kalopsia’ leave you guessing. Also, in the absence of a preview, there’s nothing for it but to click on an option to see what it does and if it works for your image.

One tip here is to create a duplicate layer to apply the Meta-prest to so that you can adjust its impact quickly via the layer opacity control or turn it off altogether.

Making selective adjustments using Nik Collection

The selective adjustment controls in Nik Collection’s software packages use Nik’s U-Point Technology via the Control Points to adjust targeted areas of the image.

After adding a Control Point by clicking on the tool in the column on the right of the screen when an image is open in a plugin, you need to click on the part of the image that you want to adjust.

In HDR Efex Pro 2 this adds a point with four sliding controls coming off it. If you click on the arrow at the bottom, you’ll reveal another four controls.

Clicking on a slider reveals the full scale and you’re able to adjust the setting as necessary. The top control governs the size of the area affected.

In Silver Efex Pro 3, Viveza 3, Color Efex and Analog Efex, however, the Control Point sliders are now located in the control panel in the column on the right of the screen. This makes the preview much cleaner, and it’s more logical, as all the controls are now in one place.

It’s also possible to target the adjustment using the luminance and chrominance sliders in the Color Selectivity section of the control panel in Silver Efex Pro 3, Viveza 3, Color Efex and Analog Efex. It’s helpful to use the mask to reveal the control point selection as you adjust the sliders and narrow down the selection for adjustment. This turns the image monochrome with the selected area in white.

Nik Collection 4 review

Once you’re happy with the selection, you can adjust aspects such as the brightness, contrast and saturation etc, using the sliding controls in the panel on the right (or attached to the control point).

In HDR Efex Pro 2, aside from changing the size of the adjustment area, the only way to narrow the target area is to add other ‘negative’ control points that limit the impact of the first control point. Basically, you add Control Points with no adjustment to restrict the area that is adjusted by the first point.

Helpfully, you can duplicate control points to apply the same adjustment to different areas of the image.

Also, in Silver Efex Pro 3, Viveza 3, Color Efex and Analog Efex, if you decide to save your adjustments as a preset, you get to include the presets so they are also applied to other images.

If you decide to apply the preset to another image, the Control Point will appear on the preview. If the image has exactly the same framing, the Control Point should be in the correct location, but if not, you can drag it to where it needs to be. It’s also possible to adjust the Control Point settings.

Nik Collection review

Analog Efex Pro 3.0 review

Nik Collection Analog Efex Pro 3 works in a very similar way to Silver Efex Pro and Viveza. The big difference is that rather than applying the look of well-known film emulsions, there are some ‘camera’ effects. The aim is to produce an image that looks like it has been captured with an old camera. You can even add scratches and dust marks if you want.

The starting point is either to apply some of the effects listed under ‘Camera Kit’, such as Lens Distortion, Bokeh, Dirt and Scratches, and Light Leaks, or pick from a series of thumbnails. These are all on the left of the screen and apply an editable preset treatment to your image. Clicking on the arrows to the right of ‘Camera Kits’ and Cameras, reveals the options available.

Try the Effects

There are some great effects available and there’s a good level of control. Bokeh, for example, allows you to position a target over the area that you want to be sharp. You can also specify the size of the graduation between the sharp and blurred areas.

Each effect reveals a different set of controls. Some, like the Basic Adjustments and Dirt & Scratches, for example, allow you to use Control Points to restrict the effect to a particular area. The parameters available under these Control Points varies depending upon the effect and you can refine the treatment area using the Luminance and Chrominance sliders. It’s all very logical.

The fun part is that if you select ‘Camera Kit’ you can apply a series of effects and create a treatment to apply to other images in the future. If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, you can really lose yourself in the creative process.

And of course, just like Silver Efex, you can apply the Analog Efex effects as a layer. This can be painted in if you select the Brush option or applied globally if you hit ‘OK’.

Analog Efex Pro 3.0 verdict

Analog Efex Pro 3.0 doesn’t have the cachet of Silver Efex Pro, but it can produce images that look like they’ve been captured using and old camera. More significantly, it has an excellent range of creative tools that are easy to use. It doesn’t take long to develop a look and if you like it, it can be applied to other images. It means you can develop your own style to apply to images with just a few clicks.

Nik Collection Color Efex Pro review
Adjusted

Color Efex Pro 5 review

Color Efex Pro 5 has the new cleaner look that we’ve also seen in Analog Pro and that was introduced with Silver Efex Pro and Viveza in Nik Collection 4. The Filters and Presets are listed in the column on the left of the screen, clicking on the arrow next to a Filter or Preset name reveals all the options. As usual, there’s a preview of the Preset or Filter effect and you just need to click on one you like the look of to apply it to your image.

The Presets apply a selection of different Filters, but they can be adjusted with additional Filters applied, settings tweaked and some filters removed. Once you’re happy, you can save the treatment as a Preset to apply to other images.

In the control panel on the right of the screen, clicking on the arrow next to the Filter name, for example, ClearView, Tonal Contrast, B/W Conversion or Dark Contrast, reveals the controls. As usual, these are mostly sliding controls with the option to type in specific numbers if you like.

Color Efex Pro 5 verdict

Color Efex Pro 5 works in a very similar way to Silver Efex Pro and is something of a crossover with Viveza as it’s primarily for creating colour images. It’s very easy to use and while there will always be personal preferences, the Filters and Presets deliver good results. I especially like the warming and cooling effect of Blue Monday, but as usual, it’s a case of finding which settings work best for your images. Happily the presets preview renders quickly and you can soon find the one you want to work with.

Nik Collection 5 review

Edited using Color Efex Pro

Nik Collection 4 review

Silver Efex Pro 3 review

Silver Efex Pro 3.0 is the black and white conversion plugin in Nik Collection. As soon as you open it, the image preview switches to monochrome.

On the left of the screen, there’s a column of presets available for selection. These are grouped to help you find the ones you like, but selecting the ‘All’ option lets you browse all the available options.

Beneath the preset previews, there are icons to access custom and imported presets as well as the ones you’ve used previously. That’s helpful because it saves you from having to browse all the options if there’s just one or two that you use most of the time. Just click on the preset that you like the look of to apply it to your image.

Adjusting an image in Silver Efex Pro 2.0

The adjustment tools are arranged in the column to the right of the image preview. These are arranged in groups called Global Adjustments, Selective Adjustments, Colour Filter, Film Types and Finishing Adjustments. Click on the triangle to the left of the group name to expand and collapse the stack to reveal or hide the controls.

Global Adjustments

Under Global Adjustments, you’ll find the brightness and contrast controls. These allow you to adjust the highlights, midtones and shadows separately, as well as the overall brightness.

Colour Filter

The Colour Filters don’t apply a colour to your image, they work like a traditional glass filter in black and white film photography. They adjust the brightness and contrast of the image according to the colours it’s made up from. A filter brightens its own colour but darkens the opposite colour. Selecting the red or orange filter, for example, darkens a blue sky.

You can target specific colours for brightening or darkening by tweaking the hue slider to find the precise colour filter you want to work with.

Film Types

There’s a list of 18 different films to choose from in the drop-down box in Film Types. Just scroll through them to find the one you want and apply it to your image. If you want, then use the Grain, Sensitivity and Levels and Curves controls to get exactly the look you want.

The Sensitivity allows you to adjust the ‘films’ response to individual colours. Sliding the control to the right brightens areas of that colour.

Finishing Adjustments

All the toning, vignetting and edge effect controls are located in the Finishing Adjustments section. You can select from a range of traditional toning effects to apply and then adjust it to your satisfaction. As well as the strength of the toning, you can change the silver hue and tone (strength) as well as the paper hue and tone.

Applying the Adjustment

When used with Photoshop, Silver Efex Pro 3.0 offers two ways to apply the effect you’ve created. The first applies the effect just as you see it. It’s what you get if you hit ‘OK’. Helpfully, the effect is applied as a layer so you can adjust the opacity and paint it in or out if you like.

If you select ‘Brush’ instead of ‘OK’, Silver Efex Pro creates a mask over your image as it returns to the standard Photoshop panel.

The Nik Collection panel shows buttons to allow you to select ‘Paint’, ‘Erase’, ‘Fill’ or ‘Clear’. Simply use the Photoshop Brush controls to paint in or erase the effect on your image.

Tapping ‘Fill’ paints in the whole effect, while ‘Clear’ removes it all. Once you’re happy, just tap ‘Apply’.

Silver Efex Pro 3 verdict

I tend to use the Film Types as the starting point and then adjust the image until it looks as I want it to. I then usually create a Custom Preset so I can apply it to other images. As the effect is applied as a layer, you have an extra level of control.

If I’m working in Adobe Photoshop, I’d rather use Photoshop’s or Adobe Camera Raw’s controls to make local adjustments before opening Silver Efex. However, Nik’s U-Point technology and the Control Points, including the new selection refinement tools, are easy to use.

Nik Collection 4 Review Viveza 3

Viveza 3 review

Viveza 3 works in a very similar way to Silver Efex Pro 3, but it’s designed to work with and output colour images.

All the Presets are arranged in a column on the left of the screen while the controls are on the right with the preview in the middle.

As with Silver Efex Pro 3, the Viveza 3 interface has been refreshed to make it look fresher and more modern. Clear icons at the top of the screen enable you to switch quickly between different views so you can see just the current image or you can compare it with the starting point.

There are also icons to adjust the size/magnification of the preview on the screen.

I was working with large images stored on a hard drive that was bought for its capacity rather than its speed, but the preview responded quickly to any adjustments that I made.

Viveza verdict

While it lacks the high profile of Silver Efex and the excitement of Analogue Pro, Viveza is easy to use and it’s effective.

The newly improved interface looks good while the refined Control Point layout and selection tools make it remarkably easy to adjust specific parts of an image without any obvious halos or overflowing edits.

Nik Collection Review Dfine Review

Define 2.0 review

Dfine is Nik Collection’s noise reduction plugin. Its strength comes in part from the level of control but mostly from the ease with which you can vary the level of noise reduction that’s applied across an image. That’s helpful because areas with lots of detail often only need a light treatment. Meanwhile, areas of uniform tone can take (or demand) a heavier-handed approach.

With the image below, which was shot at ISO 102,400, the bricks need less noise reduction applying than the car and the lighter of the two doors.

Nik Collection Review Dfine Review

Like the other plugins in Nik Collection, you can add Control Points in Dfine to apply different levels of noise reduction to different parts of the image. DxO hasn’t rolled out the Control Point changes it has made for Silver Efex Pro 3 and Vivieza 3 to Dfine, so after selecting the Control Point option (with the Reduce tab selected) and adding a point, you need to use the sliders attached to point on the preview to control the level of contrast and colour noise.

However, I find it faster and easier to apply a blanket treatment and then paint it onto the image.

When the Measure tab is selected, the drop-down box next to Method can be set to Manual or Automatic. The Automatic option can work well. It bases the level of noise reduction that’s required on its assessment of four areas of the image. It usually looks at the highlights, shadows and mid-tones.

The selected areas are highlighted on the image. If you like, you can drag these selection boxes to the areas you consider the most important. If you do this, the Method drop-down option switches to Manual. You can also resize the boxes if necessary.

Once you’re happy, click on ‘Measure’. Dfine will then measure the noise and apply a noise reduction algorithm. This can be tweaked using the sliding controls and Control Points found in the Reduce section.

Move the cursor around the image to see a before and after comparison in the Loupe window.

Once you’ve found the level of noise reduction that you want, you have the option to click OK to apply it, or select Brush to paint it in. I like to use the Brush as it creates a mask and you can quickly switch between painting in the effect or erasing it.

Helpfully, you can also Photoshop’s brush opacity control at the top of the image to apply the effect more subtly.

Nik Collection Review Dfine Review

Dfine 2.0 verdict

There are probably fewer occasions when you’ll use Dfine than some of the other plugins in Nik Collection, but it’s very handy for low-light photography. Although you can take complete control if you want, the automatic setting often works well.

I find the Loupe frustrating because you can’t keep an area selected while you adjust the treatment. You can still build up a picture of the degree of noise reduction that’s required globally, but it’s harder to assess the Control Points.

It would be great to see DxO update Dfine with its DeepPRIME technology that delivers superb results in DxO PhotoLab 4 and DxO PureRAW software, but it might be rather processor-hungry.

Nik Collection Review

Perspective Efex review

Perspective Efex draws on DxO’s Viewpoint 3 software for its engine and controls. It enables correction of barrel and pincushion type distortion, volume deformation resulting from using wide-angle lenses and perspective distortion. It also enables wonky horizons to be straightened, and there’s a Miniature effect to replicate the impact of using a tilt and shift lens.

 

Making distortion corrections often necessitates some cropping and Perspective Efex can do this automatically to avoid blank areas in the image. Alternatively, there’s a cropping tool with user-selectable aspect ratio options.

Distortion Correction

DxO has a database of measurements made from a huge range of camera and lens combinations. These measurements enable the company’s engineers to apply corrections to images to address optical imperfections like barrel and cushion distortion.

Nik Collection 3 Review

In order to make automatic distortion corrections, Perspective Efex needs to have the correct module for the camera and lens combination used to capture an image. The software automatically detects what was used and prompts you to download the module. If there’s no data available, you can use the slider controls to make the adjustments by eye.

Even if you think there’s no distortion, you often see a little correction being made as you hit the ‘Auto’ button.

Volume Deformation

Volume deformation is something you may see at the edges of images shot on wide-angle lenses. It makes people and objects towards the edge of the frame look unusually wide and horizontally stretched while those in the middle look natural.

In most instances, clicking on the Horizontal/Vertical correction button delivers a good result, but there’s also a Diagonal correction option that’s useful. In addition, there are sliding controls to adjust the level of correction to help you get a natural-looking result.

These tools are very useful for anyone who needs to use a wide lens to photograph a group of people. They could be a big help for wedding photographers.

Perspective

The controls in this section enable you to correct some of the issues resulting from not shooting objects from a perpendicular angle. It’s very useful for architectural photography or cityscapes.
Again, there is an ‘Auto’ button that can do all the work for you but if there’s strong perspective distortion the end result is unlikely to be what you want. There are sliding controls to reduce or increase the correction in four different directions.

Perspective Efex makes the corrections by locating lines that it calculates should be vertical or horizontal and making them level. It can do a brilliant job, but there’s also a collection of tools that enable you to target the lines for correction.

These are very easy to use. After clicking on the option you want (the difference is the number of anchor points) a series of lines with anchor points appear on your image. You just need to click on each anchor point, in turn, to drag the lines to where they need to be. Helpfully, the area under the anchor point magnifies when it’s selected, which makes it easier to get the perfect alignment.

By default, Perspective Efex crops the image to exclude any blank areas appearing as a result of the correction, but you can turn off the auto-crop option to see what’s happening and identify the best final aspect ratio for the image.

It’s impressive what the Perspective Efex Perspective tools can achieve.

 

Horizon

Again, Perspective Efex can correct a wonky horizon automatically and you can adjust the result using a sliding control. It’s also possible to position anchor points along a vertical or horizontal line to make it straight.

Crop

By default Perspective Efex crops images to the original aspect ratio to exclude any blank areas that appear as a result of the corrections. However, this can be deactivated and Crop tool can be used as a regular crop tool complete with a selection of selectable aspect ratios. You can also set a custom aspect ratio to use if you like.

Miniature effect

Whereas the other tools in Perspective Efex correct problems, the tools in this section enable you to replicate the appearance of shooting with a tilt and shift lens to make the scene look miniaturised by applying blur to the foreground and background.

Nik Collection Review

As usual, this enables you to position lines that define the boundary of the sharp and blurred areas. There’s also control over the degree of blur and the shape of the blur. What is unusual, however, is that the boundary lines don’t have to be parallel. By unticking the ‘Symmetrical position’ box you gain the ability to rotate them independently.

It’s a fun tool to play around with but I’ve never really found a need or real-world use for them.

Perspective Efex verdict

Perspective Efex is a useful inclusion for simplifying the correction of common problems like converging verticals, volume deformation when using wide-angle lenses and wonky horizons. The automatic corrections make life easy, but the controls are there if you need to tweak them.

Nik Collection 5 verdict

While there will always be some software that you use more often than others, with 8 plugins and DxO PhotoLab 5 in the bundle, Nik Collection 5 offers exceptional value for money. It’s also capable of producing excellent results that are really only limited by your imagination. It’s very easy to use. But more than that, it’s fun to use it. The trickiest part is deciding which of the plugins to apply. With that in mind, I’d like to see some streamlining of the software. For example, the functions of Color Efex Pro could be divided between Viveza and Silver Efex Pro so that there’s one destination for working on colour images and another for monochrome images. There’s an argument for integrating Analog Pro in a similar way.

Nik Collection integrates very well into Photoshop and Lightroom Classic. The U-point technology is useful for making selective/local adjustments and it’s great that the ability to control their application with the Chrominance and Luminance sliders now includes Color Efex and Analog Efex as well as Silver Efex Pro 3 and Viveza 3.

guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments