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Nik Collection 3 Review: For the Film Lovers

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Are you planning on buying the new version 3 of Nik Collection? Want to know if it is worth it or not, will it fit your workflow? Why should you go for this version and not continue using the free version earlier released by Google, and so on? Google made the Nik Collection free before DXO bought it and re-released it. Read on to find out more about this in our Nik Collection 3 Review.

Nik Collection Review - Silver Efex Pro
Silver Efex is one of the finest plugins from Nik Collection 3

What is Nik Collection

Nik Collection is primarily a suite of plugins for Adobe’s Photoshop, Lightroom, and Bridge, Phase One’s Capture One, and now also for Affinity Photo.

What’s New in Nik Collection 3?

Perspective FX

A new plug-in by the name Perspective Efex is the newest member of Nik Collection. Perspective fixing is a common feature these days in most post-processing software. Most of the software simply reads out the EXIF data and corrects distortion based on the lens data. The same option is available in Perspective FX in Nik Collection 3 on the top. You have to choose between auto and manual. When you click auto, it fixes automatically or asks for the original file (in case you are using JPEG or a copy). In our example image, we are using JPEG. So, it shows a ‘no data’ warning.

Perspective Efex – Working with vertical correction tool in use

Let’s work on the manual mode here. Again, when we go to the Perspective tab, there is an Auto option available. There is a warning below that mentions ‘EXIF data present in this image did not allow for a fully automated correction. Please use the ‘Ratio’ sliders to more accurately recover the proportions of the image.’ When we hit Auto, we can see magic with straight lines and the image seemingly having transformed. We also have the option to select only one of the three: ‘Verticals & Horizontals’, ‘Verticals only’, and ‘Horizontals only’. To see the full impact, we turn the ‘Crop’ tab off’ and see what has happened to the image.

There are other options like ‘Force Verticals Only’, ‘Force Horizontals Only’, ‘Rectangle’, and ‘8 Points’. Perspective can fix perspective errors from any position using these few tools available in the plugin. If you struggle with distortion issues in your images, Perspective Efex gives you enough control to fix almost anything. However, the hardest part for most photographers is to actually find out, that an image has perspective issues that need fixing.

Other Features of Perspective Efex

There is another additional feature – volume deformation corrections. In group photos, the people at the edges can have lens distortions making their bodies appear deformed, especially when clicked with a wide-angle lens. To fix this, the volume deformation feature exists, which works well.

Among the simple and magical parts of Perspective Efex is the ‘Miniature Effect’. With a few preset actions, and gradual gradient blurs, you can put the focus of the shot properly. It is one of the simplest ways to create a shallow depth of field in any of the pictures that you can create.

Non-Destructive Editing Capability

Nik Collection 3 has added a non-destructive editing capability to the mix. Now you can save files and edit them again later. However, you can only edit the image in the same plugin only. So, a tiff from Color Efex Pro can only be edited in Color Efex Pro and not in any other plugin. Once you edit it (flattened one), you will lose access to the ability to edit it again in the previous plugin. It only works with the latest plugin you have accessed.

The Earlier Features Still Part of the Collection

Nik Collection 3 includes all of the previous suites, including Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Dfine, HDR Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, and Viveza. These plug-ins have been available for a long time, and belong to an earlier era. Are they still relevant? Let’s find out one by one in our Nik Collection 3 review.

Analog Efex Pro

Analog Efex Pro is a major constituent of Nik Collection 3, and one of the reasons it is popular. The plugin acts as a bridge between Film and Digital by providing effects to turn your digitally shot image appear as if it’s shot on film. It comes with 9 presets, and one Google inspired ‘I’m feeling lucky’. The plug-in works in four parts –

  1. Basic Adjustments: where you can select the basic adjustments, namely, brightness, details extraction (sharpness), contrast, and saturation. You can also make the changes on particular control points if you want instead of the whole image.
  2. Dirt and Scratches: where you can add film like dust and scratches to the frame and adjust their strength. The control point option remains throughout the different settings.
  3. Lens Vignette: where you can add film like vignette to the frame.
  4. Film Type: where you can directly emulate the effects of the type of film used.
Working in Analog Efex Pro

You can create your own templates too very easily. Simply change the settings as per your requirement and click the + icon near Custom.

Color Efex Pro

Nik Collection review - using color efex pro
The Results of Color Efex Pro

The plugin Color Efex Pro is a set of filters that emulate different effects like Film Efex Faded, Fog, B/W Conversion, etc. In Color Efex, all the filters can be added sequentially, and adjusted separately. There is also an option of ‘recipe’, which is simply a sequence of filters. Color Efex provides 20 recipes as templates. For example, a template recipe ‘Clarity Bump’ has the following sequence of filters: Tonal Contrast, Brilliance/Warmth, and Pro Contrast. You can also save your own recipes or check out Photography-RAW’s Nik Collection Presets. Once you have applied the filters in the sequence you would like to use, you can go to the ‘Save Recipe’ option below the filter stack on the right side of the Color Efex Pro window.

Working in Color Efex Pro

Silver Efex Pro

A plugin that was built to cater to black and white photography enthusiasts of the digital color photography age. It is no secret that in digital, black and white photography can’t be carried out without proper post-processing. Silver Efex Pro has been one of the torchbearers in professional black and white photo processing. Like other plugins, Silver Efex Pro also works on some of the presets. There are, in all, 48 pre-installed presets. You can also create your own presets or edit the images on the fly. The adjustments available in Silver Efex Pro are in the following order:

  1. Global Adjustments: Brightness, Contrast, and Structure along with Tonality Protection settings for Shadows and Highlights separately.
  2. Selective Adjustments: Same as above, except that the settings are for the Control Points only.
  3. Color Filter: Selecting a Color Filter by clicking a color or adjusting Hue and Strength.
  4. Film Type: Selecting the Film Type that can automatically fill the settings available for Grain, Sensitivity, and Levels and Curves.
  5. Finishing Adjustments: Toning, Vignette, Burn Edges, and Image Borders.
Working with Silver Efex Pro

You can switch off any of the setting altogether. Silver Efex Pro still beats editing black and white photos in Lightroom, in my opinion.

HDR Efex Pro

HDR or High Dynamic Range have turned into a phenomenon with the rise of digital photography and digital darkrooms. The ability to create was enhanced beyond perception. HDR Efex Pro normalized the HDR workflow, making it easier and more comfortable to create beautiful HDRs. Tune in to 2020, and even Lightroom offers almost the same features without moving out of the app. So, is it still relevant? Let’s find out.

HDF Efex Pro has two options – Tone Mapping (Single Image) and Merge (Multiple Exposures). As can be understood, Tone Mapping helps in creating HDR from a single image while Merge helps in merging images to create HDR. Again, the method is to work via presets, which are available in plenty. Overall, HDR Efex Pro does a great job. The HDRs, though, aren’t quite as popular due to over-saturation (pun not intended). If you love your HDRs, you can keep HDR Efex Pro from Nik Collection 3 for great results.

Working with HDR Efex Pro

The Nik Collection 3 review finds that the next three plugins are part of a standard set of older editions but aren’t relevant in today’s times.

Viveza

Viveza is a plugin aimed at working with colors in digital photography. You can make pin-point color changes in the image, and also work on global adjustments. It might be one of the popular tools early in the day. However, with photographers having controls in their RAW Editors like Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, it is kind of an addition that doesn’t really serve a purpose. Even more so because the control point adjustments can be managed by radial blur, and brush adjustments can be done via brushes in Lightroom and Photoshop, and there isn’t any preset available. So, an ideal solution for fixing color and tones, currently, there’s not as much a role for Viveza as earlier.

Nik Collection Review: Viveza
Viveza and the Nik Collection Control Points

Dfine

Dfine is a Noise Reduction tool. Noise Reduction has become so much more defined and accurate and has taken the guesswork out of the equation. All software has in-built noise reduction tools that work wonderfully. Dfine does the same, albeit with the only (and huge) advantage being that its automatic noise reduction works like magic. However, we prefer to do noise reduction at an earlier stage and raw support for Nik Collection comes at a high cost (in terms of data). So unless there’s more to do than just noise reduction, you are likely to not go for Dfine.

Sharpener Pro

Sharpener Pro is a sharpening plugin from the Nik Collection 3 Suite. It offers two-way sharpening with RAW Pre-Sharpener and Output Sharpener. RAW Pre-Sharpener helps in extracting details out of the RAW images while Output Sharpener helps prepare images for their final destination. On the face of it, RAW Pre-Sharpener appears to be useful. However, we know that Nik Collection doesn’t work directly on the RAW files but on the manufactured RAW files. Therefore, choosing the sharpening tools from the software itself is a better way.

Output Sharpener, on the other hand, can help in preparing photos for different platforms. Even in modern times, it is one of the useful tools that can help you attain the perfect sharpening based on the output required – once you have managed to make presets as per the medium. It is especially useful in print. You can, however, make almost the same adjustments in other software too, including saving presets.

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Nik Collection 3 Review Overall Rating: 4.0 (out of 5)

Key Features in Nik Collection 3

  • Perspective Efex
  • Analog Efex Pro
  • Color Efex Pro
  • Silver Efex Pro
  • HDR Efex Pro (for HDR lovers)
  • Control Points for local adjustments
Silver Efex Pro is loved by all

What Does Nik Collection 3 Cost?

Nik Collection 3 sets you back at a one-time cost of $149. Often, the company runs discount coupons on their own website, like a 15% off running currently, at the time of writing. This can be purely about timing your purchase, and can’t be guaranteed. However, $149 is the fixed cost.

What is Included?

A license of Nik Collection 3 includes all the plug-ins and templates that come across the package. You are free to install it on over 3 devices at the same time. The purchase includes a lifetime minor upgrade and support package. The version upgrades are not included. However, if you are already a Nik Collection user, you will receive a discount on your purchase, so it won’t be as costly as a new license.

If you have the older Google version, it is definitely time to move on to the new Nik Collection 3. The older version has issues with opening certain raw files, if they use certain color profiles.

Downloading and Setting Up Nik Collection 3

You can download the software directly from the website. You can either use a trial version or buy the full version. The trial version is a full version available for 32 days. You need to download the software, and then follow the instructions to install the plugin collection. Thereafter, all you need is to select the software for which you need plugins to be installed. For example, you could require it only for Photoshop, or for Capture One, or for Lightroom, or a combination of these. You can even add an option to add software not shown on the list. However, you can only select compatible software.

If you are having issues with getting Nik Collection to recognize or the other way around, check out this article about setting up Nik Collection with Affinity Photo.

Photo Editing Workflow in Nik Collection 3 – with Lightroom/Bridge and Photoshop

In Lightroom and Bridge, when you right-click on an image and click Edit In, you get options for the plugins of Nik Collection 3. The Nik Collection 3 Review finds Lightroom workflow to be more natural where layer-based work isn’t required. In Photoshop, it comes as a floating toolbar that you can turn on and off. You can also minimize it so that it doesn’t affect your work.

Tutorials and Support for Nik Collection 3

DXO has provided tutorials on their help page for Nik Collection. The video covers in detail all the aspects of Nik Collection, including the 7 plugins. Additionally, there are several websites and YouTube channels that have consistent support for Nik Collection. It has been available for many years now and is a go-to pack for the lovers of the film – who want to create that film look or emulate the times of the film. Here’s the DxO Academy to learn more about Nik Collection 3: https://www.dxo.com/dxo-academy/.

Performance

To talk about its performance, Nik Collection 3 doesn’t really affect the performance of any software. You can run Nik Collection 3 in Adobe Photoshop easily if your Photoshop is originally working smoothly. The suite is light and works as an add-on plug-in only, instead of being a whole software.

Color Efex Pro: Truly Magical

Nik Collection 3 Review – The Bottom Line

Nik Collection 3 review showcases that it stays relevant despite being old, mostly because of the great results from its top three plugins – Analog Efex, Color Efex, and Silver Efex. The addition of Perspective Efex makes it slightly more useful, and a re-editing capability added to this version can help you go forward a few miles ahead of previous versions. All in all, if you love film, you have no way to run away from Nik Collection 3.

4 thoughts on “Nik Collection 3 Review: For the Film Lovers”

  1. Peter, it looks like a line of text got lost in your NIK Collection 3 Review article in this paragraph:

    There are other options like ‘Force Verticals Only’, ‘Force Horizontals Only’, ‘Rectangle’, and ‘8 Points’. Perspective can fix perspective errors from any position using these few tools available in the plugin. If you struggle with distortion issues in your images, Perspective Efex gives you enough control to fix almost anything. However, the hardest part for most photographers is to actually find out, that

    Other Features of Perspective Efex

    Reply
  2. Hi Peter,
    thank you for your interesting and thorough review. I wonder why you didn’t comment on the issues Nik 3.0 has with Affinity Photo and how one cannot use it’s full potential any more. Be great if you could add your thoughts on Nik 3.0 for Affinity Photo users. Also much hope that this (Affinity and Nik 3.0) is an aspect you might cover in your advanced Affinity course that is coming.
    I personal use Affinity and Nik2.0 a lot.

    look forward to your comments

    Reply
  3. Thank you, Peter, for this clear overview of the latest release. If you show examples of portraits so that portrait photographers could get some benefit. Just my opinion!

    Reply

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