I’m not a big fan of digital filters / plugins. That may be a strange way to start a review of a filter collection like the new Nik Collection 5, but let me explain. My experience with filters is mostly people posting images I shot for them on Instagram and putting some god-awful filter over it. That always feels a bit like a kick in the teeth. Having spent time to create a good looking photo, making sure it is sharp, good colours and doing some editing afterwards I don’t like it when that is all thrown away by some terrible filter.
But luckily there are alternatives in the form of the Nik Collection 5. This plugin collection is now owned by DXO and they have just released their last version 5. The Nik Collection 5 can be bought at the DXO website for 149 euro. Good to know you can also download a free trial version to see if it works for you.
For this review I’ve tested the Nik Collection on my M1 Mac Mini (16GB) running MacOS 12.5.1 and Adobe Lightroom Classic version 11.5. Most images shot with my Sony A7RIII.
You can buy the new Nik Collection 5 here in the DXO online store.
Interested in Nik Collection 5? Click this link to visit the official DXO shop. They have great deals on Nik Collection and other DXO software.
The Nik Collection
Calling the Nik Collection 5 a digital filter would be unfair by the way. The new version 5 of the plugin collection is a lot more than just a set of filters. The Nik Collection 5 consists of the following ‘apps’ or plugins:
- Nik Color Efex
- Nik Silver Efex
- Nik Viveza
- Nik Analog Efex
- Nik HDR Efex
- Nik Sharpner
- Nik Perspective Efex
- Nik Dfine
The different plugin can be used as stand-alone apps or as Lightroom or Photoshop Plugin. Below I’ll try to explain what each app does and give you some examples of the improvements.
Nik Silver Efex
Silver Efex is the real star of the Nik Collection. And if you ask me just Silver Efex is worth the 149 euro DXO asks for the whole collection. Silver Efex is the most comprehensive and in my opinion best black and white conversion tool I’ve ever used. I love the 64 presets it offers, and the I love the filter that is called ‘verfijnd proces’ in Dutch (I think it would be ‘refined process’ in the English version?).
In Silver Efex you also have a whole lot of control over the look you give the image with all the adjustment options. This means that you aren’t limited by the presets at all. And I love the option to choose a preset, adjust it to my liking and saving my preferences so I can re-use it in all my images. And in Silver Efex you also have a lot of film simulation modes.
Silver Efex is easily my most used tool. I’ve used the old version for years and the Nik Collection 5 version is even better. It offers more presets and simpler to use controls. And it performs better than the old version, with a more usable preview. In the old Silver Efex the preview was a little unsharp and made it harder to asses the result. In the old Silver Efex I had to save the image and go back to Lightroom to see how it turned out. I’m happy to report in the new version the previews are way better and give you a very good idea of the end result. Especially when editing more images at once this is a big advantage.
Nik Color Efex
As the name says, Color Efex gives you a whole lot of control over the color output of your images. Of course you can do a lot of these adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop, but the level of control and mainly accessibility of the controls is a lot better in Color Efex. One of the best features are the big number of preset filters (no less than 55!). These give you a great starting point to further adjust your image to your liking.
I especially like the option to choose from different classic film modes. For some images it is great to get the look and feel of a classic roll of film and with the Color Efex you can choose on of those as your starting point. This can be a fun way to spice up your images and give them a little more attitude.
Viveza is a tool I haven’t used a lot but that offers is big range of control over color, tones, lights and shadows with very precise tools. It may cost a bit more time to find your way of working, but the results are impressive. There are several presets that can be used as a starting point. I quite liked the tool that allows you to brighten eyes in an image. Simple to use and when used with a bit of sense it can really uplift a portrait. This uses the U-point technique to work more precise.
Nik Analog Efex
Analog Efex is the most fun tool in the collection. It offers you a lot of presets that will let your image look like it was made 100 years ago, or 50 years ago, or 30 years ago. Whatever you like. The filters can change color, add film-imperfections, double exposures, color leaks or other imperfections that make the image look old. I don’t think this is a tool I’d use a lot for more serious images, but for having fun it is great.
Nik HDR Efex
In the past I’ve use several tools to create HDR images. But since the inclusion of the quite good HDR tools in Lightroom I’ve only used that. Lightroom does a great job of stitching your images together and blending them, but I find the adjustment after that quite complicated. Most of the time I just settle for the image Lightroom creates, and leave it at that. Nik HDR Efex is better in that regard as it feels more fluent and logical to me. I loved the two stage process as it gave me just a little more control over the result. As far as stitching and blending goes it is every bit as good as Lightroom is.
As the name says the Nik Sharpener is made to sharpen images. But instead of the all-over sharpening you can do in Lightroom for instance you can also easily sharpen parts of an image. That is great for portraits or images with shallow depth of field. You don’t want to sharpen your our of focus parts but just the parts that matter. You can choose the output you are sharpening for. For instance you can choose to sharpen for display or for printing without any tinkering needed.
Nik Perspective Efex
Perspective Efex can do a lot of what you can achieve with a shift lens. I love a shift lens for architecture as it can correct those converging lines that make your subjects look like they are falling over. But I don’t take a shift lens with me all the time, as they are a bit cumbersome and heavy. So having the option to correct the perspective in post processing is great to touch up a good image and make it look great.
Perspective Efex can also be used to decompress images taken with a wide angle lens. That is great for group shots where the people on the edges can look wider than they are. They will love this tool!
The other nice trick of perspective efex is the advanced bokeh processing. You can create the effect of a tilt lens and create miniature landscapes. This can also be great for product photography (when used with moderation).
Nik Dfine is an advanced tool to remove noise in your images. It also uses the DXO U point technology to make sure you just address the important areas.
Using the Nik Collection tools
I love the option to use the Nik tools as a stand-alone tool or use them as a plugin for Lightroom. I’ve only used the plugin option as that is most convenient. Just open your images in Lightroom and choose the ‘Edit in…’ option and select the desired tool. A copy of the image is created and can be edited in the Nik tool. After saving the files in the Nik tool you can continue editing in Lightroom to finetune your result. Easy as that!
And installing them is easy, in the installation process the tools embed themselves in Lightroom. So you don’t have to worry about that in any way.
Performance of the Nik Collection tools is great on my M1 Mac. There isn’t any official support for Apple M1 processors, so the tools run in the Apple Rosetta emulation. That doesn’t seem to impact performance or usability in any way. The tools are fast and responsive and don’t feel slower than Lightroom (in M1 mode) for instance. On a Windows PC the performance was comparable and good as well.
The conclusion for me is simple. Just Silver Efex is worth the price of the whole suite easily. I’m a big fan of the Silver Efex effects (pun intended), and while it may be possible to create a similar result in Lightroom that is just a lot more work. Silver Efex makes creating stunning black-and-white images easy while still giving you all the control you need. And I love the option the further edit the images in Lightroom after applying the first effect in Silver Efex.
In the gallery below some images edited using some of the Nik Collection 5 tools.
That being said there are a lot more tools in the Nik Collection 5 set. Color Efex and Viveza offer great control over colours, with or without using presets to make editing quicker and easier. Analog Efex is a fun tool, but is a little more gimmicky. I won’t be using that a lot but it can be great fun.
From the other tools I’m most impressed by Perspective Efex. The way it gives you the option to correct the perspective and gives you a lot of extra control is great. I loved the simple but effective automatic option, but using the parallel option where you can draw control lines in the images made it even better.
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