Nik Software Complete Collection In Review

Product Review: Nik Software Complete Collection

There has been a major renaissance in photography since the dawn of the digital age, and the digital darkroom has never been better, with programmes like Photoshop CS4. However, for the professional, many hours need to be spent to master the programs. Yet, the use of plug-in filters has considerably lessened the steep learning curve to more manageable proportions. Nik Software, based in San Diego, California, has been at the cutting edge of this revolution since 1995, and produced some of my personal favourites, and the Complete Collection on offer seems to be a good value when you consider the cost of buying each one. For the keen amateur, or professional, the reduction to workflow would represent good value.

The Complete Collection includes all of Nik Software's award-winning plug-in software titles for Apple Aperture, Lightroom 2 and Adobe Photoshop, including Dfine 2.0, Viveza 2, Color Efex Pro 3.0, Silver Efex Pro and Sharpener Pro 3.0. In either Mac or PC format, the typical price from sources in the UK is around £500, with a considerable discount for Students and academic use. Several discounts seem to be available if you shop around. The use of this software seems to represent far better value when used as a plug-in for Adobe Lightroom 2 or Apple Aperture and the $ to £ price in the UK seems expensive. There also seems to be far less of a presence in the UK, compared to Continental Europe, which may make finding the product locally more difficult.

Each of these programmes allow for powerful and precise adjustments, or corrections. These smart filters do away with the time consuming work, as all of these products include Nik Software's patented U-Point technology, which gives you the very powerful tools for precise and natural photographic enhancements and corrections, without the need for complicated selections or layer masks.

However, a few of these programmes were unable to be used with my 64-bit OS at the time of writing this review, which is a bugbear for me as I have to run two installations, as many of my 32-bit filters refuse to work in a more powerful 64-bit OS on my PC. Users will need to check for possible upgrades as this is being considered. As will Mac Users.

Ok, so what's in the box? Here is a list of the tools with a little of what each does. Or, you can follow the link to the Nik website for some examples here

Dfine 2.0

Here at last is a fine noise reduction software to improve the quality of virtually every photo, with precise control over exactly how much and where noise reduction is applied. This feature is unique, as far as I am aware, and thus compares very well against my standard, which has been Noiseware professional. The secret in this sort of software seems to me to be down to how little the effects of filtration has in the retention of detail and the not too over smooth looking images at the end of the process.

Most modern digital cameras have very low noise, and this has improved more so in the latest models, even at High ISO levels, making it quite a challenge to make something work as well as this. But, the control in being able to pick an exact area to work on is a real bonus point.

Viveza 2

This creative tool is used to selectively control colour and light in photographic images, and really makes best use of the simple method without the need to resort to the power of layer masks, etc. I mentioned previously in the introduction. And, needless to say, colour and light are the key to any great photograph. The tool works well, and again the U-point control method is very effective, and does not take too long to learn to make the best use of it. For example, you can easily correct colour casts in an image with no more than a couple of clicks to a specific or whole image.

It would be fair to suggest that often the masks created in Lightroom 2 or in Adobe Photoshop can be both faster and more effective in some instances and it makes sense to try them first. I found that if they don’t work well, or you need control of a complex scene, you can turn to Viveza 2 with confidence. You can tell these products have been created by photographers who happen to make software! Check out this cool video here:

http://www.niksoftware.com/viveza/en/entry.php?view=intro

Color Efex Pro 3.0

The real standout product in this line-up and offers a comprehensive set of filters for colour correction, retouching and creative enhancements in 52 traditional and stylising photographic filters, with more than 250 effects. Similar products abound for some of the effects like the HDR type tonal contrast, which, in my opinion, is better then Topaz Adjust or LucisArt. Some may not agree, but both add an extra dimension when you work with Photomatix or HDR software, which often needs to be tidied up, or they produce unnatural looking skies. There are too many effects to go into any great detail, but this package of effects is almost worth the cover price alone! Some of the effects I may never use, as they don’t suit my own preferences of style, but rest assured, there is enough here to meet the needs of the most demanding user.

Silver Efex Pro

The very advanced, powerful and complete sharpening solution for photographers who love black and white, it eliminates the guesswork typically required for achieving optimal sharpening results. And the tonal contrast, etc. are in my view a lot better than the standard Photoshop options here. It certainly restored my interest in doing more of this type of work. And any wedding photographer will want to own this product.

Sharpener Pro 3.0

Once again, what has been said about Viveza 2 can be applied here on the value of the U-point technology built in. As the company suggests, the new adaptive sharpening algorithms and the selective sharpening ensure desired sharpness or creative softening of details are easily accomplished, and certainly when used properly, can draw the eye into the focal point of the image.

The Sharpening Soft Proof that lets you accurately inspect results before printing, saving money in costly test prints, improved handling of new output devices, and new output presets provide repeatable, professional results. Sharpener Pro 3.0 is the only tool that provides controls for both output and creative detail sharpening of different objects quickly and easily, without the need to make different adjustment layers for each object or area. And, best of all, the end results are impressive, as very often only part of the image may only need a boost to make the image jump out at you.

Please do bear in mind that when working with RAW Pre sharpener, turn off any sharpening in the RAW processor. To achieve optimal results with the Output Sharpener, resizing should be done prior to performing final output sharpening, as the size of the image will impact the amount of sharpening applied to the image. I have also found on my Canon 1D Mk111 and 5D, perhaps less important due to the larger sensor, it is best to have the camera set to Faithful, than any of the other modes like landscape, etc., which are best worked on without any sharpening prior to use in the software.

Conclusion

Pros:

  • Intuitive and easy to learn to use with a host of great video tutorials available
  • Workflow enhancement
  • Ability for noise reduction in specific parts of an image
  • Can save money in expensive test prints due to reliable and professional results

Cons:

  • Lack of 64bit OS support
  • Expensive if the need for improved workflow is not an important factor
System Requirements

Windows

  • 32-bit version of Windows XP with Service Pack 3 and Windows Vista
    (64-bit operating systems with 32-bit host application)
  • Pentium III 1GHz or better
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 2.3
 

Macintosh

  • Mac OS 10.4 and and 10.5 or later
  • G4, G5, Intel® Core™ Solo, Intel Core Duo, Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel Xeon®
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Apple Aperture 2.1 or later
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.3

Price: $299.95 (USD)

Download a demo of any Nik Software product here.

For more information, please visit the Web Site.


Member of Renderosity since August 2002 and former Moderator of the Photography Forum and Gallery. I have had a few nominations for AOM in both photography and mixed medium. Aged 59, Born in Cornwall and have a special interest in Wildlife photography. I have travelled widely while serving in the Royal Air Force as a medic, and later working as a mental health professional in the UK health service prior to retiring in 2005. Visit my website: http://www.digitalartzone.co.uk

November 15, 2010

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