It was about a year ago I reviewed the NIK Collection 2, a rebirth of popular Adobe plugins that laid fallow while its new owner, Google, tried to figure out what to do with them until DXO bought the software in 2017 and continually upgraded the collection. They have now added a feature that is really going to excite photographers.
The NIK Collection version 3, available today, works as a standalone set of applications or as a plugin suite for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and DXO's own PhotoLab editor. The new collection features a newly designed Nik Selective Tool, the suite's plugin launcher for Adobe Photoshop, and new quick edit tools. It also offers a new non-destructive workflow, a unique feature that is perfect for Adobe Lightroom Classic users, as well as an eighth geometric correction plugin, Perspective Efex. For many photographers, this feature alone is worth the upgrade or new purchase price of the Nik Collection 3.
In my review of the collection last year, I went over each of the tools offered. In brief, it offers HDR creation or HDR effects in a single image. There's a noise reduction tool, a black and white image creation tool, a set of 55 filters to change the look and tone of your images, as well as filters that mimic classic film types.
The Nik suite has always had excellent tools for selective editing, and that has now been greatly enhanced. The Nik Selective Tool now includes lightning-fast retouching options. Its new “Last Edit” feature recreates the last preset applied in a single click so users can quickly edit their images with the plugins of their choice. This feature is useful for editing batches of images or when users want to create a preset after editing a photo. Its brand-new “Quick Edit” option lets users edit their images by applying the last action used without having to launch the plugin interface — all in a single click. Lastly, Silver Efex Pro and HDR Efex Pro now offer direct access to favorite presets in addition to Color Efex Pro.
To better meet the needs of Adobe Lightroom Classic users, the Nik Collection 3 now offers a new workflow that lets photographers freely edit their files within the same plugin. This technology is based on the use of the TIFF multipage file format, which combines the input image, the saved Nik Collection 3 editing parameters, and the output file all in the same file. The Nik Collection 3 is the first suite of creative photo plugins to introduce a non-destructive workflow to Adobe Lightroom Classic, which should make Lightroom Classic users cheer.
The newest and really exciting feature of the NIK Collection 3 is a plugin called Perspective Efex. This plugin automatically corrects leading lines, no matter how complex, which will be a boon to urban photographers. It is also the only plugin to offer a feature that automatically corrects shape distortion, providing an easy way to reestablish the natural shapes of subjects located on the edges of wide-angle photos. It is the perfect tool for group wedding photos and family photos! Using DxO’s powerful optical modules, Perspective Efex can even automatically correct fish-eye distortion. Lastly, its automatic horizon correction tool instantly levels out skewed horizon lines in architectural and landscape photos.
I gave the Perspective plugin a try, and it handled some difficult jobs quite easily with a single click. Some complicated work with the Perspective Tool required some hands-on adjustments, but they are all provided if you need to go further than the automatic functions provide.
Here's a photo I took at a western-themed restaurant and shop venue. On the left is the original image. Although it's subtle, you can see how buildings and even people were straightened out. That would have been time-consuming by hand.
Here's a window. Again, some barrel distortion was removed, and the left and right edges of the windows now look straight.
The software wants to work on raw files, and when you first start to work, the plugin will scan the metadata of your image and go out to the internet to get the data for your camera sensor and lens combination.
Once it has that, you won't have to download it again. With no internet connection or if you are working on a file that has lost its metadata, you can still work with the perspective plugin, but there won't be automatic functions.
This is a ghost town shot, and it did straighten the building, but it left me with some severe cropping, not to my liking. I meant for the image to be tilted, but wanted to see what Perspective Efex could do. It did a good job, but if I had shot this image wider, I would have had a better result in post.
For landscape photographers, the plugin can also remove lens distortions and aberrations, and it nicely straightens the horizon. Here's an image from Canyon de Chelly with a wide-angle lens. My horizons always are messy here, but Perspective Efex leveled the horizon without warping any of the scenery. For this image, I started with the raw file in Lightroom Classic, fixed the geometry with perspective Efex, and finished the image in Luminar 4. The original file is on the left.
I've spent the most time in this review on the Perspective Efex tool because it's new, it's unique, and it's very powerful, speeding a photographers' workflow. It works well on photos of multiple people, like wedding images, and of course, purely architectural images.
I also enjoyed using the Color Efex tool, and there are the usual basic tools provided for highlights, shadows, color toning, etc. The noise reduction tool is pretty good, but I think it has been eclipsed by the Topaz DeNoise AI tool for my uses.
Still, for people that don't own the Nik collection, this new version 3 is powerful and compelling. For those that have version 2, I think an upgrade is very worthwhile.
The Nik Collection 3 by DxO (Windows and macOS) is now available for download on the DxO website for a special launch price of $99.99 instead of $149, and $59.99 instead of $79 for the upgrade until June 30, 2020.
There's also a completely functional trial version so you can try the software on your own. Be sure to explore all the other plugins that offer some very worthwhile effects and fixes. It is highly recommended.