It's hard to believe but the Nik Collection is 25 years old, going back to a commercial product that was very popular long ago. It was snagged by Google, then, as often happens, Google sold it to DXO, who has made a great many enhancements with each release.
What's in Nik Collection 5?
The Nik Collection 5 is a solid update. The software can run standalone as individual tools, but is usually used as a Photoshop or Lightroom plug-in. Running that way, the collection presents itself as a single window where you can select any of the eight included tools.
Taken together, the collection offers 300 presets, each of which can be adjusted to taste, and your new creations can be saved. The tools also offer U-Point technology, seen in some other DXO software, that gives you the ability to make smart selections of parts of an image.
The collection includes the presets regular users are accustomed to, including black and white presets (Silver Efex Pro), HDR effects, color toning, and Color EFX Pro, along with Analog Efex. Also reappearing are Nik Sharpener and Nik DFine for noise reduction.
This new version features a tool to reduce haze, and there are 29 accurately reproduced color film grains. The user interfaces of Nik Color Efex and Nik Analog Efex have been rebuilt from the ground up, bringing them into line with the recent updated Nik Silver Efex and Nik Viveza. Nik Color Efex is a powerful means of enhancing and manipulating color, while Nik Analog Efex can recreate vintage photographic effects. Thanks to the newly refined and functional user experience in both of these plug-ins, presets are now more accessible, with improved options for saving and editing favorite settings.
Nik Perspective Efex is also improved. It includes more than 20 new cameras and 60 lenses added to its database of supported equipment. The plug-in can now automatically correct the geometric distortions of more than 70,000 camera and lens combinations.
Using Nik Collection 5
At first glance, the Nik Collection seems unchanged, but when you launch the tools, you see improvements to the GUI. The haze reduction and U-Point feature are now global, and I consider the U-Point masking feature something I use all the time. It's intuitive and is a quick and accurate masking tool.
The Nik Perspective tool is without equal in my view. Give it an image with some buildings or other perspective issues, and the tool can overcome lens distortion with a click. It can also straighten a horizon and with less effort than it takes in Photoshop.
The Clear View technology, inherited from DXO Photolab, is very useful to have available from within the Nik Collection, and to my eye, it does a nicer job than haze reduction tools in other software packages, including Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw.
Think of the Nik Collection as hundreds of modifiable presets that can give you interesting ideas to build on with landscapes, cityscapes, or portraits. It can often get your creative juices flowing and improve your images.
There's little to dislike here. If you're familiar with the Nik Collection, you'll find much to like in the update. If you're not, you'll likely embrace the clever U-Point masking feature and the presets, which I consider a good and quick starting point for image editing.
While the package does not run natively on new Mac silicon, but DXO says it is well-behaved on the new processor. The company is not committing to a date for a Mac silicon update, but says it is coming. I feel DXO is a bit late with M1 native code. Photographers with Macs are flocking to M1 hardware, and M1 desktops and laptops have been out more than a year. Adobe is M1 native in both Lightroom and Photoshop.
Now included in the package is DXO Photolab Essentials. It's a complete raw editor and feature-rich photo-editing software that contains DxO’s powerful Optics Modules and U Point technology for precise local adjustments. It's a basic version of the DXO editor, and users may want to update the Elite Edition for more features, but it is a good value for DXO to include this in the package.
Nik Collection 5 (Windows and MMacOS) is now available for download on the DXO website for $149. Photographers who already own Nik Collection 4 can upgrade their software for $79.
A fully functional, one-month trial version of Nik Collection 5 is available on the DxO website.
I use the Nik Collection in a large percentage of my editing sessions, and I know a lot of satisfied users, so it's worth a close look if you aren't already familiar with it. Recommended.