Nik Collection 7 Released: Faster and Newer, But Loses A Bit Along the Way

Nik Collection 7 Released: Faster and Newer, But Loses A Bit Along the Way

The Nik Collection, a set of seven photo editing tools, has just received a version number update. Version 7 brings with it primarily speed and workflow improvements, but is that enough to justify a whole new upgrade? In this review, I’ll discuss the new features, improvements, and even a surprise missing feature of this venerable editing suite.

Nik Collection 7 is available for Photoshop, Lightroom, Affinity Photo, and DxO PhotoLab. As a suite of tools that has been around for more than 25 years, you may have heard of these plugins in the past. They were previously acquired by Google, then spun off to DxO, who make a variety of powerful photo editing tools. The plugins in Collection 7 include Color Efex, Silver Efex, Analog Efex, Viveza, Dfine, HDR Efex, and Sharpener — collectively, these apps cover color editing, filters, denoising, analog styles, sharpening, B&W conversions, and more.

Version 6 of the collection introduced some new UI for Nik Sharpener, while HDR Efex was entirely rebuilt. Version 7 now brings a similarly modest scope of adjustments:

  • New options for Nik Color Efex, including HSL filtering, dynamic filters, and access to Viveza plugins as filters (reducing the need to bounce between these two plugins).
  • New tools in U Point adjustments. U Point is essentially Nik’s proprietary, smart, and targeted selection.
  • Speed improvements, including faster launching, easier swapping between plugins, and quick export from the plugin.

Missing From Collection 7

Notably, one plugin was removed from the suite: Nik Perspective. Nik Perspective was a combination of optical distortion correction and perspective adjustment tools. It enabled simulation of tilt/shift photography, as well as correcting wide angle stretching.

DxO writes that “We chose to prioritize a faster smoother workflow over retaining Nik Perspective”. While I can understand discontinuing support for a plugin, simultaneously cutting a plugin from the suite and raising the price (from Version 6 at $149 at the time of writing to a launch price of $159 for Version 7) is likely to disappoint some consumers.

Photographers still interested in optical correction can either retain their version of Nik Collection 6 via a parallel install process per DxO’s instructions, or as I’d imagine DxO would prefer, switch to DxO ViewPoint 4, which offers a more powerful version of Perspective’s features.

Getting back to what Nik Collection 7 offers, I tested both the U Point upgrades and the workflow improvements, and I found that they delivered on their claims.

U Point Selections

U Point was an interesting idea: with a single click, it’ll make a smart-ish selection of similar pixels nearby based on color, hue, saturation, luminance, and distance. You can go back and tweak these values to refine your selection.

In practice, it never really clicked for my workflow, but, I know some users loved it. It seems like it was a strong fit for portraits, for instance. From when U Point was launched, the state of the art for selections has advanced rapidly. AI and smart selection tools now are far more powerful than early implementations of the magic wand or lasso, for instance.

The updates to U Point add 3 new options for refining your local adjustments: a polygonal tool, the ability to modify the elliptical properties of the previously round selection, and a straightforward luminosity mask.

Before this update, the primary shape of a U Point selection was a circle. While you could feather this selection, and it was driven by the aforementioned color and luminosity attributes, it was still just a circle. Moving beyond this paradigm, while still not as automated as some modern selection implementations, is an important step forward.

In Collection 7, you can now create a polygonal mask or a luminosity mask. For landscape work, I expect the addition of a luminosity mask will be the most welcome. For many non-portrait images, selecting via luminosity makes much more sense compared to the circles or even the polygons. In this image of Death Valley, for instance, selecting all the plants on the dunes is truly one click via luminosity, unlike the other U Point options.

Speed Improvements

Another area where Nik was targeting improvements was on the workflow efficiency side. While Nik Collection 6 wasn’t terribly slow, opening larger images could drag a bit. For instance, in Photoshop, you’d have to wait for the plugin to boot, load the image, then make your adjustments and wait for it to save out to a layer. Even on a very fast machine, these hard stops in your workflow could add up and certainly contributed to the perception of delays.

In Nik Collection 7, things are better in terms of image opening speed. I found improvements of anywhere from 20 to 30% when opening test images in Collection 6 and Collection 7. These improvements are certainly welcome, but with image opening constituting just part of the workflow, I’d characterize it as closer to a 15 to 20% speedup when evaluating “end to end”.

Another improvement is the addition of a Quick Search tool, along with improved organization of users' presets and filters. As might be expected of this expansive of a suite, there's a huge array of filters and presets. Being able to quickly find what you're actually looking for is definitely helpful.

Nik Collection 7 continues with most of what has made the Nik Collection a popular suite of plugins. It covers a wide range of use cases (I particularly like converting to B&W via Silver Efex) and works quite well. Additionally, DxO has done an okay job of preserving the ownership model, with a single purchase ensuring ongoing use of that version and upgrades being available at a reasonable discount over a new purchase.

On the topic of cost, however, Nik Collection 7 may be a tougher sell for both new entrants and potential upgrade candidates. For new users, you’re paying $10 more for a full license, with the full version now retailing for $159, despite losing access to a pretty valuable tool in Nik Perspective. 

Upgraders, particularly from Nik Collection 6, are getting relatively modest updates (better selections and a slight performance boost), while either losing a tool or having to keep your old install around anyway. They're also having to pay more than previous upgrade cycles. An upgrade is going to be priced at $89 ($10 more than the $79 upgrade listed for Nik 6).

I’d still encourage interested users to take advantage of the free trial and consider purchasing the suite. The tools really do work well, and between all of them, there’s certainly still $159 of value.

What I Liked

  • Luminosity masking, along with modifications to U Point's shapes, make this targeted selection useful for a broader range of workflows.
  • Speed and efficiency improvements are always nice to see.
  • A single suite covers a wide range of use cases for all types of photographers.
  • Permanent purchases are still available, as are upgrades, although the value proposition took some hits this upgrade cycle.

What Could Be Improved

  • Did Perspective need to be removed? Even keeping it around without updates would feel like less of a loss.
  • Price increases are common these days, but the combination of minor updates, a removed feature, and a price bump all together make this particular update harder to recommend, despite the Nik Collection still being a great suite.
Alex Coleman's picture

Alex Coleman is a travel and landscape photographer. He teaches workshops in the American Southwest, with an emphasis on blending the artistic and technical sides of photography.

Log in or register to post comments

The improved selections might be nice; I currently use a combination of positive and negative U-Points, which works just fine. Shame they dropped Perspective, I'd rather have that and drop Dfine and Sharpen. The upgrade price from v6 is too high to be worth it to me.

I still use the google's free version which os still freely available and integrates well with Photolab. As an amateur, I cannot justify any expense on what essentially still does the same thing. I would mostly use the free ColoEfex Pro 4 and the Pro Contras filter within, that works still great in the free version and makes the photos pop. Also the other filters are as usable as always, i.e. Foliage, Contras Only etc.

Purchased Nik 6 less than 60 days ago , and DXO want's to charge for the update to Nik 7 . So much for customer retention

Still not a full, native plugin for Capture One. Yeah, you can use "edit with" but a cleaner process would make it better.

I purchased ver. 6 15 days before this release and they have no provision for that. IMO that is sleazy as best and unfriendly to a long time customer. I'm done with them. Use Topaz products. They are customer friendly.

Remember how after they bought the NIk IP from Google they let it flounder. They basically just added useless presets and charged for them as "updates." Photolab is nice but the Nik division of DxO is pure garbage IMO.

Thanks for this article. I’d like to see how the so-called parallel install process works for keeping the perspective plug-in.

For simple horizon and/or vertical shifts, lightroom is fine, but for more complex Adjustments, perspective is excellent. I certainly won't be interested in dubious, rather expensive upgrades with the loss of a toolbox that I find really useful.

No grace period. Had Nik Collection 6 for all of 30-days before DXO informed me of an upgrade for which I would need to pay a further £79. In what universe is this remotely reasonable. DXO were marketing version 6 aggressively right up to the moment they dropped version 7. They deserve to fail.

All commercial RAW editors have issues regarding their sales and price strategy. I use Capture One and it seems they are moving ever closer to a subscription only model. I believe the current stand alone version might be the last and for multi licenses, stand alone has been dropped and the subscription price raised by over 500%!!! These companies are certainly getting greedy and they must realise it gets to a point where new versions aren’t offering anything worth upgrading to so are screwing us over the price in order to keep making a profit.

So I purchased the new version 7 only because of the path and luminosity mask selection ability. Very glad I did. During the install it just kept version 6 so I still have the perspective tool. I agree with another commentor..........sharpen and define could be dropped. Should have kept perspective in this. My denoise and sharpen programs are Topaz. They kick Nik's software *ss.

I mainly shoot product for work and landscapes for my personal hobby. I do very highly recommend the software for the new abilities.

DXO pricing policy is misleading. The upgrade price applies only if you are upgrading from the immediate previous version. I have Nik Collection 4 and they are charging complete purchase price since I am not a frequent user. What an unethical way to do business.