Google Nik Collection review


Analog Efex Pro 2

Analog Efex pro 2 is the newest of the Google Nik Collection plug-ins and, if you’re into retro effects, it’s the most interesting. It follows the same principle as the rest by offering a selection of preset image effects which are constructed using individual components like film effects, borders, vignettes and more.

The range of effects you can achieve is spectacular. You might not like all of the presets, but with the power and scope available, you’ve no excuse for not creating some wonderful looks of your own.

These can range from relatively simple adjustments to tone, contrast and detail extraction, to elaborate vintage effects using simulated wet plate emulsions, toning, digital bokeh, light leaks and scratches.

As with the other Google Nik Collection plug-ins, once you’ve created a ‘look’ you like, you can save it as a preset and apply it to other images with a single click.

There are rival tools which are aimed at a similar audience, such as MacPhun Tonality, On1 Effects 10 and in particular Alien Skin Exposure X, but they don’t offer Analog Efex Pro’s depth, complexity and potential. Having said that, Analog Efex Pro’s rivals can be used as standalone programs, some have their own photo browsing/organising tools and some even offer non-destructive editing.

Analog Efex Pro organises its presets into a range of categories that give some indication as to it scope, including Classic Camera, Black and White, Colour Cast, Motion, Wet Plate, Subtle Bokeh, Double Exposure, Toy Camera, Vintage Camera and Multi-lens. It doesn’t just replicate lofty, arcane processes from the past, but novelty cameras, cheap lenses and lo-fi accessories.

But you can also ‘Build a camera’, which is where you can construct (and save) your own analog effects using a list of 14 tools covering everything from Basic Adjustments and Levels & Curves to Bokeh, Lens Distortion and Dirt & Scratches, and each tools has its own adjustments and options. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Analog Efex Pro is more than just a collection of retro effects – it’s a deep and powerful creative tool that can achieve practically any ‘look’ you can imagine.

Most of the tools also feature Nik’s quick and simple control point technology, so you can hold back a levels and curves adjustment in one area, add in dust and scratches in another, and so on. You could spend a long, long time with this plug-in and feel you’ve only scratched the surface, but at the same time you can browse through a varied selection of one-click presets that give you striking images with no technical effort or know-how at all.

Drawbacks? Well, it doesn’t attempt to simulate classic films in the way that other retro tools do (its film types are unnamed), it could run a little more quickly and a crop and rotate tool would be useful, but otherwise this is a rather exceptional plug-in.

8 thoughts on “Google Nik Collection review

  1. Hello Rod

    I downloaded the Nik Collection several months ago and have use as a stand alone product (Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro) not as a plugin. What are the downsides to this? Image quality? Read a couple times online that you can use as stand alone but no detail beyond this as to advantages / disadvantages.

    Photography a hobby for me since 2005 using Canon / Olympus products. My enjoyment / challenge comes from playing with the camera in the field but can’t say the same for post processing (1 of the 2 reasons why I haven’t invested in Lightroom or any other editing program). I fine post processing does help and generally my adjustments are minor ….for exposure, contrast, etc. I shoot RAW and use Canons DPP and GIMP / Nik collection for the Olympus micro 4/3. Lately using the snapseed app for ipad and enjoy this product very much.

    So what am I missing out on by using the Nik Collection as a stand alone?

    Came across your site a few days ago and very informative. My interest is in macro / close up, black & white photography (starting to read up on this), some landscape and down the road i want to try long exposure photography.


    1. Hi Blaine,

      The Nik Collection tools do seem to work fine as standalone programs. I find it easier to launch them from a ‘host’ app like Lightroom, but I don’t think it’s essential.

    2. Like many others since I updated to Photoshop CC 2018 my Nik software crashes after trying to apply the effect. I saw one post stating that the fix will be mid 2018??? I have been using Nik since it came out and use it professionally. I really can’t wait that long. Any help???

      1. Are you running it in MAC or Windows? Some time back, I found I had to abandon Windows for my photo-processing, because it kept freezing & crashing the software

  2. Rod,
    I found your excellent site while looking for a solution to my NIK software problem. My setup: PSCS6, MAC OS X 10.6.8 and NIK complete collection purchased in 2013. I generally launch the HDR Efex Pro plugin from Bridge “tools”. After merging the images I say “SAVE” and the saved image opens in PSCS6 in tiff format. This worked perfectly until a few months ago. Now when I say “save” it shuts down my PSCS6 and quits. I cannot download the NIK package again since it requires minimum OS X10.7.5. Unfortunately I cannot upgrade to that version because my 24 inch HP Designjet 130NR printer and some other equipment will not work on OS X 10.7.5. The current version of HDR Efex Pro is×64 (v1.2.8)

    1. What is the version number of the currently available HDR Efex Pro available for free download from Google?
    2. How do you set up the NIK software as a Standalone application? Now they are Photoshop plugins.
    3. MY PSCS6 works OK except when I use NIK so I think it is problem with a corrupted NIK application. What do you think?

    Any guidance and information is appreciated. Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Ajit,

      The current version of HDR Efex Pro is 2.2.24, so it sounds as if the version you have is relatively recent. The Nik Collection had an auto-update feature, so it’s possible your version was upgraded without you being aware of it and has become incompatible with your system. That’s only a guess.

      Have you tried simply double-clicking the HDR Efex Pro app icon? It will run as a standalone app on my system, but if it doesn’t work on yours it could be another sign that your version is too new for OS X10.7.5.

      Unfortunately, I don’t know how to roll back Nik Collection plug-ins to an earlier version, sorry.

      1. Rod,
        Thanks for your prompt reply. I did some more digging around and followed up your suggestion to see if clicking on the NIK HDR icon will work. When I originally installed NIK it was as a plugin to Photoshop. Now the plugin does not work. But if I convert the RAW files to tiff then the Standalone works! The Standalone does not work with RAW files. I think the reason my version is 2.2.20 and not 2.2.24 is because my OS X is 10.6.8 and not 10.7.5 so it appears that Google did not update my software to an incompatible OS.

        Thanks again for your help.

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