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.