Google Nik Collection review


Dfine 2

Dfine is the Google Nik Collection’s noise reduction tool. It’s designed to improve high ISO, high noise images rather than to create any particular image effect. It opens with a split screen view of the image at 100% magnification with the untreated image on the left and the treated image on the right (you can change the view mode). There are just two stages to the noise reduction process: Measure and Reduce.

The Measure step checks the noise properties of the image, and the default is for Dfine to do this automatically, selecting one or more areas of the image for characteristic noise patterns. These are indicated by rectangular marquees, and if you think you can make a better job of identifying key areas of noise you can take over, switch to manual mode and use the marquee tool to define areas yourself.

Whether the noise measurement has been done automatically or manually, Dfine will apply default noise reduction settings, and you can see the effect in the ‘after’ half of the split screen display.

The default noise reduction is pretty strong. Dfine will cut the noise right back, but it can also produce some rather artificial-looking image smoothing and some loss of fine detail. To fix this, and to do some other fine-tuning, you can click the Reduce button at the top of the Noise Reduction panel.

Dfine splits noise into its two key components: Contrast noise (luminance noise) and Colour noise. Both sliders are set to 100% by default. You can safely push the Colour noise slider right up without losing any significant image detail, but most modern cameras suppress colour noise pretty well anyway.

The really tricky customer is Contrast (luminance) noise. This produces the most persistent image noise, and it’s reducing this that can take away any fine detail too and produce an artificially smooth, ‘smeary’ look.

By moving the Contrast Noise slider you can choose your own preferred compromise between noise reduction and detail rendition, but Dfine lets you go further. If you click the rather unobtrusive ‘More’ button further down the tools panel you’ll see checkboxes for Edge Preservation, JPEG Artifact Reduction and Debanding.

The Edge Preservation tool has a modest effect at preserving crisp outlines, but doesn’t help with fine, textural detail. The JPEG Artifact Reduction and Debanding options might help with particular low-quality images. None of them make a massive difference to Dfine’s abilities.

You can, however, use control points to remove or reduce the noise reduction in specific areas, preserving detail in highly detailed areas where the noise hardly shows and removing noise in large areas of even tone where it’s most obvious.

Dfine’s noise reduction is moderately effective, but it seems to have fallen behind the latest algorithms and offers only simplistic noise reduction tools. It’s worth using if you’ve got it, and can do a reasonable rescue job on noisy pictures, but it’s not the equal of MacPhun’s Noiseless, for example.

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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