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Verdict

At one time, the Google Nik Collection was my go-to plug-ins suite. In fact, I was a fan before the Google takeover when it was still in the hands of Nik Software. I also felt that some plug-ins were a lot more useful than others.

I don’t find Dfine’s noise reduction particularly effective compared the tools built into host applications like Lightroom and Photoshop, or against newer rivals like MacPhun’s Noiseless. And while Sharpener Pro usefully distinguishes between capture and output sharpening, again I don’t find it any more effective than the tools in host applications.

Analog Efex Pro 2, however, is brilliant. Color Efex Pro has so much depth and control you may never get to the bottom of what it can do, Silver Efex Pro is still my favourite black and white tool and HDR Efex Pro 2 is a versatile and effective HDR plug-in with some great presets – though I’m not convinced it’s the best.

Viveza 2 has perhaps outlived its usefulness since the other plug-ins mostly have the same powerful control point technology that’s Viveza’s principal asset, but it can still be a useful tool nonetheless.

But I have noticed some performance issue that may be due to a change in hardware (I swapped from a 15-inch Macbook pro with separate graphics card to a newer 13-inch Macbook Pro with integrated graphics) or may be due to a chance in the software. Once, these plug-ins ran smooth and sweet with almost no delay – now the image rendering can take a couple of seconds or several, with progress bars for each phase.

The news that the Google Nik Collection is now free is just amazing. Before, £95/$150 was already a pretty fair price for such a must-have plug-in suite, but now that you don’t have to pay it should be on every photographer’s computer – it’s that good.

But there are dark clouds on the horizon. Google’s apparent lack of interest in the software is worrying. It hasn’t added anything new since an Analog Efex Pro 2 update back in May 2014, and while it maintains a Google Nik Collection website, It doesn’t issue any press releases or actively market the software in any way.

This doesn’t inspire confidence. It makes the Nik plug-ins feel like a strategic acquisition rather than something Google is particularly committed to, and good as these plug-ins are, it makes me nervous about relying on them being there, or being kept current, going into the future.

Google pulled the plug on its brilliant Snapseed desktop app (also acquired from Nik Software) and you can’t help feeling that what it’s done once, it could easily do again – and this time with the entire Google Nik Collection.

For now, though, you should just enjoy one of the imaging world’s greatest plug-in collections ever.