DxO Analog Efex Pro 3 verdict
Analog Efex Pro 3 is a new and revamped version of the analog effects plug-in in the DxO Nik Collection. It goes way beyond most analog photography tools, offering not just film styles, grain effects and borders, but creative vignetting, bokeh, lens blur, lens distortion, double-exposures, motion blur and more to simulate a huge variety of ‘old camera’ looks. There are other good vintage/analog tools out there, but none that go as far as Analog Efex Pro, and version 3, introduced with Nik Collection 5, is streamlined, updated and even better.
Analog Efex Pro was the only Nik Collection plug-in added under Google’s ownership. And, if you’re into retro effects, it’s perhaps the most interesting in the whole Nik Collection. 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. You can select a preset look and stop there, select a preset and then modify its adjustments, or start from a blank canvas and choose your own filters and effects.
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Until the release of Nik Collection 5, it really had any significant changes since DxO took over the Nik Collection, although with Nik Collection 3 it did benefit from DxO’s new non-destructive workflow using the ‘multipage’ TIFF format. It means working with some pretty large double-size TIFF files, but they contain both the original image, the edited version and the Analog Efex Pro editing instructions, so you can pick up where you left off and re-edit your images without having to start again.
If you don’t want the fuss and you’re happy with regular ‘destructive’ editing, you can still work with regular JPEG and TIFF images.
What’s new in Analog Efex Pro 3
The filters, tools and presets themselves are largely the same, but what DxO has done is radically update the user interface to bring it in line with the other Nik plug-ins and also de-clutter Google’s original ‘camera’ categories. They are still there, but instead DxO leads with the filters themselves, part of the original ‘Camera Kit’ mode but now brought to the fore, which is what most more experienced editors will want to work with.
There is more, though. Analog Efex Pro 3 now uses DxO’s latest control point enhancements, so that you can fine tune the masking of your local adjustments using Luminance and Chrominance sliders. That’s useful enough in itself, but on top of that you can also now save control points in presets. You’ll almost certainly need to move control points around from image to image, but it could still be useful to have pre-configured control points automatically added with presets.
Quality of results
While the interface and control point features have been brought right up to date in Analog Efex Pro 3, the filters themselves have not changed – and that hardly matters. The range of effects you can achieve is and always was 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 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 Skylum Luminar, ON1 Photo RAW 2022 and in particular Exposure X7, 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. What version 3 achieves, though, is to bring the manual filters and combinations to the front instead of hiding them behind these instant fixes.
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.
Are there any drawbacks? Well, Analog Efex Pro 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 truly exceptional analog film and camera plug-in. Its scope, range and sheer invention make other analog simulation software look distinctly ordinary.
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