DxO has released Nik Collection 2, but without any major overhauls to the seven Nik plug-ins themselves and with an addition you might not actually want. Hmm.
Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro and Viveza remain unchanged, as do Sharpener Pro and Dfine. DxO has been concentrating on bringing them back up to data and compatible with the latest versions of the Mac and Windows operating systems rather than changing any of their tools and features.
For version 2, DxO has at a least added 40 new preset image effects spread across the four main creative plug-ins: Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro. Each of these gets around ten new “En Vogue” presets to add to the collection.
The biggest change in Nik Collection 2, however, is what’s been added in from outside. The suite now includes DxO PhotoLab 2.3 Essential as part of the package.
Essential and necessary
Surprised? Well, DxO says this has been prompted by customer requests, which included a desire not to be dependent on Adobe’s subscription software (Photoshop, Lightroom) as a ‘host’ for the plug-ins, and to have in-built RAW support. So DxO’s rather left-field approach has been to bundle program it already has to kill two birds with one stone.
DxO PhotoLab Essential can act both as a photo browser and as a RAW processing tool ahead of sending images to the Nik Collection plug-ins (via a newly-added button on the bottom toolbar) for specialised effects.
The good news
It’s actually a remarkably clever solution. DxO PhotoLab’s RAW processing is superb, and if you wanted a program that could prepare your raw files in the best possible way for editing in the Nik Collection, you couldn’t do better than this.
DxO PhotoLab also solves the browsing issue, so that you can now find your images visually for editing, whereas before the Nik Collection relied on other programs for that.
And DxO PhotoLab has very effective editing tools of its own, so you can use a graduated filter to bring a bright sky back under control before sending an image to the Nik Collection, for example.
The bad news
Adding in DxO PhotoLab 2.3 has bumped up the price for the Nik Collection. It’s still a lot less than buying the Nik Collection and DxO PhotoLab Essential in the past, the full price for the Nik Collection is now £125/$149 (reduced to £86.99/$99.99 until June 30 2019), and the upgrade price is £69/$79 (reduced to £49.99/59.99 until June 30 2019).
Worse, there’s no option to buy the Nik Collection 2 without PhotoLab, even if you only want to use the plug-ins with Photoshop and Lightroom. It’s worse still if you use a Fujifilm camera with an X-Trans sensor, because the DxO raw processing engine doesn’t support them at all.
So it’s likely this going to cause a few complaints, but on the other hand this does feels like quite a smart move and actually a pretty good deal. The Nik Collection now has a life of its own with its own photo browser and RAW processing engine.