Software Review: Nik Collection 2 by DxO (Now with More Presets!)

Nik Collection 2 by DxO introduces 42 new creative presets and comes bundled with DxO’s own PhotoLab 2 Essential Edition raw converter

DxO is releasing version 2 of their ever popular Nik Collection today, a year after the French company first released its own version of the much-loved of image editing plugins suite after acquiring the previously orphaned codebase from Google. With Nik Collection 2, DxO includes over 40 new creative presets along with support for high DPI displays on Windows. In a move that will surely please many photographers wanting to move away from Adobe and their subscription software model, DxO is bundling DxO PhotoLab 2 Essential Edition, their French company’s own standalone Raw Converter, with the newly updated Nik Collection 2. We got a chance to test drive Nik Collection 2 before it’s public release to see how the updated plugins suite fared.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Compatible with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Adobe Lightroom Classic
  • DxO PhotoLab 2 Essential Edition is now included with Nik Collection 2 for photographers frustrated with Adobe’s software subscription model and are looking for an alternative raw editor
  • DxO’s U Point technology does a lot of the heavy lifting that’s traditionally required when creating masks to isolate specific elements on an image
  • Introduces 42 new “En Vogue” presets, recipes, and tool combinations for the Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, and Silver Efex Pro plugins
  • Updated UI now scales to support high-resolution monitors

Cons

  • While the bundled DxO PhotoLab 2 Essential Edition comes at no extra cost, we did notice a variety of graphical glitches in the raw converter’s interface while testing how the software interfaced with Nik Collection 2

 

Features

While DxO hasn’t added any additional plugins into Nik Collection 2 (the suite includes Analog Efex Pro 2, Color Efex Pro 4, Dfine 2, HDR Efex Pro 2, Sharpener Pro 3, Silver Efex Pro 2, and Viveza 2), DxO includes 42 new presets spread across the four Efex Pro plugins, as well as bundling the Essential Edition of their own DxO PhotoLab 2 raw converter software with this release. DxO is calling these new presets “En Vogue,” and like the 150+ presets that were already included with previous versions of Nik Collection, they allow photographers to quickly apply a creative look to their images with a simple click. Created in collaboration with Dan Hughes, former Nik Software instructor and current photography lecturer at Rochester Institute of Technology, all of the “En Vogue” styles were formulated using the tools built into the various plugins. While one can conceivably recreate these presets manually using the many filters included within Nik Collection if you so choose, having a one-click option to streamline up your workflow is always lovely.

With many photographers using larger and higher resolution displays to edit these days, DxO has also revamped the Windows version of the plugin suite’s interface so that it now scales appropriately across high res screens (HiDPI support was already included in previous Nik Collection releases for MacOS). DxO has also improved their U Point technology for photographers that want precise and localized control over how the plugins manipulate the look of their images. These localized adjustments include basics adjustments like Brightness, Contrast, and Saturation, as well as specific adjustments like Texture Strength and Opacity, which are dependent on the plugin and filter selected. Here are some examples of what some of the “En Vogue” presets can do:

Sample edits created using Nik Collection 2’s new “En Vogue” presets for the Analog Efex Pro 2 plugin. The original image is located on the upper left for reference.

Sample edits created using Nik Collection 2’s new “En Vogue” presets for the Color Efex Pro 4 plugin. The original image is located on the upper left for reference.

Sample edits created using Nik Collection 2’s new “En Vogue” presets for the HDR Efex Pro 2 plugin. The original image is located on the upper left for reference.

Sample edits created using Nik Collection 2’s new “En Vogue” presets for the Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin. The original image is located on the upper left for reference.

 

Ease of Use

Aside from introducing support for high-resolution monitors for Windows, DxO hasn’t made any changes to the software suite functionality. If you’ve used previous versions of Nik Collection in the past, you’ll be glad to know that everything can be found in the same place. For users new to the Nik Collection, this suite of plugins is honestly pretty straightforward to use. Your best bet is to look at the various filters and presets included within each of the plugins and make changes to each of the adjustable values to get a sense of how the plugins operate, similar to how one would learn their way around Capture One, Photoshop, or Lightroom. The new “En Vogue” presets are good starting points and give you different enough looks to the other presets already included in earlier releases of Nik Collection that users new and old will find them useful or at least entertaining. I mainly found it interesting to see how these new presets were created using the different filters within Nik Collection, as I had developed my own presets over time when using earlier releases of the plugins suite.

A word of caution for anyone upgrading to Nik Collection 2 from earlier versions: If you’ve developed custom presets like I had, you’ll want to export and back up these custom presets before upgrading to the new release. All of my custom developed presets were gone after I had updated to Nik Collection 2, but luckily I had backed up all of my own presets beforehand and was able to import them back in post install.

All of the plugins in Nik Collection 2 worked just as they had in the past, and while I didn’t notice any performance improvements when compared to earlier releases of the plugins suite, this has always been dependent on the computer hardware you’re using. The newer and more powerful your computer is, the faster the plugins will work. In order to use any of the plugins within Nik Collection 2, a host application like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom Classic, or Adobe Photoshop Elements has always been required (yes, for the 3 of you still pouring one out for Apple’s long dead Aperture, older versions of Nik Collection supported that as well). As a response to the many photographers growing increasingly frustrated by Adobe’s subscription business model, however, DxO is bundling the Essential Edition of their own PhotoLab 2 raw converter software as an alternative (MSRP US$129) at no additional cost with the purchase of Nik Collection 2 (applicable to new purchases as well as upgrades from previous versions). While it’s not a direct replacement for Photoshop, a dedicated button is built into PhotoLab 2 that opens up a pop-up window for each of the different plugins within Nik Collection 2, so you can altogether bypass Adobe if you so choose.

We evaluated PhotoLab 2 Essential as well during our tests of Nik Collection 2’s functionality and unfortunately found it to be somewhat buggy, with random graphical glitches incessantly plaguing the raw converter’s interface. We’re not sure if this is due to our version of PhotoLab 2 Essential being a press preview release or not, but you can see an example of the graphical glitches in the screenshot below. With Capture One introducing plugin support starting with their 12.0 version, we’re hoping DxO will take work with Capture One soon.

 

Conclusions

While it’s not necessarily a must-have upgrade, DxO has continued to maintain Nik Collection since acquiring it from Google and modernizing it to take advantage of the latest computer hardware. The new “En Vogue” presets offer a wealth of creative possibilities and are great starting points for any photographers looking to fine-tune their images, and photographers using high-resolution displays with their Windows editing rigs will surely appreciate the refinements made to the plugins suite’s User Interface. The full version of Nik Collection 2 by DxO is available starting today for an introductory discounted price of $99.99/€99.99/£86.99, with the upgrade being priced at a discounted $59.99/€59.99/£49.99 for anyone upgrading from the DxO’s original Nik Collection release that was introduced last year. The discount runs until June 30, 2019, after which the prices will revert back to $149/€149/£125 and $79/€79/£69 respectively for the full version and the upgrade. This upgrade discount is also not applicable to anyone still using Google’s now orphaned versions of Nik Collection. DxO PhotoLab 2 Essential Edition which retails for US$129 is included with both the standalone package as well as the upgrade.