DxO have come in for a fair amount of criticism for their annual upgrade business model. I’m taking a look at what’s new in Nik Collection 5 and trying to determine whether its worth the investment.
What is Nik Collection 5?
Nik Collection 5 is a suite of eight plugins that can be integrated into an Adobe or DxO workflow or used as a standalone application.
This latest release includes a major update to Color Efex Pro and Analog Efex focusing on the user interface, additional filters and improved usability of Control Points.
This appears to be a rolling process – last year Silver Efex Pro and Viveza underwent the same upgrades. The argument being levelled against DxO is why should the user pay every year for a partial upgrade?
What is an Upgrade Anyway?
In the interests of perspective and realism, let’s take a look at DxO,
DxO Labs are a French company funded to the tune of $18.2m by venture capitalists. They are carefully and responsibly managed and have posted growth every year since their foundation in 2006.
I know a bit about software development. My own background includes a ten year stint with IBM where I worked on a number of large IT projects. Many of them extending for years at eye watering cost.
The reality is that software upgrades in a world where there are dependencies on third party products are tricky. For most of the user base, Lightroom and Photoshop are the bedrock of the workflow so integration with both of these (slowly) moving targets is unavoidable.
Obviously DxO labs are not IBM, they’re not even Adobe. In 2022 DxO declared revenue of $4.7m (presumably tax year ending in 2022). That’s more than you or I earned but substantially less than IBM at $14.2 billion and Adobe who posted 2nd quarter earnings of $4.39 billion.
The point I’m trying to make here is that 89 employees at DxO are spread across 3 distinct products. For perspective, the dev team is roughly the same size as one small project team for IBM once you’ve removed management, marketing and HR.
So radically upgrading two plugins a year in addition to the flagship software DxO PhotoLab, suddenly looks like a reasonable proposition.
Improvements to Color Efex Pro and Analog Efex
The major upgrade is the integration of Control Point Technology and the seamless translation of this into a layer in the Adobe suite. Oh, and Smart Objects are supported, which means you can go into the layer and tweak the controls of whichever plugin or plugins you used to create the effect captured in that layer.
The other addition that will be welcomed pretty much across the board is the integration of ClearView technology. ClearView is similar to Dehaze in Lightroom, but subtly different (and better). You can of course combine ClearView with Control Points and apply the effect to specific parts of your image.
If this sounds a lot like layers in Photoshop, then yes, it is broadly analogous. Is it better? I’ve spent five years using both and my experience has been that I’ve learned DxO software faster and created images that are pretty much indistinguishable.
Analog Efex is more filter oriented and is at least in part based on DxO’s Film Pack software. This is a library of film emulations that are impressively authentic. Analog Efex uses a subset of the as bases and encourages the user to add effects such as light leaks to the image, moving it away form the representational towards digital art.
I’ll be writing an in depth review of both of the included plugins in the next few weeks, if you’re interested the cost new is €149 and the upgrade approximately half that figure. DxO are also bundling PhotoLab 5 Essential Edition for those tempted to move away from Adobe.
The Adobe Photography Plan starts at £9.98 a month, or £120 a year near enough. This does not include plugins of anything like the power of the Nik Collection so adding plugins is a given.
With the Nik Collection coming in at €149 roughly £10 more expensive than the Adobe bundle, it’s worth looking at the rest of the competition.
Topaz offer three plugins, DeNoise AI, Gigapixel AI and Sharpen AI for $199 including 12 months of upgrades.
ON1 offer the ON1 Professional bundle for €155.19 one off payment or €89.99 a year including their flagship software ON1 Photo RAW
Apologies for not comparing like for like, but the companies like to make that difficult.
Conclusion – What’s New in Nik Collection 5
If you are invested in the Adobe Suite then the Nik Collection + DxO Prime makes a lot of sense. It’s less expensive than Topaz and arguably better in parts – the DxO Prime version bundled with PhotoLab is subjectively better with noise.
If you’re not invested in the Adobe suite then DxO PhotoLab + the Nik Collection is a more than adequate replacement for probably 80% of photographers. If you’re a Graphic Designer or a Product Photographer then not so much.
Alternatively the ON1 suite looks like good value, PhotoRAW is very well thought of as a Photoshop replacement.
The last alternative is to skip an upgrade periodically. That brings the cost of ownership down by half. Now that does look interesting!
Check out my 2021 Review of DxO PhotoLab 5
Check out the Nik Collection here
Check out the ON1 Professional Plugin Series here
Check out Topaz Labs here.
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