HDR Efex Pro by DXO
Disclosure: The folks at DXO have asked me to review their new version of the Nik Collection so they have sent me a product key to give it ago.
I’ve been using the original Nik Collection for years, even before it was taken over by Google in 2012. When Google discontinued supporting the collection about 2016 they gave it away for free for a while.
In 2017 it was taken up by DXO, upgraded, supported and extra features added. This review compares the old and new versions along with the addition of the included DXO Photolab Essentials.
Above are images edited using one of the many presets used in the different collection modules.
History of HDR
HDR has always been a hotly debated topic digital photography as some people thinks it’s cheating to manipulate images. Whatever your views the fact is in a very high contrast scenario it’s impossible for the digital camera, or film, to include the same range of contrast tones that we can see with the human eye.
This lack of dynamic range as has always been an issue for photographers and I can remember, back in the early days of Photoshop, taking two images of the same subject, at different exposures (bracketing) , and manually blending these layers together. We didn’t call it HDR is those days but it was basically a way of managing high contrast subjects like landscapes when shooting towards the light.
HDR Software, Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro, came along a few years ago and automated this process. Originally the early version both of these products resulted in rather vivid and unreal looking images which in turn stoked the fires of the HDR debate. Some people loved the new graphic comic book style of the presets but just as many hated them. Thankfully, as the software has been updated, more natural results are obtainable today.
What We Use On Our HDR & RAW Courses.
Originally, on our HDR and RAW Course, we used Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro but when the Nik Collection became free, after Google stopped supporting it, we went over to just using the HDR Efex Pro.
This wasn’t just a case of the software being free but it also came as part of a collection of other programs for editing Black and White and Colour images using built in presets. Personally I’m not a fan of presets, as I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want to achieve in an image, but I know that some people do like a bit of extra help so these presets can be a good starting point.
The DXO Nik Collection 2019
DXO have now taken over the Nik Collection and fixed several bugs, added support for 4K monitors and offer help again. A big addition though is the set now includes the essential version of DXO Photolab, which is a well regarded RAW editor.
Obviously this now comes at a price and the whole set costs £125 (July 2019)
I’m not going to go through the whole collection, which includes Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, Dfine, Sharpener Pro and the Essential Edition DXO Photolab RAW editor.
What's Included The Nik Collection?
- Analog Efex Pro — Makes your digital images look like old film camera images.
- Color Efex Pro —Various filter preset offering different colour effects.
- Dfine — A alone noise reduction which is useful for high ISO images.
- HDR Efex Pro — Combine several bracketed exposures into a single HDR image.
- Sharpener Pro — Image sharpening for RAW and JPG files with various presets.
- Silver Efex Pro — Black & White conversion with various presets.
- Viveza — Color control with advanced functions to change contrast and saturation
What’s New In The Nik Collection 2019?
When you install the new DXO Nik Collection you will not see many changes from the original except there are 40 new “En Vogue” preset effects.
4K monitor support. I don’t own a 4K monitor but I’m sure these are becoming more common so if you own one then maybe it’s worth upgrading for this.
Originally the collection was only available as a plug-in that worked from within Lightroom, Photoshop or selected editing programs. There was a workaround but I’m pleased to say the collection can now be used as standalone products.
Being a long term Lightroom user the DXO Photolab RAW editor is a new program for me and I need to have a bit more of a long term play. On first glance it seems easy to use and very fast compared to Lightroom. If you have used Lightroom before then you should be able to figure this program out as it has many of the same controls all be it in different places.
The immediate difference is that Photolab looks at your whole file structure, a bit like Picasa, rather than having to import to a catalogue as in Lightroom and a lot of other RAW editors. The preview of the images in the folders is really fast and the preview quickly updates to a full sized preview. Anyone who has spent ages waiting for Lightroom to import 1000 images from a holiday or wedding will appreciate this. Photolab also offers combined camera and lens profile correction as default rather than just the lens correction as in Lightroom.
If you don’t want to pay for the Adobe Photography Plan subscription then this could be a useful RAW editor, with the added bonus of all the other tools in the collection, for about the price of a one year Lightroom / Photoshop subscription.
Is It Worth Buying or Upgrading?
This is not such a clear cut answer as it depends on what you want and what you already have.
If you already have a working Nik Collection, are happy with the Adobe Photography Plan subscription and don’t have a 4K monitor then probably it’s not worth upgrading.
However if you don’t already have the Nik Collection or object to paying the Adobe subscription every month then I would give the free trial a go.
If you like HDR images or plan to attend our HDR and RAW Course then you will need some version of HDR Efex Pro.
If you need a bit of creative help with B&W or colour presets, or you need a good fast RAW editor then I think at £125 for all the tools in the Nik Collection offers good value for money.
You can download a trial version of the Nik Collection but check to see if you are eligible for the discounted £69.99 upgrade price if you already have a copy.
Any views expressed are purely my own based on my experience of the product.
I love the way Glen gives clear, easily understood guidelines. I feel ready to go out equipped with more knowledge on how to use the camera more effectively plus I will never use Full Auto ever again. Jan Knox.
Glen made the subject easy to understand and I started to feel more confident with the camera immediately. Now to start taking good photos. Dave Bason
Excellent introduction and clearly explained. Good balance of theory and practical. The sensible sized group allowed for individual attention for all the participants questions in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Very Good. Gordon Warren.
Fantastic day. Lots of useful information presented in an easily understood way. Not only did I learn how to use my camera but also take great pictures. Lesya Sturman.
Glen’s beginners course was absolutely at the right pace, extremely informative, very clear and made simple for the novice. I feel so much more confident and comfortable experimenting with my camera and look forward to the next course. Wendy Robbins
Glen’s informal and simple way of explaining things was very refreshing. I really did learn a lot and this course has improved my photography already. Highly recommended. Neil Mascall.
Made to feel welcome and comfortable. Very informative at a good speed to learn and retain the information. I will definitely be back for more courses. Thank you. Carrie Short
Excellent course. Nothing is too much trouble for Glen to explain. Lesley Tailby
Fantastic course. Glen was extremely knowledgeable and delivered everything amazingly well. Very friendly atmosphere and setting. Dean Kendall.
I’m delighted to have attended this course which met all my objectives and even added some things I had never considered. I thoroughly recommend this as both accessible and enjoyable. Jonathan Clarke.
Very good and I now understand how I was using my lenses incorrectly. Nick Ford.
Brilliant Course! Initial tuition on understanding the camera made a complex subject very simple. I now understand my camera rather than being frustrated by it. Thank you. Andrew Burgess.
Excellent Course and well worth the trip up from London. Dr Nick Cheese.