Andy Bell Photography

DXO NIK Collection V3 – Overview & Review

DXO NIK Collection V3 - Overview & Review

The DXO NIK Collection is a popular image editing suite and I have used it for years. A while back DXO acquired it, giving it a sure future. Since then they’ve worked to integrate it with their own DXO Photo Lab 3, which is a great RAW image processor, and have improved its compatibility with Lightroom and even Affinity Photo.

This latest release brings in perspective correction, creation of ‘miniature scenes’ (which you would usually need a mega expensive tilt lens to do, and improved non-destructive workflow in Lightroom.

DXO NIK Collection – Features

Here’s an overview of NIK’s features:

  • Analog Effex Pro – Create ‘old style’ photographs
  • Color Effex Pro
  • Dfine – Noise removal
  • HDR Effex Pro
  • Persective Effex Pro – NEW
  • Sharpener Pro
  • Silver Effex pro – Black and White Image creation
  • Viveza – Fantastic image enhancement
  • ‘U POINT’ selection technology

This is quite a list of features! Readers of this blog will know that I love Topaz Labs Sharpening and Noise reduction tools. NIK’s offerings are in these areas are decent but not as good as Topaz. However, there are areas where nothing comes close to competing with NIK. In this review I’m going to demonstrate using U POINT technology to make local adjustments in Viveza and the correcting image distortion with the new Perspective Correction tool.

These two tools alone are worth the price of the whole package.

DXO NIK Viveza and U POINT technology

One of the most challenging things in digital photography is making selective adjustments. Photoshop and other editors offer selections and masks to hwelp you. But making an accurate selection or mask is not always easy and is always time consuming. Not so with NIK Viveza.

Here’s a sample image where I want to make a selective edit to the sky:

Viveza User Interface

With NIK’s U POINT tech, this is so easy:

Viveza – Control Points

First, I click the ‘Control Points’ icon and then I place a few of them in the sky:

I can drag them around and use the sliders to size each control point. Finally, I select all these control points and ‘group’ them, which means they all get the same adjustments.

Now, I need to check that the selection is what I want. To do that I tell Viveza to show the mask for this group:

It’s not bad, but it is affecting the mountain below the sky too much. To correct this, I make the control points in the sky a little smaller, and then add a few more control points to the land. These ‘protect’ the land from the sky adjustments:

This is a lot better. The ideal mask will be light in the areas you want adjusted and dark in the areas to be left alone.

And now I can make the adjustments. Viveza offers the following:

  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • Saturation
  • Structure
  • Shadows
  • Warmth
  • Red, Green and Blue adjustment
  • Hue

In particular, the Structure adjustment is fantastic for either bringing out detail or smoothing areas.

In my image I want to darken the sky, cool it down a little and add detail. So I reduce its saturation, add structure and desaturate a little:

Viveza – Comparison Pictures

I love both the ease of use and the quality of the adjustments. This little demo only scratches the surface of what it can do.

DXO NIK – Perspective Correction

This is a new tool in the NIK collection and corrects just about every kind of distortion in an image:

  • Lens distortions, caused by deficiencies in the lens itself
  • Converging/Diverging verticals, caused by the camera not being level
  • Deformation – wide-angle lenses often make people on the edge of photos look wrong. NIK corrects this magically!

Here’s a simple example of NIK Perspective Correction in action:

I shot the image on the left with a lens that has plenty of distortions, and I tilted the camera to make the distortion even worse. NIK Perspective correction fixed it easily. Here’s what I did:

I developed the image from RAW, with no distortion or lens corrections,  and opened it in NIK. NIK identified the Camera and Lens used and downloaded a custom module to fix the lens distortions. DXO have a vast collection of Camera/Lens profiles and NIK can access these. That’s an immense advantage.

NIK Perspective offers the following correction options, as you can see on the control screen:

Besides downloading a camera/lens profile, NIK lets you:

  • Correct Volume Deformation (see later)
  • Correct Perspective problems automatically of manually via their unique tools
  • Straighten the horizon
  • Crop
  • Create a miniature effect (see later)

I fixed my test image using NIK’s automatic tool – just one click – but I could have done it manually:

You use NIK’s correction tool to define where the vertical or horizontal (or both) should be, and NIK then corrects the image. When I compare the result to the original, I can see how much better the result is:

Correcting such distortions has one downside – it crops the edges of the image as it fixes the distortion.

Here’s another example, from a wedding reception:

This image has converging verticals, which are especially obvious on the sides of the image. The doorways are not upright.

Again, NIK has no problem fixing this. As is so often the case, automatic mode has no problems:

Miniature Effect

DXO’s NIK Perspective Correction has a unique feature – it can simulate the effect of tilt lenses. You can use this to create photos that look like they are of model villages, as the odd focus can trick you into thinking the image cannot be of a full size scene. As with all the NIK tools, it’s a simple task to produce an effect such as this:

Neat, eh?

Deformation Correction

This is a serious tool for a serious problem. People on the edges of images taken with a wide-angle lens look wrong. Wide-angle lenses have to squeeze a vast scene onto a tiny sensor and, no matter how good the lens is, people don’t look right.

I once photographed a training school, with 50+ participants, and they wanted a group photo taken in the school location. I had to use an ultra-wide lens to fit everyone in and the people on the edges looked odd. They looked wide – like watching an old TV show on a 14:9 screen. And, of course, they didn’t appreciate being made to look like that.

I have had to obscure the faces in this sample picture as it’s a private image and I don’t have model releases from the participants. I am just showing the extreme left of the picture:

I used NIK’s automatic setting. The image on the right shows the corrected image and the people in it now look realistic. Just one click! You can adjust the settings manually to increase or reduce the correction.

Here’s one using a sample picture supplied by DXO:

The corrected image is on the right and I increased the effect to 150% to achieve this.

DXO NIK Collection – Conclusion

In this brief review I have concentrated on the two NIK tools I use the most – Viveza and Perspective Correction.

Including Perspective Correction into NIK is a very welcome addition to the NIK Collection, although users of DXO Viewpoint won’t see any functionality in it they don’t already have.

DXO have been integrating Photo Lab 3, NIK and Viewpoint for a while now and the toolset is comprehensive and effective.

DXO Photo Lab is one of my recommended RAW converters. It is not as wildly creative as Luminar but it is a purist’s tool that has no equal in terms of lens corrections and initial sharpening of RAW images.

You can use the NIK Collection as a set of standalone tools, as an add in to DXO Photo Lab or as plugins within Photoshop and other tools supporting Photoshop plugins, such as Lightroom and Affinity Photo.

I’m happy to recommend these tools unreservedly. I only recommend tools I use myself and DXO and NIK have been part of my toolkit for years.

You can download trial versions from DXO. They are well worth checking out.

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