A few weeks ago Nik Software by Google released a new module as part of their Nik Collection. This module is called Analog Efex Pro and promises to give you the “look and feel of classic cameras, films, and lenses.” This update is free for existing owners of Nik’s software and was automatically updated and installed on my computer. If you are downloading the software for the first time it is simply part of the complete collection for $149, Nik does offer a 15 day trial before making the commitment to buy. I should point out that the Nik Collection is not a single program, rather a host of individual programs that must be launched from either Lightroom, Photoshop or Aperture.
I have used Nik now for about a year and I really enjoy their Silver Efex Pro program for converting Color images to black and white. I (and most users of the program) feel it is one of better, if not the best, black and white converters on the market. Other modules that are useful are Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, and Viveza. Each of these program offer Nik’s U Point technology to “selectively edit just the part of your photos that need touching up…” It works easily with great results. The Sharpener Pro and Dfine programs tend to be redundant when using a program like Lightroom or Photoshop, which Nik must be launched from anyways. So I rarely use these programs.
Back to Analog… So now days there is a trend for digital shooters to try to regain some of the uniqueness of film that has been been lost in the sterile digital realm. I think we can all agree that most digital cameras now can produce images that are near perfect at pretty much any ISO under 1600, with some cameras going to crazy levels like Canon’s 5d mk iii’s 25,600 ISO with decent/usable results. So we have reached all but “perfection” as far as laboratory defined image quality is concerned. Yet, our laboratory perfect images can sometimes lack depth, punch, or the uniqueness that film provided. In come programs like Analog Efex Pro, Visual Supply Company (VSCO), and DXO Film pack. Each of these programs promise to give back to us that lost uniqueness. Each produce varying results that have more to do with how digital images react to adjustments, vs how film would have behaved in similar conditions. VSCO tries to accommodate for these variations by providing + and – of each film type to fine tune the image. While Analog Efex and DXO provide custom sliders to make adjustments.
What I like about Analog Efex Pro… It is free or at least was included in an update to a program I purchased a year ago. The images it creates are unique, but not in a way that I would want to give to a client. It offers “fun” filters to make the image look like it was taken with an old plate camera, a toy camera, or what they call “classic cameras”. Each with various levels of faux flaws, such as light leaks, dirt, distortion, etc. I have been able to make some neat images with the program… again nothing I would expect a client to want, but again fun.
What I don’t like abut Analog Efex Pro… It is gimmicky and very much “instagram-come-lately.” I don’t really see much of a “pro” use for this software when compared with Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro. Analog Efex Pro relies heavily on preset “camera” profiles and give limitedadjustments to the end user. Also Analog Efex Pro lacks the U Point technology that works so well in the other modules.
What I would like to have… The effects that Analog Efex Pro tries to create should have been included in an update to Color Efex Pro. I would also like to see more adjustments to some of the filters available to the end user. I should be able to flip, rotate, and even make random light leaks, dust, and wet plates.
My Conclusion… I wouldn’t run out to buy the Nik Software for this module… I would run out and buy it again and again for Silver Efex Pro. Nothing comes close to the level of adjustments and customization it offers for converting and emulating classic black and white film. Analog Efex Pro offers a fun way to edit photos and can create some neat results, but nothing worth delivering to clients. It is fun though… and there has to be some value in that.