Update to Color Efex Pro 4 –

Nik Software has released an incremental upgrade to its Color Efex Pro 4 filter. No new capabilities — just some bug fixes (an important one that addresses Photoshop crashes) and adds the Portuguese language.

Both Windows and Mac OS versions are current at 4.001. As of Color Efex Pro 4 — there is a single plug-in that works in Lightroom and Photoshop. The Mac version also adds Aperture capability.

Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 –

There are upgrades, and there is what Nik has built in to the new Lightroom/Aperture/Photoshop plug-in Color Efex Pro 4!

This is a major overhaul, and to the degree that I have experienced so far, it’s all to the good. Nik has taken a powerful set of photo filters and added functionality, variety, ease of use, and most importantly, speed. Let’s talk first of the latter two — that Version 4 is fast and easy. In Color Efex 3, one would open the filter and have access to a single feature at a time. For instance, if you wanted to convert to B&W and  apply a glamor glow, it took two trips into the app. Not so bad from Photoshop, but if you had the Lightroom version, you’d leave behind a string of TIFFs — one for each filter applied. Sure, you could delete the intermediate renderings, but that’s time, effort, and one more thing to remember while you process 200 frames from the weddng that started 20 hours earlier!

Color Efex Pro 4 obviates all that. You can ‘stack’ one filter atop the other, switch any of them in or out at any time, adjust the opacity of each individually, copy and paste control points from one filter to the other, and all in what is about the best visual interface in the business. The familiar and comfortable Nik “look” is still there — crisp, neat, and intuitive. Ths app provides all manner of controls to de-clutter the screen when all you want to see is the photo being stylized.

If you happen onto a combination of filters and settings that you want to adopt as your own signature appearance — preserving a stack with all its individual slider settings is as easy as naming a ‘Recipie.’ Nik now provides a set of previews for each filter — so it’s fast and easy to see samples covering the range of adjustments available. After picking one, you then perform some ‘fine-tuning’ to personalize the flavor of the image to your own artistic standards!

There is now a History function — not unlike what we’ve come to depend on in Lightroom and Photoshop. The ability to “roll it back” after taking a strange trip down a side road is invaluable because experimenting can be done withuot threat or cost.

My only concern is what will happen to the many thousands of copies of Version 3 — which remains a powerful post processing tool. I wish Nik would allow us to “decommission” our serial numbers so they could be passed on to beginners or charities.

And remember, all Nik’s excellent products can be downloaded and used in a fully-functional manner for 15 days. Try this one out and let us know about your experience.

Color Efex Pro 4 — great news for Lightroom only users!

Since Nik announced the Color Efex Pro 4 upgrade a few days ago — I’ve had the chance to take part in 3 Webinars on the topic. I now feel comfortable evaluating this new product with opinions based on actually seeing the new plug-in working in real time.

One major complaint I’ve had with Color Efex — a collection of intelligent filters for Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and Elements — is that each filter was applied separately. In other words, if you wanted to color correct and add contrast, it was two trips in and out of the application. Not so bad after a loop into Photoshop, but entirely from within Lightroom, applying multiple filters to a single image meant creating a trail of space-hogging TIFF files to bloat your normally slim and trim catalog comprised of mainly database entries to be applied later to the ‘originals’ in an Export action.

So, with all the new features in Color Efex Pro 4 — I’d have to say of the many really significant new features, there are two that will make this upgrade a much better choice than it has been for Lightroom-only users. First is the ability to stack adjustments within one trip into and out of the plug-in! The second is the addition of an opacity control — so any effect chosen can be ‘modulated’ to the taste of the photographer and not accepted full-frame, full intensity all the time. Not that Lightroom users are totally locked in to all or none. All Nik software products do include control points, which allow the selective inclusion or exclusion of any adjustments within a particular frame. But as of the introduction of Color Efex Pro 4 (in October) control points and the opacity sliders will easily enable Lightroom and Aperture users to get very close to the kind of control that Photoshop users have taken for granted forever.

onOne’s Photo Tools app –soon to be released as Perfect Effects 3 — has been able to do this from as far back as I can remember. So, Nik is late to this party — but can be forgiven because this company’s products just plain rock and I’m sure this implimentation of ‘stacking’ will prove have been worth waiting for. A new related feature in 4 is named “Recipies.” If you find a particular combination of filters attractive or worth saving, you do exactly that and it winds up in your ‘Recipies’ tab in Color Efex Pro 4.

The new implementation of Color Efex Pro 4 will eventually sell at $199.95. If there is the slightest inclination you might be able to better produce ditital output with this tool, carefully examine the pre-release specials. If someone, a novice on plug-ins,  asked me for advice on which of the many choices available for maximum impact and value, I’d be hard pressed to suggest anything other than Color Efex Pro 4. Buy 3 today and get a free upgrade!

“Bang for the Buck” rarely gets better than this.