Nik Software is working hard to create a string of plug-ins for Aperture and Photoshop. Their stable has grown again to include their newest product, Silver Efex Pro. This plug-in will give you complete control over black and white images in a way that neither Aperture or Photoshop can.

I tested the product using my favorite photo editing software, Aperture. I assume it works identically on Photoshop since all Nik products (thankfully) share common interface traits.

Once you have your color image selected, you simply edit with Silver Efex Pro and you’re presented with lots of options to make your color image into a black and white image.

There are more than 20 presets built-in and building your own couldn’t be easier.

The presets are very good and for those with gray hair who preferred the look of B&W film, there are also 18 emulation modes for all popular B&W films.

You can apply the effects to one or more images in Aperture which is similar to a batch mode.

And as usual with Nik products, you can use their U Point technology to control certain aspects of the effects, such as contrast and tonality. This eliminates the need for layers and masking.

The built-in presets are my favorite part of the program because I can use them as starting points for creating my own presets.

Silver Efex Pro allows you to vignette and burn edges. You can control all aspects of the vignetting and it creates very dramatic effects. You can also use preset color filters (i.e., a red filter to bring out the sky, etc.) and you can use advanced tinting and toning options that mimic the kind of control I used to have when I worked in a wet darkroom.

Another cool new feature of this plug-in is called Structure. It allows you to control local contrast in a way that I have never seen in any other program. It creates some stunning effects. Structure gives you less or more contrast on small details. It automatically makes a portrait soft in all the right places if you slide the slider to the left, and automatically brings out fine details when you slide it to the right! All I can say is once you see this tool, you won’t want to be without it.

Some will argue that you can in fact create some of these effects in Aperture or Photoshop. That’s true. Both Aperture and Photoshop have powerful B&W conversion tools built in. But Silver Efex Pro gives you more options, more preset styles and more controls. For someone who does a great deal of black and white, it will be worth looking at Silver Efex Pro.

How about everyone else? Well for $199, the price is a bit prohibitive for the average hobbyist. Aperture alone only costs $199. So $199 for a plug-in that converts images to black and white is a bit steep.

For me, it’s worth it. All the Nik products are smooth and reliable. In a professional production environment, their costs are minimal when you compare them to time saved making images.

Will it be worth it for you? You can find out by downloading a free 15 day trial.

This post sponsored by Lensbabies.

Join the conversation! 22 Comments

  1. That price definitely puts it out of the hands of the average enthusiast. I’ll have to try it out to see what advantages it offers beyond the B&W presets I the ability to create in Lightroom. Thanks for the review.

  2. I have been using Lightroom and Power Retouch for black and white conversions but Silver Efex Pro is as they used to say is ‘The Bee’s Knee’s’ the pre-sets are first class and can be changed at will and as you said a good starting point, I also like the way an antique effect can be created, the toning is great too and infinitely flexible, the web site videos should be looked at, very informative, although it is not cheap I purchased it and would recommend anybody serious about black and white to go for, they wont regret it, just one other thing, it seems to retain highlights and shadows very well when you manipulate.

  3. Scott,

    I’m already using Viveza within Aperture and am looking at Color Efex Pro. Do you know if Nik plans to port Dfine for use with Aperture? If not, what sharpening tools do you use?

  4. @Jeff Lynch DFine is noise reduction. When I have sharpness problems, which is rare, I export to Photoshop and use Nik Sharpener Pro. I find the sharpening within Aperture to be adequate most of the time. As for Noise reduction, same situation. I export to Photoshop and use DFine.

  5. I’m trying the Demo and I’m tempted to buy it but $199 is too much as I can do most of this in PS-CS3. If they sold this plugin for $99 I bet they would make a LOT more $ in total.

  6. @Jeff M I agree. I have always found Nik Software to be very high quality but their pricing structure puts their stuff out of reach for all but the pro and serious amateur. As a pro I have no problem with it. The time savings alone makes it worth the money. But for the person who spent the same money on Aperture, it has to be a bit of a stumbling block.

  7. The demos look great. I currently use LR and PS3, and see the advantages of this plug-in.

    As a hobbyist the price is high for me – could TWIP negotiate a ‘special limited time price’? Thanks.

  8. I agree. The application looks great and it’s a package I would love to own and use both w/ photoshop and Apple Aperture. Unfortunately their pricing, even w the NAPP discount is too high. If it were $99, I’d buy it in a heartbeat, $150 to $200 is too expensive, even though it is quite nice.

  9. is anyone experiencing perfomance issues? i discovered, with another 8-core mac pro user, that there are still a few bugs to be ironed out, but apart from that you cant beat the results.

    images take a very long time to load on my machine, and the plugin is very sluggish.

  10. Rhys;
    I am not experiencing intolerable performance on my 2.16ghz iMAC but I have noticed that by taking a regular 18MB file and using the plug-in as a “Smart Filter” the file is now 108MB!

  11. @Scott I think you’d have a lot of fun with TrueGrain a bit more for the b&w gourmet and more granular control based on a wavelength graph. Oh and it doesn’t simulate grain. It uses actual scans of various exposures and sizes.

  12. @Ryhs
    I have experienced this very slow performance that you speak of and after doing a bit of research, what I’ve found is that the plug in (Aperture only) has issues opening RAW 40D and 5D image files. Try it on a JPG and it works just fine. Likewise, I have no issues opening 20D RAW images. I’ve made Nik aware of this and they’re looking in to it. Hopefully they will have a fix out soon.

  13. […] Nik Silver Efex Pro Mini Review – Scott has a mini-review of Nik’s dynamite new B&W conversion plug-in at the blog. While […]

  14. Follow-Up. Great product. Only problem is terrible performance as an Apple Aperture plug-in. Launches fine the first time then gets progressively slower each additional time, even on a MacPro w/ 8Gig of RAM. Unacceptable. Sounds like a major memory leak somewhere. Took 10 minutes to load from Aperture the other night. Like Gary S pointed out, this seems to be linked to the larger Canon 40D and 5D raw images, though my 8 MP 1D Mark II images also seemed slower. I’ll definitely buy it if they can get this fixed soon.

  15. @Jeff that doesn’t match my experience at all working on a 24″ iMac w/4 Gigs RAM. It’s not slow at all for me. Certainly not fast, but nowhere near as dire as you describe it – again – in my experience.

  16. Scott, glad to hear the Aperture plug-in is working fine for you. It works for me on my 30D and 1D2 raw files, as well as scanned files, but it slows to a crawl trying to handle the 14 bit Canon 40D raw files. And it’s fine from w/in photoshop, it only seems to be slowing down so badly when launched via Aperture. Very strange. I want to buy it, I like it that much, but not if I can’t use it from Aperture on newer/larger raw files.

  17. I had been experiencing terrible performance with Silver Efex Pro as an Aperture addin (was OK in Photoshop.) Nik has recently released an update version 1.001 which seems nice and zippy as an Aperture addin now– much faster than the Photoshop version in fact. I was really disappointed with the Apterture perfromance when I first got this software– it was basically unusable– very happy that Nik seem to have recognized and fixed the problem pretty quickly.

  18. I agree w/ JMT. I just got an email from Nik in response to the issue I raised w/ them about poor Aperture performance. Earlier this week they released version 1.001 to address the issue.

  19. […] reviewed Silver Efex Pro back in July. And after several months of usage, we only like it […]

  20. On the strength of the TWIPpers reviews of the NIK software I lashed out and bought the entire software bundle… a great leap of faith loading my Credit Card details and hitting the send button… half an hour later I was kicking myself …. that I hadn’t done it earlier.

    I LOVE the entire bundle and they have made my workflow so much more streamlined.. Thank you NIK and thank you TWIP.

    And congratulations to the NIK Silver Efex Pro on a well deserved award… Cheers G

  21. […] Photo’s software product of the year is Nik’s Software Silver Efex Pro plug-in. Turns your images into black and white. Works in Adobe photoshop and […]

  22. While we belong to the Family of Christ, we are still drawn down by our sins. ,

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