These past couple weeks have been a roller coaster for photography software. For some companies, the past couple years have been a roller coaster, too — Nik software in particular. In May of 2017, Google (which had owned Nik software since 2012) announced they were ceasing new developments on the program. No new features, bug fixes, or guaranteed support for updated operating systems. That happened just a couple months after making the software completely free. Justifiably, Google’s decision to end developments disappointed many photographers who relied on the software, and who happily would have paid for further updates. Today, though, there is some cautiously good news: DxO, the company behind DxO OpticsPro (which — also as of today — is now called DxO PhotoLab), announced that they bought Nik from Google. On top of that, they announced the development of a new version of the Nik Collection planned for mid-2018. If you use Nik software as part of your workflow, what does this mean for you?
1) The Good News
Here’s the most important line in DxO’s press release:
DxO plans to continue development of the Nik Collection. The current version will remain available for free on DxO’s dedicated website, while a new version is planned for mid-2018.
On balance, this seems like a very good development, although it’s worth having some caution before embracing the news all-out.
For most photographers, the main thing is that the Nik Collection will continue to exist with future updates, which, before today, very few people expected. Based upon the wording of the press release — a “new version” for mid-2018 — it also sounds as though we’re going to get some additional in-depth features in the coming months. Not bad.
Personally, I use the Nik Collection to edit some of my trickier landscape photos. It offers an extra set of sliders compared to what you’d find in software like Lightroom or Capture One, and the U-point technology (which lets you apply selective edits) is a great tool as well. Although it has some competitors on the market, such as Topaz, it’s no secret that a lot of photographers use Nik in their workflow.
Also: Less publicized in the photography community is that DxO changed the name of their flagship software from “DxO OpticsPro” to “DxO PhotoLab.” The big difference? U-Point technology. DxO now allows local adjustments in their software, and it’s a direct result of their acquisition of Nik.
(DxO sounded practically giddy about this new development in their short FAQ for DxO PhotoLab: “Today with the integration of local adjustments including a famous technology, and a big announcement to be official very soon, it was time for us to change the name into DxO PhotoLab.”)
- The big takeaway: If Nik software is crucial or important for your photography, you should be very happy by this development. In some shape or form, it now has a safer future.
2) The Ambiguous News
There’s still a lot of uncertainty so far.
Uncertainty isn’t always bad — we’ll have to wait and see. But it’s best to exercise caution at first, because no one knows exactly what DxO is planning to do with the company they just acquired.
It’s possible that they’re planning to keep the standalone Nik Collection available for photographers to enjoy (and perhaps fixing some bugs over time), while spending more effort on the new DxO PhotoLab. The U-Point technology might just be the beginning, and the “new version” they advertise could be available only to DxO PhotoLab buyers.
It’s also possible that, several years down the road, they’ll scrap the standalone version of Nik completely after shifting its technologies to DxO PhotoLab. Or, they might do what Google did and stop updating it entirely. That would leave us back to square one (where your downloaded version of Nik software still works, but you can’t expect any updates or bug fixes over time).
On the other hand, they could release a revamped Nik Collection some time next year, but charge a price to buy it standalone. That’s not inherently a bad thing, either. They just bought a popular technology from Google for, presumably, a decent sum. Software development is expensive, and vast improvements to the Nik Collection are likely to (deservedly) have a price tag attached. But what sort of major update would we see? That remains an open question.
If this seems like a lot of speculation, that’s because it is. All that DxO has said so far about future development is, essentially, that there will be future development. We don’t know what direction they’re going, except that they’ve already started using U-Point technology in their DxO PhotoLab software. I strongly doubt that’s the only thing they’ll do with this acquisition.
Most likely, whatever route they choose will work great for some photographers, and not as well for others. For all I know, they’re working on a fully-fledged Lightroom competitor with great organizational and cataloging features, and they want Nik’s technologies in their new program. That would be extremely interesting.
Or, they simply could have acquired it for the same reason Google did — to implement some of Nik’s proprietary technologies into their own software, and not really prioritize the standalone Nik collection or develop new features.
Most likely, the final result will be somewhere in the middle. And that’s still good news! Even if upgrades to the Nik Collection cost money, it’s still better than not having that option in the first place. The Nik software you already have on your computer (or that you can download for free from DxO) is likely to keep working for a long time. However, it might be a bit premature to celebrate wholeheartedly, since we really don’t yet know what the future of Nik will be.
3) How to Download Nik Software
Just like with Google, DxO currently is offering Nik software as a free download. However, I had a few issues with their website earlier.
In theory, you can go to the new DxO/Nik website, enter your email address, and receive links to download the software. I tried doing this on multiple computers with several different email addresses, and the links never arrived in my inbox. (I did check my spam mail, as well.) This is definitely temporary (or just an issue for me).
My hope is that inputting your email address doesn’t auto-subscribe you to DxO’s mailing list. I’m sure I’ll find out within the next week or so — I’ll either get a dozen identical newsletters to all my email addresses, or none at all. We’ll see.
I checked the original Google link to download the Nik Collection, and you can still download it there if the DxO site isn’t working for you.
Update: The DxO link now works for me. A few others have reported issues getting their email to arrive, but it seems like most people are not having a problem.
There are still plenty of unknowns here. We don’t yet know how DxO plans to continue with Nik’s technology, or even if they’ll continue offering a free standalone in the upcoming years. We also don’t know the pricing structure for future upgrades, or if you need to be using DxO OpticsPro in order to access any of these new developments. All we know is that there will be an update to the Nik Collection in mid-2018, and the U-Point technologies are already in the new DxO PhotoLab software.
Despite the uncertainty, there’s more good in this announcement than bad. Nik is back in the hands of the photography community, and it seems highly likely that new features will arrive some time next year (paid or not). At worse, if you end up disliking whatever direction DxO takes, this announcement means there’s no change for you. You still have access to the free, standalone Nik software, just like you did before this news.
So, on the whole, I’m happy about this development — and cautiously optimistic that DxO will take the Nik Collection back in the right direction for photographers. My strong assumption is that DxO acquired Nik for a good reason, more than just adding U-Points to DxO OpticsPro. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly what it is.