Wednesday, December 24, 2008

REVIEW: Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 1.0

NOTE: A 15% discount on Nik Software for readers of this blog by entering the code rmartinsen when you order online or call to place an order. This offer NOW INCLUDES bundles!

**** SEE MY NEW Silver Efex Pro 2.0 Review ***

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

I'll admit that Black and White photography isn't really my thing, but I can appreciate a good one when I see it. When doing this review I decided to pour through my photos and find some that might be fun to try out with black and white to see if Nik Silver Efex Pro was really worth the cost of upgrading from the very good black and white conversion features built into Photoshop CS3 and up.

In the first image you see in this article, I chose the Dark Sepia effect with the Kodak 100 TMAX Pro film choice. Overall I was very pleased with the results and felt it didn't take away from the original color version (available via a mouse over). In fact, I liked it a lot!

Next, I decided, what would it look like if I decided to go for a more grungy aged photo look, so I chose the Antique Plate II filter as shown below:

Now I had something that I thought looked truly authentic, even if my tendency is to enjoy the sharpness and dark colors of the first one. I was starting to enjoy this product and experimenting even more.

Next up was my favorite Geshia photo since I was curious how it could take a portrait and give it that old fashion charm. Now this was just a candid shot taken in Kyoto, Japan of a real maikosan (apprentice geisha) that I enjoy very much so I was curious if it would take away from the charm of the photo to lose its rich colors in favor of black and white. For this one I chose the Soft Skin B&W filter and used the Kodak ISO 32 Panatomic X film selection:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

In this case, I still prefer the color version but I thought it was a fun touch on a beloved photo.

Next up I decided to do what I think most people do when they choose black and white (or so it seems) - rescue an otherwise crappy photo by giving it that old black and white charm. In this case, it was just a lame street photo during a recent snow. For this one I customized quite a bit from the Push Process N+1 filter and removed all of the noise grain this filter adds. I also burned the edges to get this result:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

The result here was a little charm to an otherwise dull snow scene, and more fun playing around in Silver Efex Pro.

The User Interface

I'm a big fan of Nik Software's U-Point technology and it's fantastic Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 Complete product, so I had a good idea of what to expect in the user-interface for this product. However, given the fact that this program just makes black and white photos, I didn't think there would be too much stuff it needed to do so the interface would be fairly simple like Nik Software Viveza 1.0. However, I'm please to report there's a lot of cool stuff in here to give you a lot of control over how to present your black and white images. This interface makes this product very fun to experiment with and you'll quickly find yourself spending more time than you expected coming up with the perfect black and white effect.

Conclusion

This is a fun product which anyone who enjoys black and white photography will certainly enjoy. it provides a ton of flexibility and its built-in features will allow for excellent results in a short time. I think that Wedding photographers will simply love it for the work they do with black and whites, so if your business depends on black and white photography I think you'll find it worth the investment to own this product.

If you are like me and only dabble in black and white photography occasionally then its $200 price tag will be hard to justify. I can't afford it, so I won't be adding it to my collection right now but when I do I'll definitely use the 15% discount on Nik Software for readers of this blog by entering the code rmartinsen when ordering online (or call to place an order). This offer excludes 3rd party software, bundles and upgrades.

**** SEE MY NEW Silver Efex Pro 2.0 Review ***

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4 comments:

ZoneDancer said...

Nice review Ron. I would like to see it aginst Alien Skin: Exposure.
http://www.alienskin.com/exposure/
As AS:E does color film simulation also.

Kevin said...

Good overview of Silver Efex Pro, Ron! I especially liked the car image and the way you "saved" the snowy postcard scene.

Your readers might be interested in knowing there is a free 15-day version of Silver Efex Pro (and all the Nik Software products) at http://www.niksoftware.com/trial and nearly 70 3-4 minute videos at http://www.niksoftware.com/learn. Plenty to check out and easy to experiment on their own images.

Have a terrific New Year, Ron!

Cheers, Kevin (from Nik Software)

Anonymous said...

Thats a great idea...I would love a site that does duel outs! That would be superb! Maybe it makes you take a stronger stance, but in the long run as a reputable blogger you will gain from it. A Duke it out section would be so welcome. Somewhat like the FP vs Bokeh(sorry I am the one with the recent comments on that review).

Ron Martinsen said...

I actually sat down on several occasions to do a shoot out on film simulation products like Imagenomic Real Grain, Nik Software's Color Efex & Silver Efex, onOne PhotoTools, and Alien Skin Exposure.

All are great products, but at the end of the day I just wasn't excited enough with the results I was seeing to complete the article. I've moved on beyond film and just don't have the desire to go back so I keep losing interest in this article.

I will say that for B&W I don't think anything touches the results I - and many of the big name pros I talk to - get out of Silver Efex. For color, Exposure is probably the best overall option, but Color Efex is going to be good enough for many - and it has a much better UI and U-Point controls.