In a move which nobody saw coming, Google has made its Nik Collection plug-in suite free to download. Previously, the suite was sold for $150, which was itself a substantial reduction over the price charged by its previous owner and developer, Nik Software.
A statement by Google on its Google+ page explains the decision: "As we continue to focus our long-term investments in building incredible photo editing tools for mobile, including Google Photos and Snapseed, we've decided to make the Nik Collection desktop suite available for free, so that now anyone can use it."
The Google Nik Collection consists of seven plug-ins which are installed as a package but can be used individually. The newest, developed by Google and not Nik Software, is Analog Efex Pro, a powerful and effective retro effects generator.
You also get Colour Efex Pro, which is an extensive range of photographic filters with individual adjustments and the ability to stack them together as 'recipes' which you can save and re-use in future. HDR Efex Pro is used to create HDR shots from merged series of exposures, or from single files, and Silver Efex Pro is widely regarded as one of the best black and white tools on the market. Viveza, meanwhile, is designed to bring the same degree of local tone adjustments to colour images that black and white photographers have long practiced in the darkroom using 'dodging and burning' techniques.
The Google Nik Collection also contains two enhancement tools, Dfine and Sharpener Pro, for precise noise reduction and sharpening respectively.
Aware that many users will have paid the full price for the Google Nik Collection, Google says: "If you purchased the Nik Collection in 2016, you will receive a full refund, which we'll automatically issue back to you in the coming days."
If you haven't tried the Google Nik Collection plug-ins yet, you should take a look right now and download them from the Google Nik Collection website.