Google Nik Collection, On1 Photo 10.5, and Monochrome Madness

This is a post about photography software, specifically, a comparison between Google’s Nik Collection and On1 Photo 10.5. It probably won’t be short. Proceed accordingly. 

Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness — a weekly offering of monochrome images submitted by multiple photographers — once a month has a theme. For the first Thursday of September, it’s “Tree or Trees.” 

I thought that would be a great opportunity to do a comparison between my normal go-to software — On1 Effects 10.5 — and two of Nik’s modules, Color Efx Pro 2 and Silver Efx Pro 2.

As it turns out, both programs are free. On1’s latest version is On1 Photo Raw 2017 but I can’t recommend something I have and don’t use. Version Effects 10.5, I use on nearly every photo. 

So, trees . . . 

Well, I immediately thought of this photo from the Place of Refuge, here on the Big Island. 

That’s a JPG of what the RAW file looks like. I ran it through Color Fex Pro 2 (CFP2 from now on) specifically with the intention of prepping it for B&W conversion. This is what I got:

The above is not my typical post processing for a color photo . . . but it worked well to give me this using Silver Fex Pro 2 (hence called SFP2).

Photo 01

There is no SmugMug gallery for these as I’m mostly playing around, but if you click on the photos, they open up at a 1000 pixel size (the maximum size for Leanne’s MM posts). 

As usual, WordPress does a lousy job of rendering the photos, especially in B&W. They look better larger. 

When I saw that, I decided to run comparisons with On1 Effects 10.5 (hence, On1). But, I didn’t want to go back and work on that photo. Why? Because a portrait orientation appears bigger even though both photos have a maximum size of 1000 pixels.  

So, I picked this photo of the same area. 

Here’s my typical On1 processing . . . 

I sometimes will punch these up a bit more in Lightroom, but for this comparison I left the photos as they were output from the respective programs. 

Here’s the one from CFP2 . . . 

Notice the different borders . . . you’ll be able to identify where each photo came from by the border. Pinline is On1, and the rough shaded border is from the Nik modules. 

Looking at those two, I would give a slight edge to  the CFP2. It’s much easier comparing them in the gallery at the end of this post, but if you click on each, they will open up in different tabs and you can switch between them to see the difference. 

How did the B&W conversions do? 

There was one ON1 version I liked . . . 

Photo 02

. . . but two versions of the SFP2 conversions, one of which I might use for the submission to Monochrome Madness. 

Photo 03

Photo 04

Here, again, I must give the nod to SFP2. Both of those were quick to obtain versus me having to play around with the ON1 conversions and still not being happy with what I got (at some point, you cut your losses and go with whatever you have). 

I often envision what I would like the B&W version of a photo to look like, and those two exceeded my expectations. Perhaps I have low expectations . . . which On1 still failed to meet. 

By the way, I’m numbering the photos because there will be a poll at the end of the post. 

This next photo is one that I will not submit, so none of the B&W conversions are numbered because they are not under consideration. Why are these here, then? Remember, I’m doing comparisons. and this particular photo is — in my opinion — difficult to render in B&W. I mean, it’s easy to render, but it doesn’t look good. 

Again, a JPG version of the RAW file as-shot.

And these are the color rendering from each program . . . 



I’m not enamored with either version and I could pick either just for showing the people climbing onto the fallen Redwood. I might give the barest of nods to the CFP2 version but that could change depending on the lighting in the office. 

What makes this photo difficult to convert to B&W is the large amounts of detail, deep and light greens, and the bright reds and yellows. This is what On1 gave me after much playing around with it. 

It’s not awful, especially at full size, but even at 1000 pixels, it lacks . . . something. 

Here’s the output from SFP2 . . . 

Still a mess, but a better mess, at least to my eyes. For one thing, the highlights are better rendered and the scene doesn’t seem as busy. I went back in On1 and tried to duplicate the above . . . 

I think I came close, but not quite the same. However, at least they are close enough that I could go with either one, but the SFP2 version took a minute or so to generate whereas I played with the ON1 settings for about five minutes. 

OK, back to choosing a photo for Monochrome Madness Tree(s) Theme week. 

JPG output of unmodified RAW file

I could have sworn I had better photos of a Joshua Tree, but this is the one I liked the best. I’ll also be able to use it when the theme will be “rocks.” 

Here are the color renderings . . . 

Pretty close, I would say. 

For the B&W versions, I cheated . . . I went different ways for each, so we can’t really compare them directly. 

Photo 05

Photo 06

On1 10.5 is free now, but I paid for the original suite, so in comparison to Nik’s offerings, I would say that Nik is a heck of a program. Easy to use, powerful, and some of the tools let me do stuff quickly that I can’t do as easily with On1 or even other software I own.

I will repeat myself . . . get this software. It’s free. There may come a time as the operating systems change when it will no longer work . . . but it’s FREE and you can use it now. 

Wait, just a cherry-picking minute, you say. You’re using RAW files; what about us poor slobs who work with JPGs?

Fair question, and don’t sell put yourselves down by identifying with slobs. 

I’ve been shooting a lot with my P900 and it only outputs JPGs (curse you, Nikon!) so here’s three different photos (well, they are almost the same) and the respective color and B&W processing. 

JPG as output from P900



Photo 07

Photo 08

OK, I purposefully tried to process those differently, but the next two sets do mix things up and show the two programs come close to duplicating each others outputs. Rather, I can use them to get whatever look I want. 

JPG as output from P900



Photo 09

Photo 10

I noticed I was adding a bit of vignette darkening on the Nik photos, as well as a gradient. 

That gives the impression the ON1 photos are “cleaner” which, in fact, they are. Trust me when I say the SFP2 photos can be just as clean. 

JPG as output from P900



Photo 11

Photo 12

As I said, even though it may not look like it on all of these, Silver Fex Pro 2 is — in my opinion — the better program for B&W conversion. On some photos, it was also a clear winner for rendering color photos.

In fact, let me redo the last photo . . .

Photo 13

Did I mention it’s free, powerful, and free?

Anyway, here’s the poll. To be clear, I’m fairly sure I’m going with either Photo 1 or Photo 04 . . . or, maybe Photo 06 . . . or . . . oh, heck, I don’t know. I’ll decide tomorrow, but I’m curious what readers think. 

You can pick up to three photos.

Here’s the Gallery. I’ll group all of the B&W photos first, making them easier to go through and compare:

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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10 Responses to Google Nik Collection, On1 Photo 10.5, and Monochrome Madness

  1. AnnMarie says:

    I really like #9 (which I voted for), but then I went back to review them and found #2 and #11 equally as good. Always fun to vote!


  2. Hey Disperser — next Thursday is still August. So you have another week to submit your tree photo. I use Nik Silver Efex Pro for most of my Monochrome Madness submissions but once in a while I just use Lightroom. Lightroom often does a good job if you don’t mind spending about 10 minutes or so on the process. BTW, I chose #3 and #4.


    • disperser says:

      I know, but I’ll be traveling next week. I’ll be sending Leanne the entry for September a few weeks early.

      Thanks for voting, and yes, Nik offers faster and more powerful adjustments. I can get there with Lightroom but, like you say, it takes more work.


  3. I like those B&W where the white seems a lot more strong towards the plants centre.


  4. YAY! I voted! I love voting! :-)

    Coolio shots, Emilio!
    HUGS!!! :-)


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