The Nik Collection was originally developed by Nik Software. This was a private software company which has its roots in Germany and the US. Interestingly, Nikon also had a stake in Nik which is why many innovative features of the Nik Collection (like Control Points) also appear in the Nikon Capture NX software. There’s a short page covering this on Wikipedia.
For a long time, the Nik Collection was a market leader and a favourite among professional photographers. It was (and still is) easy to use and can help you apply excellent enhancements to your photography. The downside was that it was very expensive.
Then in 2012 Google purchased Nik Software and took control of the Nik Collection. Initially, they continued with enhancements and quickly released Nik Analog Efex. Shortly after they followed up with Nik Analog Efex 2 which added further features. As well as this Google slashed the price of the software, making it much more affordable for the photography enthusiast. Later they went a step further, making the software free and issuing refunds to many who had purchased it.
But by late 2016 Google appeared to cease all development and bug fixes. Then in 2017 they formally announced that there would be no further releases of the Nik Collection. Fortunately, there was a lifeline for the Nik Collection when DxO purchased the assets from Google.
The Nik Collection 2012 and 2018
Following the purchase of the Nik Collection from Google, DxO commenced development. Their priority was to fix any serious bugs in the Nik Collection software and ensure the software used the latest code libraries. By this time, some Nik Collection users were reporting stability issues when upgrading Photoshop, Lightroom and their computer operating systems.
In June 2018, DxO released their first new version of the Nik Collection branding it the Nik Collection 2018. At the same time, they branded the old Google version “Nik Collection 2012”. I suspect that’s because Google purchased the software in 2012, but it makes it seem a lot older than the final build Google produced.
There was though bad news for Nik fans who now needed to pay for the upgrade (as you might expect). But the upgrade was virtually identical to the previous Google version. At the time I published this video on YouTube giving my assessment of the upgrade.
Is the Free Nik Collection Still Available to Download?
Yes, you can still download the free version of the Nik Collection, or the Nik Collection 2012 as DxO now calls this. Below is a link to a page on the DxO website page to request the free Nik Collection 2012 download (affiliate link).
Here you can enter your email address and DxO will send you a link to free Nik Collection download. I’ve tried this myself and it works (as at April 2019).
Important Problems with the Free Nik Collection
There are though some issues you need to be aware of.
The original Nik Collection always had a few bugs and a few more crept in during Googles ownership. I will spare you the lecture on software development and why I think this happened. What it does mean though is that some features such as the Brush option in the Selection Tool are unusable.
You might also find that in your installation that trying to launch a Nik tool from the Selection Tool will crash Photoshop. If you find this, just access the Nik tools from the Photoshop Filters menu. If you’re using Lightroom, it seems a little better behaved. DxO fixed these problems, along with lots of others, in the Nik Collection 2018. I upgraded in June 2018 and the software, which I use daily, hasn’t crashed once on either my Mac or Windows PC. I’ve also received a few new versions of the software which address more bugs.
If you find you like the Nik Collection but the bugs are causing too many issues, it’s well worth the price of the upgrade. There’s also a free 30-day trial of the Nik Collection which you can download. Do be aware though, if you install the new trial version of the software it will automatically remove the old version from your computer. If you want to return to the old Nik Collection 2012 after the trial, you will need to install it again.