• Price When Reviewed: 136

  • Pros: Can create top-notch black-and-white images; innovative selective control system; highly responsive.

  • Cons: Preset column tricky to navigate.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

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This review is taken from our group test of Photoshop CS4 plug-ins.

Silver Efex Pro efficiently produces great black-and-white effects that are fiddly to create in Photoshop alone.

The plug-in ships with a set of presets to use as a starting point.

Like the rest of the application, these include both pure digital and faux-film effects. Though Silver Efex offers film-type effects – including mimicking real-world black-and-white films – it doesn’t penalize you if you’re not a film buff. The preset column shows a thumbnail preview of your image with the effect, which is a great timesaver and encourages experimentation, but is fiddly, owing to its overly long slider.

Set opposite the presets are the manual controls, which kick off with Brightness, Contrast and Structure (graininess) sliders. There are panels for colour filters, film types and stylizations. The Film Types panel offers popular films from Kodak’s ISO 32 Panatomic X to Ilford’s Delta 3200 Pro, while Stylizing covers toning, vignettes and burnt edges.
Below these are a loupe and a useful 11-point, black-to-white scale that allows you to see which areas of your image have the same brightness using a zebra pattern.

You can alter images manually with Nik’s U-point Control Points. These are points that you pin onto the image that affect the brightness, contrast and graininess of the surrounding areas. Using sliders attached to each point, you control each setting and the radius of its effect. In the photo above, we used control points to bring out the top of the hose and the shower nozzle, as they were too dark after our effect was created.

Silver Efex Pro runs responsively, even as a Smart Filter. It also works on 8- and 16-bit images in both RGB and CMYK. If you don’t use it as a Smart Filter, you can also apply its effects with a brush in Photoshop.

Supported hosts: Photoshop 7/CS-CS4 (Mac version supports CS2-CS4 only), Aperture 2.1