Is DXO Photolab REALLY free with Version 5 of Nik?

I’m not sure if Photo Lab is really free or not. I definitely don’t want to spend $200+ on it. I got an activation code and used it but now I’m concerned.

Welcome to the DxO shop

The free version of PhotoLab that you get is the “Essential” version, which contains a lot less than the Elite version.

See this page for the differences.

Bear in mind that Nik Collection is primarily designed as a series of plug-ins for other software that does the RAW conversion and then works with a resulting TIFF or JPEG file, so you are going to have to start by converting your images to TIFF or JPEG in PL5 Essential, then export them to whatever Nik tool you need to use, possibly returning the TIFF/JPEG to PhotoLab for any further work. This means that, for every RAW file, you will have to create a TIFF file, which is usually larger than the RAW file and will take up more disk space and crowd your folders with up to four files (RAW, TIFF, DOP sidecar and XMP sidecar) for each image If you need to go back to any of the RAW adjustments, you would have to scrap the TIFF and start again.

On the other hand, if you were to buy one of the PhotoLab bundles, you wouldn’t need to use Nik Collection because most everything you would use Nik Collection for is included in the PL/FP/VP bundle.

Yes, it costs more, but what it gives you is a single app for a start to finish workflow without having to generate or work with TIFF or JPEG files.

You retain the ability to go back to RAW adjustments at any time and only need to create TIFF or JPEG files when you finally want to export the image for either web use or, possibly printing. You can create multiple virtual copies, which allow you to try out different effects and each virtual copy only adds a few KB to the DOP sidecar files instead of having to create yet another multi-megabyte TIFF file.

The PL + FP bundle currently costs €257,99 and, if you also want to do perspective corrections, the PL + FP + VP bundle is €288,99, which is a discount of 34% on buying the three products individually.

I bought the all-in-one bundle about five years ago and have never needed to use any other software, apart from for stitching panoramas or stacking. FilmPack only gets upgraded every few years and ViewPoint even less often, so the only more frequent upgrade cost is for FilmPack.


@Jody , Nik Collection is like eating out. You get a selection of precooked styles and if you like them, you’re done quickly. As @Joanna commented, you pay extra for disk space, if you want to play in high quality league.

The DxO Premium Bundle is like buying pots, pans and a cookbook. This might be an investment, but will allow you to cook to your hearts content for many years.

PhotoLab Essential Edition deprives PhotoLab Elite Edition of a few functions that I find to be the very spice that helps to be a better cook. You’ll want Elite Editions sooner or later.

You already seem to have paid for Nik and got an extra code for PL, so why not use it and see what you can do with that combo. I’d not rush to buy every update, but wait a while and maybe get the Premium Bundle in a few years time, provided the bundle is still available.

I started out many years ago with an essential edition and found that I wanted and needed the elite edition plus FilmPack and ViewPoint. Getting that bundle in the first place would have saved me some money. On the other hand, we can always start small and invest later, we simply have to accept the extra cost of the two step approach.

My recommendation: Use what you have for as long as you can, learning the tools, their features and limitations. As soon as those limitations really hurt, get the DxO Premium Bundle and never look back. There is no free lunch!


Hi @Jody and welcome to the DxO forum.

First, to answer your question: Yes, Photolab 5 Essential IS free with the purchase of Nik 5.

Now to add on to what @Joanna and @platypus have written. The essential version of PL5 is a “bare bones” version that doesn’t include many of the features that DxO is famous for(e.g. Deep Prime noise reduction and demosaicing). In order to get the absolute best that DxO offers(and it is very good) you need the whole suite of programs: Photolab 5 Elite, Filmpack 5 Elite and Viewpoint 3. Nik 5 is very nice, but is not absolutely necessary.

I’m one(as are many others) who owns licenses for, paid for and uses all four of these programs regularly and I’m here to tell you that they are worth the money that you pay for them.

Please keep in mind(based on previous releases) that a new version of Photolab will launch in October, so you may want to hold off purchase until then. Use the essential version that you have and get used to the tools and workflow. Sooner or later you will find that you want the elite versions and you may find that you don’t need Nik 5 at all, though I find that it comes in handy quite frequently.


And maybe it is a good idea not to buy with the release in October…wait für black Friday or other sales in the winter months. Till this time train with the versions you still own, and/or download a trial version of the other components


I agree with Guenter and Mark.

Your timing is good. If you purchase the Nik Collection 5, you can also download a free copy of PhotoLab 5 Essential. Use it and familiarize yourself with it for a a couple of months. During the third week of October, PhotoLab 6 will be released. You can download a 30-day full trial of the Elite version of the software which also includes trials for the embedded versions of Viewpoint that FilmPack Elite.

The 30-day trial will end just about the time Black Friday pricing is announced. Those are usually DxO’s best prices of the year. If you buy the entire suite of three programs you will save a considerable amount of money over buying the three programs individually.

Both Viewpoint and FilmPack functionality is actually already part of PhotoLab, but a license for them is required to unhide those features so they. can be used. A license for Viewpoint and FilmPack Elite also comes with standalone versions of those programs.

If you want the full PhotoLab Elite experience, at the best price, buying the 3 program suite with Black Friday pricing is the way to go!

We all love using the PhotoLab suite, but obviously we don’t know how great your interest is in DxO’s products, I hope our responses to your queriy will help you with your purchase decision.


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Umm, got to challenge that. The Nik apps are a lot more than a bunch of presets, they have more options and controls than you can shake a stick at.


Umm, got to challenge the last three words of that as well. Yes, you do have to convert RAW images to TIFF or JPEG before you can work on them with the Nik apps but you do NOT have to do it in PL5 Essential. You can use any RAW convertor you like.

Of course. But it seems unnecessary to use another when you get PL for free

Yes, certainly, and there is quite some overlap between the Nik Collection and the DxO Premium Bundle.

If DxO wanted, they could incorporate Nik functionality into the bundle, but DxO is moving in a different direction: move or copy functionality from one app to an other, creating a plethora of apps that are intended to complement third party software. While this might lead unsuspecting buyers into getting more DxO apps, it also means that more apps than necessary need to be maintained and upgraded on a regular basis. I’m not sure if that is a smart move for a small company. :man_shrugging:


You are correct, of course, but this thread is about a free download or PhotoLab with Nik Collection. It is not clear what other the software @Jody may be using or whether he is interested in PhotoLab as his main raw processor/converter.


Doing sencible things and DxO!