Google's Nik Collection of photography software is now free! Starting March 24, 2016 Google has dropped the price of the Nik Collection, a suite of seven advanced desktop plug-ins, from $149 to nothing. The collection of Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine is now totally free to download. All of the plug-ins work in Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. Except for HDR Efex Pro, the plug-ins also work with Adobe Elements 9 through 13. If you purchased the Nik Collection in 2016, you will receive a full refund, which Google will automatically issue back to their customers in the coming days.
Originally valued at $499: Nik is the German company behind popular mobile app Snapseed. Before the company was bought in 2012 by Google, Nik sold the collection for $499. Right after Google acquired Nik it dropped the price of the collection to $149. Now it's free.
Dfine is the Best Noise Reduction Software for High ISO Astro-Landscape Images. Dfine 2.0 is part of the Nik Collection. Back in 2010 you could purchase this plug-in separately from Nik for $199. Even at this price, I often recommended it to other nightscape photographers. I believe it outperforms other noise reduction software products, including the popular DeNoise by Topaz.
Beyond the Details adjustment in ARC: Although powerful noise reduction is available through the Adobe Camera Raw Converter Detail menu (refer to pages 120-124 in my Milky Way NightScapes e-Book), Dfine is a must for the final touch-up work. That's because the night sky often needs additional noise reduction after all the post processing is done. So much contrast is added to the sky to make the Milky Way "pop" that any noise left over from the Detail adjustments is accentuated and must be reduced by Dfine.
I often use Dfine much more on the sky than on the foreground (which is easy to do with Photoshop's selection masks). There are two reasons: 1.) The foreground usually requires much less post processing contrast, so noise is not increased as much as the night sky. 2.) Foregrounds often have details (rocks and plants) that help to hide noise.