posted Monday, March 25, 2013 at 11:07 AM EST

A couple of weeks ago, search giant Google took flak for discontinuing Snapseed Desktop, an unusual and much-lauded photo app from recent acquisition Nik Software. Today, the company has another announcement related to Nik, but this time it's much more positive news that will be welcomed by photographers -- especially those using Photoshop.

Snapseed and its desktop cousin might be cool and unusually intuitive, but Nik's bread and butter has long been its excellent imaging plug-ins, extending the functionality of third-party apps like Apple's Aperture, as well as Adobe's Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Lightroom. The company has a total of six current plug-ins that can be bought separately or in a bundle, but pricing for each has kept them mostly in the hands of enthusiasts and pros. Most were priced at around US$100 when purchased separately, with a few reaching as high as US$200. Even as a bundle, the suite of six plug-ins cost US$300 for Aperture / Lightroom-only versions, and US$500 if you needed to add compatibility with Photoshop and Elements.

Nik's Color Efex Pro 4 is among the plug-ins now available in the Nik Collection by Google.

In a post on the Google+ page of Christian Pesch, Google has revealed a radical overhaul of pricing for Nik's plug-ins. Pesch was formerly the development manager at Nik Software, and is now a manager and software engineer at Google. In his post, he reveals a new name for the suite, and a price that is 70% lower than in the past, essentially providing all six plug-ins for less than you'd have paid for just two plug-ins until now.

Now rebadged as the Nik Collection by Google, the suite is essentially the same as that previously known as the Nik Complete Collection Ultimate Edition. Pricing is set at just US$150 or thereabouts, and the suite includes Color Efex Pro 4, Dfine 2, HDR Efex Pro 2, Sharpener Pro 3, Silver Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2 just as it did in the final Nik-branded incarnation. Even for photographers who don't use Photoshop or Elements, the price cut is significant -- it's almost exactly half that of the earlier Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture.

Silver Efex Pro 2 was previously priced at US$200. Now you'll get all six plugins for just US$150.

For anybody who'd previously purchased one or more of the Nik plug-ins separately, the news is superb. According to Pesch, you'll be receiving an email in the next few days offering an upgrade to the full suite, free of charge. (And that means some folks who'd paid as little as $100 will now be getting a suite that has until now been priced at five times as much.) Pesch also states in a followup comment that partial refunds will be offered to anybody who's purchased the suite or a plug-in for more than the new suite price within the last 30 days.

Of course, if you feel that you only need one specific plug-in, the news might not be quite so positive; you'll now have to buy the whole suite to obtain it, as they're no longer available separately. And obviously, the news may not be quite so well-received by those who'd paid the earlier price for the Nik suite more than 30 days ago. That's always going to be the case with any significant reduction in pricing; a line has to be drawn in the sand somewhere, after all. These are but small flies in the ointment.

Google is giving owners of Nik Software plugins a free upgrade to the full suite.

More details on the Nik Collection by Google and its component plug-ins can be found on the Nik Software website. A 15-day trial of the suite is also available for download.