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Posts Tagged ‘RAW’

I’ve been using Nikon’s software for converting my RAW NEF files since I began shooting the D100 in late 2003. It started out with Capture but later renamed Capture NX.  I later began using Adobe’s Lightroom when the first version was still in beta.

Why? Because conversions of the RAW format are interpretations. Nikon has had its own proprietary software from the beginning. There was a bit of a battle between the developers of the RAW format and Nikon when RAW was coming on board. There were claims that Nikon had encrypted the white balance and not released the SDK code to the other developers. I think they ended up releasing a mini SDK to the developers for conversions of NEFs after the dust settled.

NEF files are the RAW files generated by a Nikon camera. You can open/convert and resave to tif, jpg or psd file formats.

I tested Lightroom and its conversion of RAW files against Capture NX2 when I began using LR. The images were different in appearance due to differences in interpretation. There was also chromatic aberration in the LR files where it was practically non-existent in the files rendered by Capture NX2. Lightroom has tweaked things further using Camera Profiles.

This is an ongoing process. Here is an March 2010 update for new beta camera profiles for the Nikon D3 and D700. These are beta but give them a whirl.

Download beta Camera profiles for D3 and D700

In Lightroom, go to the bottom of the Develop Module and you’ll see Camera Calibration. There’s a drop down menu that gives you options to choose. Adobe Standard, Camera Neutral, Portrait, Standard, Landscape and Vivid are the standard options. So, if you are shooting a Nikon D90 Camera Standard is the profile for a Nikon D90 or as seen in the screenshot, Camera Portrait for a D90. If you were shooting a Canon 5D2, then the Camera Standard would be for the Canon 5D2. The actual name of the camera that the image was taken with doesn’t show up in your drop down list. Some of the ACR profiles are also available.

I have loaded additional profiles for the D2x mode 1, mode 2 and mode 3 since I have owned that camera and still have thousands of images from it. The rendering of skin tones was superb with a D2x. D2x mode 1 is the original “borrowed” standard taken from the Capture (stopped at v.4 before the release of Capture NX and Capture NX2. Mode 1 was the Kodak standard for portrait work and Mode 2 was pretty close. I’ve found Modes 1 and 2 less punchy than Adobe Camera Standard by comparison. Eye pleasing color is not the same as accurate skin tones. I always felt that I preferred less red in my skin tones. Mode 3 was generally used for landscapes with a lot of green and blue.

According to your “taste” use what you will. One of the best ways to see the differences is to open the same NEF file using Lightroom, (or Photoshop) and then open it in Capture NX2.

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Nikon has announced that the update for Capture NX version 2.2 is now available.

Capture NX2.2

The interface is redesigned and there’s a new auto retouch brush, selection control points and shadow/highlight adjustment. Let’s see if it compares to Lightroom’s. Lightroom has a nice highlight recovery tool in it. There is RAW NRW support for the Coolpix P6000 13.5MP compact P&S now. Considering that Nikon released the Coolpix P6000 last year in August 2008, this is really late to the party. And it’s even more absurd that they added in NRW as another version of RAW. Proprietary bleh. I started out years ago with the original CP5000 and loved it before I began using a DSLR D100.The P6000 was supposed to be the flagship answer to Canon’s successful Powershot series. I’d already passed on it and for my pocket compact camera, carry a Coolpix L11.

Anyway, the colors always seem to run truer in NX2 than the results of other RAW converters. I use Photoshop CS4, Lightroom and Capture NX2. The digital asset workflow in Lightroom is great. NX2 chugs pretty slow on a Mac so I only use it periodically. Nik software partnered with Nikon a couple years ago when they released Capture NX. It was much improved over the earlier versions of Capture but still pokey on a Mac and the user interface is certainly not intuitive. Rumor is that this update might speed things up some for the Mac contingent.  I do love those color control points with the U point technology that Nik has a lock on. We’ll see. I’m updating my version of NX2 this morning.

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On the Mark

DxO Labs has published a website chock full of data. Analysis of RAW files at the sensor level. If you’re not familiar with DxO Labs, they are the developers of DxO Optics Pro software. Great software for conversion of RAW files but also disotrtion correction in lenses, and noise. There’s even a way to fit it into your Lightroom workflow.

DxOMark is the site for your testing and comparisons of different brands in comprehensive analysis of RAW files. jpgs are very reliant on in camera processing, even if you could load custom curves. There is such in depth data at DxO Mark that I’m stunned. I’m thinking  that most of the pro reviewers will use this as a resource.

Of course, you can simply look up your camera in the Image Quality Database and have some fun staring at those lines. What’s nicer, is the side by side comparisons of the bodies. What stacks up to what. If you’ve got a buying decison to make, check it out.

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