Capture NX 2 vs. Lightroom: The Age-Old Quality vs. Workflow Dilemma

Started Nov 20, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Capture NX 2 vs. Lightroom: The Age-Old Quality vs. Workflow Dilemma
Nov 20, 2010


I have been a Nikon user for several years, starting first with a D50, then moving to a D200, and finally to the D700. I have loved all of these cameras. What I have not loved is my experience finding the right workflow and DAM solution.

I am not a high-volume photographer. While I do shoot a large number of photos, I only edit a very small subset of those photos and treat them more as art than a photo that I want to quickly develop and move on from. However, as time has passed, my photo library has been ever increasing and I'm now looking for ways to really get a handle on editing, cataloging, and maintaining my photos. As such, I have been evaluating the two biggest names that always come up in this debate: Capture NX 2 and Lightroom. The reason I'm not going right into DAM-only solutions is because for me, the best DAM solution must be centered around the best image editor.

I am a heavy user of Capture NX 2. I have found the following to be true for me:

  • The ability to read in-camera settings is invaluable. I don't have to worry about import presets because I set them in my camera. This saves me an enormous amount of time, especially since I really like how the majority of my photos look right out of the camera.

  • Tones, hues, and gradations are dead-on.

  • All edits are stored in original NEF - some people see this as a disadvantage; I love it.

  • U Point is awesome.

  • Color Efex Pro 3.0 filters are great and the ability to store edits made by those filters in the NEF is even greater.

  • As much complaining as people do about the interface and speed of NX 2, I cannot say I have had any of those issues. It just works for me and it works really well.

  • No workflow or DAM features whatsoever, even with ViewNX. I'm stuck organizing and cataloging my photos based solely on folder structure.

  • I have no idea if Nikon even cares about this software anymore. Do they plan to develop and support newer and better versions of their software? No clue. They're too silent on the matter. This makes me uncomfortable.

  • Will Nikon every care about DAM? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no.

I have also used every version of Lightroom, including the latest 3.3 RC and have found:

  • The interface is gorgeous.

  • It supports a more organized workflow and has some DAM capabilities.

  • It has an active development and support forum.

  • I HATE how photos look when imported. They require a lot of work and managing of multiple import presets to get close to what I get with NX 2 right out of the camera.

  • ACR D700-specific profiles can get me close to what NX 2 produces, but with a lot of tweaking of colors and exposure in some cases.

  • It's slow: slow at rendering previews, and slow at displaying them. That's just my perception. I find ViewNX to be faster and FastPictureViewer to be just plain incredible, without needing to render or store any previews at all. They just read the embedded jpeg with all of the edits I've made to the NEF - brilliant.

  • Nothing is stored in the NEF files. That means I either have to convert to DNG, use sidecar files, or rely on the catalog always being there and intact in order to see my changes.

So there is my dilemma. I really want to like Lightroom since I think it has enough DAM capabilities for me. I try with every release, but I can't get past it's inability to read the in-camera settings. ACR and the camera profiles are certainly getting closer and closer with every release, but it's just not there yet for me. Also, Lightroom doesn't properly read and render the embedded NEF jpegs at all, so that kills it right there as an option for me. If I were to use Lightroom as a DAM solution I'd also have to use it as an editor in order to view images with the correct development settings.

I've considered using DAM-specific applications such as IDimager, but what is my guarantee that they will be improved and supported in the future? A lot of these programs are developed by small software shops that may or may not exist in the future. And while IDimager reads the embedded NEF jpegs and seems to be pretty powerful, it's also a bit overwhelming and clunky looking. My dream solution is to have Nikon release some sort of DAM software that would integrate seamlessly with Capture NX 2, but I doubt that will ever happen.

Have any Nikon users out there found a solution to this age-old quality vs. workflow dilemma? If so, I'd love to hear your input. Thanks.

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