Integrating Aperture with Capture NX 2

Started Dec 9, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Integrating Aperture with Capture NX 2
Dec 9, 2012

Hi everyone,

I consistently find the image quality I get from Capture NX 2 (Included with my purchase of the D800E) to be better than anything that Lightroom or Aperture can produce. Lightroom is better at processing the D800E raw files in my opinion, but Capture NX 2 still has the upper hand.

I also love the fact that Capture NX 2 preserves my camera presets. I love to take specific pictures in various modes such as portrait, landscape and monochrome, and have them show up on my computer the way I intended, while taking the shot. That's not possible with Lightroom, and only possible in a very limited way with Aperture (using quick camera previews).

While I find Lightroom's image quality to be better, I find Aperture's DAM capabilities better as well. I like the whole idea of having a self-contained library, where images are not scattered around the hard drive. Smart albums and books are also much easier to work with in Aperture, and Lightroom lacks any Faces feature which is extremely helpful.

So, I've been thinking of a way to integrate Capture NX 2 with Aperture in a reasonable way. I came up with a workflow for integrating the two. Click on the link for the full article with screenshots. The main steps are as follows:

  1. Import all NEFs to Aperture, making sure that you copy the files to the Aperture library. MAKE SURE QUICK PREVIEW IS TURNED ON. This way you're seeing the camera Jpeg previews and not Aperture reprocessing (which is frankly not that great).
  2. Tag, Rate, add keywords, add GPS data... organise your project.
  3. Mark all the images that require further processing in CaptureNX 2 with a keyword "Requires CaptureNX2" or something of that nature. I personally use the Purple flag (Cmd+6) as my special marking for that. Here's how my project albums appear:
  4. Once your'e done, choose "Metadata --> Write IPTC data to originals". This will write the ratings and tags right into the original RAW files, so no need to fiddle around with XMP sidecar files.
  5. Do whatever you want with the rejected images (delete them, export them to a backup folder, ignore them... just don't expect them to stay in the Aperture library, because we're going to delete all the images very soon).
  6. Export all your good images to a folder on the hard drive (I call mine "Drop Folder" on the desktop). These should include your selects and also the images requiring further editing in Capture NX 2. I'll have two folders: Drop Folder\Selects and Drop Folder\FurtherEdits
  7. Open Capture NX 2, and choose Batch-->Run Batch Process...
  8. This step is optional. In the Run Batch Process window, choose the Drop folder\Selects as source folder. For destination, choose "Use source folder". Select NEF | NRW as file format. Apply a settings file to the images. The settings files is sort of like a recipe for making changes to an image. I change all the default camera settings on my D800E to never perform any sharpening. All camera previews - Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Monochrome etc. - are all changed to Sharpening set to 0. That's because I prefer to process for sharpness in Capture NX 2. I will use an unsharp mask and a high pass filter in order to create an image with a more natural and higher quality sharpening. See this great post by Jason P. Odell for the recommended settings. Load the settings file with the unsharp mask and high pass filter, and click "Start". Go get a cup of coffee, this can take a white. 
  9. Repeat step #8, only this time select Jpeg as the output file format. You'll now have RAW+Jpeg pairs in the folder. Make sure that the quality is set to 100% under "Advanced".
  10. Repeat step #8 for the sub-folder Drop Folder\FurtherEdits. Once it is done, open the images one by one and make your corrections to the image. After all edits are saved as NEF, run step 9 on the FurtherEdits folder to have Jpegs as well.
  11. You now have two folders with the RAW files containing all the adjustments that you want to have, plus a Jpeg image next to each RAW file, with the same name as the RAW file. You also have all your ratings, metadata, keywords, and labels in the RAW files, so Aperture will have no problem reading them.
  12. Delete the previous project from Aperture, and also from the Aperture trash. Now, reimport the Drop Folder folder. In the import window, make sure "RAW+JPEG" is selected as "BOTH (Original as JPEG).
  13. Now your library is updated with correct, perfect previews. All your smart albums are automatically updated with all the previous ratings you provided.
  14. Use the JPEGs for any computer-related work (Sharing on facebook, exporting for web, creating books in Aperture etc.)
  15. If you ever want to print something and you prefer the TIFF format for that, go to the backing NEF file (by exporting the original), open the NEF in Capture NX2 and print the image from there, or save the NEF as TIFF and print from Photoshop.
I wonder if anyone has a better idea on how to do this. I like this workflow, but it is of course pretty complicated.
Would appreciate any comments and suggestions.
Thanks.
Nikon D800E
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