The D3 is provided with a software CD which contains:
Nikon View NX (Windows / Mac OS X) - A new simplified image browser / organization / basic manipulation application based on the Capture NX design (although it has to be said, easier to use). Provides basic RAW to JPEG conversion with adjustment of exposure compensation, white balance and picture control.
Nikon Transfer (Windows / Mac OS X) - Automated transfer of images from camera or card reader.
Nikon Capture NX (Windows / Mac OS X) - Nikon's advanced workflow and RAW development application, has traditionally been an 'optional extra' however a current promotion means that the D300 and D3 are being shipped with Capture NX keys in many regions enabling the 'trial download' to be upgraded to a full release.
As is normal in our digital SLR reviews I like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party RAW converter. For these comparisons (which use the default settings) we've used the View NX RAW converter (which uses the same engine as CaptureNX so produces identical results). Obviously using a fully-fledged RAW converter such as CaptureNX, ACR or Capture One will allow you to fine tune the output (something not possible with View NX).
JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
View NX - Nikon View NX 1.0.3
ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 4.4
Capture One - Capture One 4.0.1
Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the color from a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart produced using each RAW converter. As you can Nikon's own View NX matches the color response of the cameras internal image processor identically. As usual the third party converters, in this case Adobe Camera RAW and Capture One have their own 'different' color response.
Sharpness and Detail
As expected the RAW converted images look sharper than JPEG (images look crisper and demonstrate better per-pixel sharpness). Overall there's little difference in sharpness between the three RAW conversion engines compared here, with Capture One producing the best detail (thanks to some fairly strong sharpening at the default setting), but both ACR and Capture One clipping highlights slightly thanks to their rather aggressive tone curves. Of course all this can be over-ridden during the conversion process.
Again, the sharpness advantage to RAW conversion is fairly clear to see, all converters delivering higher resolution than JPEG straight from the camera. ACR and Capture One eke out a little more detail than ViewNX and - as mentioned above - Capture One has rather higher default sharpening.