The D300 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. In the case of the A700 we had the supplied Image Data Converter SR as well as Adobe Camera RAW 4.3 beta.
JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
View NX - Nikon View NX 1.0.3
Capture NX - Nikon Capture NX 1.3
ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 4.3.1
Bibble - Bibble Pro 4.9.9b
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 see both View NX and Capture NX match the color response of the cameras internal image processor identically. As usual the third party converters, in this case Adobe Camera RAW and Bibble Pro have their own 'different' color response.
Sharpness and Detail
As expected the RAW converted images look sharper than JPEG (images look crisper and demostrate better per-pixel sharpness), it does appear as though View NX and Capture NX are using the same engine as their output is identical. Overall there's little difference in sharpness between the three RAW conversion engines compared here.
Again, the sharpness advantage to RAW conversion is fairly clear to see, all converters delivering higher resolution than JPEG straight from the camera. The image with the most resolution and fewest artifacts appears to be that produced by Bibble Pro.