Raw and raw conversion
The D600 comes with a software CD which contains:
- Nikon ViewNX2 (Windows / Mac OS X) - An image browser / file editor featuring Raw to JPEG conversion with adjustment of exposure compensation, white balance, Picture Control, sharpening and tonal adjustments.
- Nikon Transfer (Windows / Mac OS X) - Automated transfer of images from camera or card reader.
Nikon's ViewNX2, while not as sophisticated as the company's Capture NX 2 (available separately at a list price of £160/$180) offers basic editing functions including the ability to crop and straighten images, and change white balance, exposure and Picture Control options in NEF files. More advanced tools include D-Lighting and highlight/shadow recovery sliders, plus lateral and axial chromatic aberration correction. Basic video editing functionality is also available. In a nice touch, many of these parameters can be built into presets using the Picture Control Utility, meaning that presets you find yourself regularly applying can be uploaded to the camera. Absent, unfortunately are any noise reduction options.
ViewNX2 also allows you to geotag photographs using Google Maps (automatically if you use the optional GP-1 GPS unit), and to rate and label images with stars or colors for ease of organization. You can even modify the names of the color tags so that they show up as 'Work,' 'Holiday,' 'Portraits' or whatever best suits your needs.
Raw file conversion
In the sections below we'll compare the same raw file as processed by Nikon's supplied ViewNX2, pre-release versions of DxO Optics Pro 7 and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 7.3 beta, alongside the associated in-camera JPEG file.
- JPEG - Large/Fine, default settings
- VNX - ViewNX2.5, default settings
- ACR - Adobe Camera Raw 7.3 beta, at default settings using 'Adobe Standard' profile
- DxO - DxO Optics Pro 7.5.5, default settings
Sharpness and Detail
As you can see below, converting a raw file has the potential to bring out a more natural, pleasing rendition of ultra-fine detail in comparison to the more aggressive sharpening applied by the camera's JPEG engine. While the default Nikon View NX 2 output is only marginally more crisp than the in-camera JPEG, both ACR 7.3 and DxO Optics Pro 7.5 produce more natural, less processed results. DxO Optics Pro 7.5 renders fine details with more distinction than any of the raw converters in this example, with a bit more contrast than ACR. Note that these differences could certainly be minimized with subtle adjustments to sharpening in the other raw converters. And keep in mind that to actually see these 100% screen view differences would require viewing extremely large prints at very close distances.
|Adobe ACR 7.3 beta Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
|DxO Optics Pro 7.5.5 Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
|Nikon ViewNX2 Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
|JPEG out of camera, High quality setting, manual WB (all other settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
The resolution differences between the ACR and DxO conversions are fairly slight, as you can see below. And both of these raw converters display more noticeable color artifacts between the resolution lines than both the in-camera JPEG and the Nikon ViewNX2 rendering. In both the ViewNX2 conversion and default JPEG files, however, you can see minor sharpening halos along the resolution numbers. While this increased contrast can lead to the perception of improved separation between lines, this does not represent an increase in actual resolution.
|Adobe Camera RAW 7.3 beta||DxO Optics Pro 7.5.5|
The examples below illustrate the kind of real-world advantages you can get from shooting in raw mode. At low ISO sensitivity settings the D600 gives generally pleasing color and contrast in 'straight from camera' JPEGs. Viewed at 100%, however, there can be a lack of fine detail at the default sharpening settings. With a little careful adjustment in Adobe Camera Raw, more detail can be drawn out of the image.
|Camera JPEG - ISO 100||RAW + ACR 7.3 with exposure tweaked, white balance shifted and sharpness/contrast and noise reduction settings performed 'to taste'.|
In the scene above, the default JPEG rendering is absolutely fine, and both exposure and sharpness are perfectly acceptable for all but the most critical use. But pixel-level sharpness isn't as high as I'd want for a large glossy print, so I've processed the Raw file in ACR to get the most detail possible out of the file. I've also lifted the brightness a little and dialed up the 'vibrance' a touch to make the entire image a little more colorful and, well, vibrant. This matches my memory of what the scene actually looked like, and now, the original JPEG looks rather flat, soft and unexciting by comparison.
|Camera JPEG - ISO 6400||RAW + ACR 7.3 with exposure lifted, white balance shifted and sharpness/contrast and noise reduction settings performed 'to taste'.|
Shooting in raw mode also allows you to take control over white balance and noise reduction and provides the ability to retain highlight details that can be lost in a JPEG. The scene above, which shows a highly reflective target under very low artificial light, is really tricky, and one that I use a lot when shooting for camera reviews. The D600 has done a good job of white balance, but the exposure is much muddier than I want - hardly a surprise given the highly polished subject matter, and all the point highlights from lights and reflections.
Using the controls in ACR, I increased 'exposure' of this ISO 6400 image by around 1.5EV, and shifted the white balance slightly towards the cool end of the spectrum. This gets rid of the slightly urinous yellow cast in the original JPEG. A minor tweak to the vibrance slider to add some of the 'pop' back into the reds and yellows is the penultimate step, and finally, I increased luminance noise reduction to +25 and dialed down color noise reduction a touch, for smoother tones and to protect color saturation.
Raw files for download
Here we provide Raw files from the sample shots we've taken, so you can apply your own workflow techniques and judge the results for yourself.
- Real world shot ISO 100 (Zipped file - 27.4MB)
- Real world shot ISO 400 (Zipped file - 34.1MB)
- Real world shot ISO 3200 (Zipped file - 31.8MB)
- Real world shot ISO 6400 (Zipped file - 32.8MB)
- Real world shot ISO 25600 (Zipped file - 36.8MB)