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Nikon Capture 3.0 (contd.)

RAW Conversion Performance

The test machine used was a desktop PC with dual Athlon 1592 Mhz (1900+) CPU's 1 GB of RAM running Windows XP. Software used was Nikon Capture 3.0.0. A five RAW images in a subfolder were processed in batch to convert images directly to the destination format. The conversion process was timed and divided by the number of images converted.

Conversion Image adjustments Time taken per image Time for 5 images
RAW -> JPEG (Good) Default 14.6 sec 1 min 13 sec
RAW -> TIFF 8-bit Default 14.4 sec 1 min 12 sec
RAW -> TIFF 16-bit Default 14.6 sec 1 min 13 sec
RAW -> JPEG (Good) EV compen, Saturation, Unsharp 16.8 sec 1 min 24 sec


RAW vs. JPEG

Resolution Chart sample

To compare the image quality differences between JPEG and RAW we shot our standard resolution chart first in JPEG/Fine mode and then as a RAW file. The RAW image was then converted to a JPEG using Nikon Capture 3.0 with default settings.

JPEG
Sharpening: Auto, Tone: Auto
RAW
Sharpening: Auto, Tone: Auto

It's fairly clear to see from the side-by-side crops from our standard resolution chart that shooting RAW and converting to JPEG later will deliver a sharper image with more visible detail. Despite having both the camera JPEG and RAW convert on the same sharpening settings the RAW converted file is obviously sharper.

Studio Scene sample (Sharpening: Auto)

To reconfirm our findings about in-camera JPEG sharpness I took a simple studio shot in both JPEG and RAW formats. In addition this scene was taken with an in-camera sharpening setting of Auto and Normal. The RAW file was converted to two JPEG's, the first with Auto sharpening, the second with Normal sharpening. As you will clearly see the D100's in-camera sharpening is very soft, it doesn't pull out the detail which is clearly being captured by the sensor. This could have been a conscious decision by Nikon to try to keep noise levels under control (higher sharpening = more visible noise).

Settings: Tone: Auto, Color mode: I (sRGB), ISO 200, 24 - 85 mm F3.5 - 4.5 G @ F13, Large/Fine JPEG

Studio Scene sample (Sharpening: Auto)

JPEG
Sharpening: Auto, Tone: Auto
RAW
Sharpening: Auto, Tone: Auto

Studio Scene sample (Sharpening: Normal)

JPEG
Sharpening: Normal, Tone: Auto
RAW
Sharpening: Normal, Tone: Auto

Again, it's fairly clear to see that Nikon Capture 3's 'Auto' and 'Normal' sharpening levels are harder than the in-camera sharpening. This produces sharper and more detailed looking images but will also have the side effect of increasing visible noise.


Nikon Capture 3.0 Camera Control

Nikon Capture 3.0 Camera Control allows you to remotely control the camera via the supplied USB cable. Once connected the software displays five camera control pages accessed by clicking on the appropriate tab. At the bottom of the window is a representation of the viewfinder LCD status bar which provides a summary of exposure settings as well as the currently metered exposure.

Below you will find a summary of each of the control pages, note that some settings which are tied to mechanical dials on the camera can not be changed remotely (such as Exposure mode, Metering mode and Focus mode).

Exposure 1: Exposure mode (from camera), Shutter speed, Aperture, Compensation, Flash compen, Flexible program Exposure 2: Focus area, Metering mode (from camera), Flash sync mode, Sensitivity, White balance Storage: Data Format (Image format), Compression, Color, Image Size
 
Mechanical: Shooting mode, AF Area Mode, Focus Mode (from camera), Lens, Battery level Image Processing: Sharpening, Tone, Color Mode, Hue Adjustment, Noise Reduction  

As you can see you can control every aspect of the camera apart from those few mechanical dials. In addition to these settings you can also modify custom function settings (note that you can also select which memory bank to modify):

Other camera settings which can be modified include the internal clock, image comment (this could be a copyright note), white balance preset, white balance fune tuning and custom tone curves.

User triggered exposures

To actually take a shot you simply click on the 'AF and Shoot' or 'Shoot' buttons on the main window. At this point the camera will take the exposure and the image will be transferred back to the controlling computer, note that images are not stored on the CF card:

Transfer times were respectable (considering the USB connection), a FINE JPEG took around 3 seconds, a RAW took 10 seconds and a TIFF took 24 seconds.

Live Batch exposures

Camera Control also has a mode called 'Live Batch', in this mode you can shoot with the camera tethered to the computer and have it process each RAW (NEF) file taken automatically as it is taken. The idea behind this mode is to allow you to shoot RAW and produce a 'final' image in real time, the NEF file can also be stored as a 'digital negative'.

Time lapse exposures

Lastly is the time lapse feature, here you can configure Camera Control to trigger an exposure at a set interval. Each frame taken will be stored in the pre-selected image format and the camera will assume the settings selected. You can choose to shoot continuously (until cancelled) or for a set number of frames.

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