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RAW (NEF file format) - Conversion Comparison

There are also two third party applications which do a pretty good job of NEF conversion. Bibble, developed by Eric Hyman and Qimage Pro 2001 developed by Michael Chaney. Both of these applications are capable of producing excellent detail and colour accuracy from NEF conversion. To compare I've put together a couple of test NEF files and run them through Nikon Capture 2, Bibble and Qimage Pro 2001.

Overall image balance

Settings used for each sample in this comparison:

D1x native JPEG Sharpening: Normal, Tone: Auto, WB: Auto, Colorspace: sRGB
Nikon Capture v2.00 WB: Camera, No curves, sRGB
Bibble v2.99e Tone: Camera, WB: As Camera, Sharp: Normal, sRGB
QImage Pro 2001 v2.21 WB: Camera

All samples below at ISO 125, original NEF here (7,980 KB)

D1x native JPEG Nikon Capture v2.00
Bibble v2.99e QImage Pro 2001 v2.21

Cropped Detail

D1x native JPEG Nikon Capture v2.00
Bibble v2.99e QImage Pro 2001 v2.21

D1x native JPEG Nikon Capture v2.00
Bibble v2.99e QImage Pro 2001 v2.21

D1x native JPEG Nikon Capture v2.00
Bibble v2.99e QImage Pro 2001 v2.21

Anyone who has used a D1 before (or read my D1 review) will recognize that the D1x's in-camera native JPEG format is far better than that found on the D1, gone is the noise, gone are the crossover artifacts. Clearly Nikon Capture 2 produces excellent, sharp and detailed results. Kudos to Bibble and Qimage Pro for producing equally comparable images.

Resolution Chart Cropped Detail

Settings used for each sample in this comparison:

D1x native JPEG Sharpening: Normal, Tone: Auto, WB: Auto, Colorspace: sRGB
Nikon Capture v2.00 WB: Camera, No curves, sRGB
Bibble v2.99e Tone: Camera, WB: As Camera, Sharp: Normal, sRGB
QImage Pro 2001 v2.21 WB: Camera, Sharpen: 2

Samples below all ISO 250, original NEF here (7,910 KB)

D1x native JPEG Nikon Capture v2.00
Bibble v2.99e QImage Pro 2001 v2.21

It's pretty amazing to be using a digital camera which can clearly still resolve some detail down to 2000 lines/picture height. I'm glad to report that all methods appear to work well for horizontal resolution. Bibble probably just pipping Nikon Capture 2, Qimage Pro 2001 v2.2 and then the D1x native JPEG (which does amazingly well considering it's generated in less than a second in-camera).

D1x native JPEG Nikon Capture v2.00
Bibble v2.99e QImage Pro 2001 v2.21

Remember that the D1x has more horizontal resolution than vertical and you'll understand why the results from the vertical section of the resolution chart isn't as impressive. That said Bibble and Qimage Pro manage to drag about as much detail as there is without any arifacts. The native D1x image has quite visible moiré artifacts around 1200 lines/picture height, on the Nikon Capture 2 image they start at around 1300 lines/picture height.

Ten megapixels?

The D1x's RAW image is output at a resolution of 4028 x 1324, typically this is downsampled horizontally to give 3008 columns and interpolated vertically to give 1960 lines. However it is of course possible to maintain the absolute horizontal resolution by only interpolating vertically, this (once you've taken into account the few pixels you'll lose in the process) produces an image which is approximately 10 megapixels. Bibble, Qimage Pro and Nikon Capture (if you ask it to) will all produce this super large image, though their exact output resolutions differ slightly.

Warning these files are VERY LARGE, you should not try to view them in your web browser, only download them if you absolutely need to. You should right click on the link and choose 'Save Target As...'.

What's interesting when we examine the horizontal resolution from these files is that the D1x is clearly capturing more horizontal data than it's able to represent in its 3008 horizontal rows, Nikon say that this downsampled 'additional information' is used to help to interpolate the vertical direction. Below are crops of the Qimage Pro 2001 and Bibble v2.99e 10 megapixel image files.

Bibble v2.99e (10 megapixel)
WARNING: VERY LARGE JPEG
QImage Pro 2001 v2.2 (10 megapixel)
WARNING: VERY LARGE JPEG
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