The D90 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 NX2 Trial version (Windows / Mac OS X) - Nikon's advanced workflow and RAW development application. Disappointingly slow and decidedly quirky, Capture NX has some very powerful tools for optimizing the output from RAW files.
As is normal in our digital SLR reviews we have compared 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 Capture NX RAW converter (which uses the same engine as View NX so should produce identical results). Obviously using a fully-fledged RAW converter such as CaptureNX or ACR will allow you to fine tune the output (something not possible with View NX).
JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
Capture NX - Nikon Capture NX 2.1.0
ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 4.6
The D90 offers Nikon's in-camera RAW-to-JPEG conversion that we first saw on the D60. It's a useful feature that allows alteration (with preview) of white balance, exposure compensation and Picture Control. It doesn't allow the Picture Control presets to be adjusted before they're applied but there are enough user-preset slots to allow the creation of a 'quick proof' setting to be created if you want. It's not as comprehensive as some systems we've seen but it does make the card-space-saving option of shooting just RAW files ever-more plausible.
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 Capture NX matches the color response of the cameras internal image processor identically. As usual with third party converters Adobe Camera RAW has its own color response.
Sharpness and Detail
As you might expect, the Capture NX output is similar to the JPEG results though close attention shows a greater degree of sharpening has been applied (despite it being set to honor in-camera settings). It's interesting that the NX interpretation of the 'Standard' Picture Control setting applies more sharpening than the camera's JPEG engine.
There's little to choose between the default ACR conversion and that performed by the camera's default settings. Capture NX instead applies considerably higher sharpening than either and appears to render more detail as a result, without producing moiré or aliasing errors.