I have changed my mind.

Started Mar 23, 2008 | Discussions thread
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JasonOdell Senior Member • Posts: 2,282
Re: I have changed my mind.

Capture NX does a couple of things differently than ACR. It is up to the user to decide if these differences are "better" or "worse" for your personal workflow.

1) NX uses the Nikon algorithm to demosaic the file. This sometimes can produce cleaner results with some files. Your mileage may vary.

2) Because NX uses Nikon's algorithms, it also interprets all the in-camera settings, like tone curve, color, hue, and noise reduction. For some photographers, this is an advantage-- when I bring up my NEFs, they look like the in-camera previews without further adjustment. This means that I can utililze the in-camera settings as an extension of my workflow. Again, other people don't care so much about this, so their in-camera settings other than exposure and WB don't really matter. If you like the look that Nikon delivers with JPEG images using Picture Control or in-camera settings, then you can save a lot of time trying to reproduce that "look" by using Capture NX. Otherwise, you need to fiddle with your RAW converter to get default presets that you like. Neither method is right or wrong, just different approaches.

3) NX doesn't use sidecar files. A NEF is more than just Bayer data, it is a container that can store lots of data. Capture NX writes changes (tags) into a separate part of the NEF file itself, rather than using a sidecar file. For some, this is convenient-- copy your processed NEF to another directory or a CD, and you won't risk inadvertent deletion of the sidecar files.

4) Versions. NX can save MULTIPLE versions of the same image within the NEF container. This is a VERY powerful and often overlooked workflow feature. In a single NEF file, I can easily have half a dozen variants of the same image, and it doesn't cost me an arm and a leg of storage. With the Photoshop approach, you get a single version from ACR (saved as the sidecar file), and then any additional variants (different sizes, different sharpening routines etc.) must be stored as PSD or TIFF files. Assuming a layered PSD file, saved as 16-bit, you can easily be dealiing with multiple 100MB+ files. Five versions stored in a NEF only cost me an extra couple hundred KB, not to mention that I only have a SINGLE master file to work with and archive.

5) Control points. Up until last month, this was a feature unique to NX. Yes, you can buy Viveza from Nik Software and get the same feature in Photoshop, but it still costs you a layer (read: double your file size) and $250. Capture NX does this for $129 (or free if you recently purchased a D300 or D3). Control points allow some pretty complex adjustments to color, brightness and contrast with a very simple interface. I've got nothing against layers and layer masks, but for some operations (like fixing skies) control points are faster, simpler, and give better results with less fuss. If you ask me, we've only seen the tip of the Control Point iceberg in NX v.1.

But for all the advantages of NX, it requires a particular workflow and toolkit to take advantage of these features. Do you regularly batch 100s of images on tight deadlines? If so, NX might not be your best choice. While NX does render and embed preview JPEGs into NEFs, many applications don't use the JPEGs to render image previews-- that's why when you click a NEF in Bridge or Lightroom, it suddenly changes appearance (ACR is at work rendering the preview with its own defaults). In fact, one reason that I advocate Photomechanic for Capture NX users is that it DOESN'T re-render the NEF file from the RAW data-- it shows you the embedded preview JPEG. If I have to save a TIFF or JPEG just so that my browser can properly display the image, then I've negated one of the benefits of the "all in one" NEF format I discussed above.

Photographers also need to consider their entire workflow when judging what is "slow" and what is "fast". If I am able to do ALL my editing in Capture NX from camera to print with only a single (NEF) file, then is that not a potentially better/faster workflow than creating numerous intermediate files and switching back and forth between multiple editing applications? Your call.

My philosophy is that workflow is just as personal as "boxers or briefs". There is no right or wrong, just variants. Adobe would like us all to use the ACR-based tools (LR and PS) for workflow, and would just as soon like to lock us all into using DNG. Apple would have us adopt its workflow using the Apple rendering engine for iPhoto and Aperture. Nikon's weakness is that for all the strengths of its RAW converter and editor (Capture NX), it has left open the other aspects of workflow (browsing/cataloging) to others. And many of the products designed by others aren't as NX-friendly as they ought to be. If Bridge or Aperture could be instructed to disable RAW rendering of previews, then I'd jump on them just as fast as I jumped on Photomechanic. But it seems like the "catch" these days is that "RAW Support" means you have to be locked into a certain manufacturer's RAW engine to fully utilize the workflow they have set up.

-Jason

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Author, 'The Photographer's Guide to Capture NX'
Now Supports Capture NX 1.3
Visit my website at: http://www.luminescentphoto.com

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