Digital Darrell Blogs
Nikon Capture and Nikon Digital Cameras
D2x, D2h, D200, D100, D70, D1
© Darrell Young  

One thing that I think really helps my images is converting them in Nikon Capture (NC). I have noticed that the images are visibly better looking immediately, when they are converted in NC. With the new version 4.4, even the speed seems much better, once the image is open.

Here are a couple of sample images from Great Smoky Mountains National Park as postprocessed in Nikon Capture: Little Pigeon River #1, and Little Pigeon River # 2

I have so much control over the image in Nikon Capture that I doubt I can trust any other programs as much. I get COMPLETE sharpening, color saturation, white balance, chromatic aberation, D-lighting (shadow detail retrieval), and vignette control. To me the white balance controls in NC are better than anything else I've tried, and since they are more accurate (no white balance encryption problems), I find that my images simply look better immediately.

I honestly believe that the detailed control I have over my images in Nikon Capture make it well worth the USD $100 that it costs. Now that I have new chromatic aberation (CA) controls in Nikon Capture, it is doubtful that I will go elsewhere. I find myself using Photoshop AFTER I have created the initial 16-bit TIFF in NC. I know, that the JPEGs out of NC are simply better than from other programs. Photoshop CS, for instance, tends to desaturate the color too much on JPEG compression. In version 7.0 of Photoshop it did not do that. Only when I got CS did I find such weak color after a JPEG compression. I hope they fix that soon! ... [Note: it was fixed in CS2]

I simply can't live without NC. It is not the easiest program in the world to figure out, at first, but it gives me the most control over my image, and the best results.

I had similar results from "Nikon Scan 4.0" that came with my Coolscan 9000, which looks and feels just like NC. I was hooked on the feature set even before I started using NC.

My workflow is thusly:

1. Transfer the images from the CF card to the computer using Nikon View 6.2.7
2. Push the image into Nikon Capture 4.4 from within Nikon View.
3. Twiddle the image until it is to my liking and then save it out as a 16-bit 71 megabyte TIFF.
4. Open the TIFF in Photoshop and crop, touch up, etc.
5. Save as TIFF or PSD from within Photoshop.

Most of my well-composed images stop at step 3 above. The not so well composed ones go the full 1 through 5. I realize that this requires using three programs, but I get great results. That's hard to argue with!

I find that this workflow creates superior looking images over and over again. I have tried other workflows and programs, and just did not get the results. I believe that images from most other postprocessing software is not as good looking as NC's results. That's my opinion anyway.

Also, the batch functionality in NC is superb. I can dump a huge pile of NEF files in a folder, open the batch function, modify the first image until it meets my specs, and then have NC apply the same changes to all the rest of the images, while converting them to TIFFs or JPEGs, and renaming them. Afterward, I examine the images, and if any do not look good, I redo them. Often it is only two or three images that need work after the batch is done.

NC is slower than some applications out there, but I strongly believe that Nikon has secret goodies imbedded in the software that NO other software has. Otherwise my images would not come out with that "look" that I am after. I call it the "John Shaw Look." NC helps me get there! Who is best qualified to know how to convert a NEF to something else? Surely it is the creator of the NEF. If you are unhappy with your current images try using the new NC 4.4 for a bit, you may be surprised.

There are TRIAL versions of Nikon Capture and full versions of Nikon View available from NikonUSA here: Nikon Software Downloads

I first discovered how incredibly sharp the D2x could actually be by playing around with the RAW settings in NC. I used to leave my camera on NORMAL sharpening in-camera, and would then switch it to HIGH in NC. But, since I shoot RAW files, I can easily remove any in-camera sharpening effects in the NC program. The RAW file does not become a real image until you save it as something besides an NEF file. Until you do, you ALWAYS have the CMOS or CCD data available to use over and over. (Consider NEF files as digital negatives, to be protected and cherished.)

Once you've pulled the image into NC and you think in-camera sharpening on HIGH does not fit it well, then simply set it back to NORMAL or LOW and you will have the exact same result as you would have had if you had used NORMAL or LOW originally in the camera. NC works with the underlying RAW sensor data. It applies the original camera settings to the RAW data, but not permanently. You can modify it at will. Then when you save your file as a TIFF or JPEG, you lock in the settings you desire. But, you always have that original RAW data there in the NEF file to do it again later.

Since this is such an important point, I am going to repeat it! No camera settings are applied to the RAW image data. The settings are included with the file as "markers" so that NC will know how to display the image initially. But, if you change the settings in NC, the image immediately looks like you took the picture using those settings originally.

Many people forget that the reason we use RAW files in the first place is that we can later change our minds about how we shot the image in the first place; and then change it to how we SHOULD have shot it, after the fact. No RAW file even exists as an image until a conversion program converts it to a final form.

This applies to things like exposure, color balance, hue, sharpening, individual RGB channel saturation, shadow detail, vignetting, etc. I can't imagine trading away any of the superior control I have in NC for other programs. It is written by the creators of the NEF format, so will always have superior knowledge of Nikon camera internals and give the best results.

Speed is not the primary concern in my eyes; I want quality in my images. I work HARD to take sharp images, and I'll not throw that away in someone else's RAW conversion program. Others do okay, but will never be able to give the results that NC will. Most reviewers of the software admit the same, they just complain bitterly about NC's memory hoggishness and slow speed.

I simply know that I get incredibly sharp and colorful results EVERY TIME on well exposed images, and can rescue badly exposed ones without too much damage, such as noise.

[Note: Adobe Photoshop CS2 now has some pretty powerful conversion features in ACR 3.3, and for the first time, I will convert some images in Photoshop. But, I still use Capture for my best images. Also, for a person who wants the best look they can get, but doesn't have a lot of money, Nikon Capture is only USD $100 while Photoshop CS2 is about 6 to 8 times more expensive. Nikon Capture is very low cost for the level of power one gets!]

Give me Nikon Capture, or give me...uh...film!

Keep on capturing time...

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