Nikon Capture NX review
Review Date : Mon, 2 Oct 2006
Author : WDC Team
A welcome upgrade of the Nikon Capture 4 RAW conversion tool, the NX software has a host of new tools....
A plethora of RAW conversion tools is available and, if you own a DSLR, the important stuff you shoot will probably be in RAW format. Most cameras come with some form of basic RAW conversion tools, and some with fully fledged software. Alternatively, you may use a third-party solution such as Adobe Camera Raw or Pixmantec Raw Shooter Essentials (recently bought by Adobe for inclusion in Lightroom). Nikon has long been criticised for providing very basic RAW conversion tools with the camera, with Nikon Capture 4 available as a paid-for addition. That software has now been upgraded, made over and released as Nikon Capture NX, with a host of new tools. It could be said that manufacturers should provide the best conversion tools; after all, they know the sensor and camera better than anyone, while everyone else has to adapt their software to process a wider variety of cameras and RAW formats. This being the case, there is an argument for paying for the expertise Nikon can supply to its software and, besides, you have to buy other accessories from the company, too.
So what has NX got that’s new? First, it includes something Nikon calls U point Technology, basically a way of controlling local areas within an image, such as sky, skin tone or whatever, without using layers, masks or paths. Multiple points can be chosen and adjusted and the control can also be used to adjust contrast, dynamic range or colour casts, as well as red-eye reduction. Incidentally, this works for JPEG, RAW and TIFF. Second, the software uses algorithms to correct optical faults for Nikon lenses. Nikon makes great lenses, as we know and, as a company, it should know the characteristics of its range, and therefore what to fix. So the NX software can correct for known distortion, aberrations or vignetting problems within its lenses. Theoretically, the software could also correct problems with known lenses at specific apertures; for example, you get more vignetting at f/2 than at f/11. There’s now a wider variety of editing tools than those found on Nikon Capture 4. Nikon has added brushes, marquee tools and lasso. This brings the software more into Photoshop territory, without Photoshop’s huge range of tools for designers and so on. Finally Nikon has improved the software’s batch-processing capabilities, with global corrections such as White Balance or exposure adjustments able to be applied within the image browser to a whole folder of images.
Using NX When you first open Nikon Capture NX, you are presented with the image browser. This can open files from any camera in JPEG or TIFF format, as well as any NEF file, Nikon’s RAW format. It is obviously retro-active, so files from older Nikon cameras can be also be opened, as well as newer models such as the Nikon D80. Nikon promises to keep this updated, too, as newer cameras with different sensors are released. In principle, this should be quicker than third-party developers can update their software. Within the browser you can label, rename, sort and add metatags and keywords to your pictures, as well as batch process global changes. Double clicking an image opens it into the Edit window.
Here you can begin to perform more-specific tasks such as contrast control using a variety of tools. Curves, colour balancing and more are here – in fact pretty much everything the photographer needs to correct and enhance images. An edit panel keeps track of changes and you can go into this and undo states as you need, much like Photoshop’s History panel. The interface is clean and easy to use. Separate panels can be arranged your screen, and tools can easily be found in the Adjust and Control sections and other menu items.
Check the requirements before you buy. This is especially true if you have a newer Nikon camera with a larger pixel count – the bigger the file, the more power you need. However, the software is effective. The point controls are excellent, and lens correction proved fast and effective – I would certainly rate it as highly as DXO. Batch processing is often painfully slow if you have many files, so have a pot of coffee and a DVD to hand if you need to do this.
There’s no doubting the quality of the results. After applying noise reduction and sharpening, as well as the lens correction and colour corrections, I achieved some great results. The Noise Reduction especially works very well, especially on some files from a Nikon D70 shot at ISO 1600.
VerdictCapture NX is comparable to some other RAW conversion software, and certainly cheaper than Photoshop, yet can do most things that most people need. If you want to go deeper into image manipulation or montage, then NX isn’t the tool; I would recommend investing in Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro instead.
Capture NX is comparable to some other RAW conversion software, and certainly cheaper than Photoshop, yet can do most things that most people need. If you want to go deeper into image manipulation or montage, then NX isn’t the tool; I would recommend investing in Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro instead.