I’ve been a Nikon Capture NX user for years. Which ways that I’ve suffered for years. But non out of whatever sense of masochism, but rather in the pursuit of the highest quality in converting my RAW files.
As any casual user of Nikon software volition swear (believe me, we all swear when using Capture NX), it’s not for the joy of the feel. And while the current NX2 might offering excellent epitome quality, I’m ever on the search for something amend that offers a more than consummate workflow. Enter Lightroom iii.
Even as a beta release, Lightroom 3 is impressive. While previous versions of Lightroom take offered a very highly-seasoned workflow, with the power to catalog, edit, and procedure digital images fluidly in a single application, the image quality has long left something to be desired when working with Nikon NEFs. This deficit in image quality was something specially truthful when working with high ISO images – a fact of life for music photographers, wedding photographers, and anyone else shooting in dim and uncontrollable lite.
Despite ho-hum operation, retentivity leaks, and a maddening user interface, Nikon Capture NX and NX 2 take long provided the image quality standard to which I hold other RAW converters. While there are other converters like the excellent Raw Photograph Processor that offer superlative detail, Capture’s remainder of pleasing color and overall image quality kept me coming back.
With Lightroom iii beta, I recollect that Capture NX2 finally has a real contender that matches Capture’s prototype quality in many ways, exceeds it in some, and offers the great user interface and workflow that photographers have come to wait from Adobe Labs.
Allow’due south take a wait at how Lightroom iii beta stacks upward to Nikon Capture NX 2 at my specialty: loftier ISO alive music photography.
Instance 1: Steven Tyler, Aerosmith
Nikon D3 at ISO 800.
Left: Capture NX 2; Right: Lightroom 3 – Can you spot the differences?
With Nikon Capture NX 2, I become brilliant color from my RAW files. The saturation, contrast, and gradations of the files, every bit rendered by Capture, have ever made for authentic and pleasing images with cipher work.
While previous versions of Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw allowed users to tweak and calibrate default settings, the results never stacked upwards to the effortless results of Nikon Capture – that is, until now.
The elves at Adobe Labs seem to have been working overtime, considering the new camera profiles are excellent. Simply switching from “Adobe Standard” to “Camera Standard” applies a custom color profile to my Nikon D3 and Nikon D700 files that is very, very close to the proprietary profiles from Nikon. All samples shown here were converted using these photographic camera standard profiles, and the results should be considered specific to them.
For all effective purposes, I’m getting all the goodness I loved nearly Nikon Capture’s conversions with none of the headache.
Withal, in comparing the new Lightroom 3 beta with Nikon Capture NX 2, Adobe’s latest release isn’t without flaws.
In alive music photography, capturing lights in the frame is non but inevitable, it’s often desirable. With their singular saturation, these gelled incandescent PAR lights or LEDs are a surefire fashion to blow a color channel with a digital sensor.
Let’s look at how Capture NX 2 and Lightroom 3 handle this common effect in alive music.
Nikon D3 at ISO 800. Left: Capture NX two; Correct: Lightroom iii
While the RAW conversion of both images is very close (every bit seen in the full frame of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler), this detail of defocused lights shows the subtle departure between the ii in the rendition of mono-color lite sources.
More on this difference in super-saturation later. Let’s look at some other example.
Example two: Lil Wayne
Nikon D3 at ISO 1600. Left: Capture NX ii; Right: Lightroom three
Again, this comparison shows a very close rendition betwixt Capture NX 2 and Lightroom 3 beta. Skintones expect very similar, while the starkest difference in the overall epitome is increased saturation in the fume backside Lil Wayne. Even then, the overall rendition is extremely shut.
Let’s take a look at how the two conversion engines handle detail.
Lightroom 3 vs Nikon Capture NX two at ISO 1600
Nikon D3 at ISO 1600. Left: Capture NX 2; Right: Lightroom 3
There isn’t too much to cull from between these two 100% crop examples, but there are some subtle differences.
To my eye, the Lightroom 3 file has a very slightly finer look in comparison to NX 2, while Nikon’s profile with NX ii has a slightly deeper contrast. Both Capture NX ii and Lightroom 3 are fix to default sharpening.
Nikon D3 at ISO 1600.
Left: Capture NX two; Correct: Lightroom 3
This is a 100% ingather from the paradigm of Lil Wayne does a good job at showing the subtle differences in the rendering of racket between the 2 RAW conversion engines.
To my eye, Capture NX 2 renders a coarser, “fuzzier” noise profile than Lightroom 3, which renders a effectively interpretation. For epitome quality, my preference is for the latter, which will enlarge more cleanly for larger prints.
Example 3: Karen O., Yeah Yes Yeahs
Nikon D3 at ISO 4000.
Top: Capture NX 2; Bottom: Lightroom 3
In this 3rd case, the conversion from RAW to JPG is quite close between Lightroom 3 and Nikon Capture NX two, but again with subtle and of import differences.
Lightroom 3 vs Nikon Capture NX ii at ISO 4000
Nikon D3 at ISO 4000
. Top: Capture NX 2; Bottom: Lightroom 3
At ISO 4000, things go a lilliputian more interesting. As with all the previous examples, these two 100% crops show the image with no luminance dissonance reduction.
I always prefer to shoot without dissonance reduction in-camera, as I experience that prototype quality is best when NR is performed in RAW conversion or in post-processing.
As you can come across from this case ingather, the Capture NX ii crop is much more than gritty in advent, while Lightroom 3 renders a much finer noise blueprint. At ISO 4000 from the Nikon D3, the divergence in the fineness of noise is even more apparent than at lower ISOs, with Lightroom 3 doing an excellent job.
Lightroom 3 vs Nikon Capture NX 2: Gradations at high ISO
Nikon D3 at ISO 4000.
Peak: Capture NX ii; Bottom: Lightroom 3
Continuing on the thread of channel saturation, we once more see from this sample that Lightroom seems to accept problems rendering a polish
gradation as color channels arroyo saturation. While overall digital noise is kept to a minimum with Lightroom 3 beta, in this case Nikon Capture comes out ahead for pleasing rendition of gradations, not merely in this 100% crop, but as readily seen in the resized version above.
Lightroom’s treatment of gradations near the point of clipping is easily the converters biggest flaw at this point due. With brume and stage haze in regular employ at nigh shows, these types of gradients are non simply common, but a fact of life for the music photographer. The artifacts displayed by Lightroom are a large step dorsum in this regard, but one they should be able to hands fix by updating the camera profiles.
Nosotros’re getting about 95% of the goodness Capture gives united states of america, only this is a big v% to miss.
Clearly, Adobe Lightroom has come a very long way from its before versions in the third major release, even in its beta phase. Compared to Nikon Capture NX 2, which has been my RAW converter of choice since its release, Lightroom three offers some very real, if subtle, advantages in its conversion engine.
When considering the profoundly enhanced workflow and user-friendly interface, Lightroom 3 should be in serious consideration past any digital lensman as a nearly i-stop shop for cataloging and RAW conversion.
Though Nikon Capture NX 2 still has some advantages in overall epitome quality, I’ll be volition be keenly awaiting the full release of Lightroom 3 if they can proceed to amend the RAW engine and camera profiles.