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Converting Raw to JPEG

Frankie Frank , Apr 07, 2005; 03:26 p.m.

After taken picutre in Nikon Raw formats, what should I do to convert these Raw pictures into JPEG pictures?

Compare Nikon View and PhotoShop, which one is better (or easier)?

Responses

Benoît Marchal , Apr 07, 2005; 03:32 p.m.

You need a digital developer. Nikon View offers the option to open RAW files and save them as JPEG (TIFF is better incidentally) but, unless memory fails, it is very limited. You cannot modify many parameters.

Nikon has a high-end product, called Nikon Capture, that offers more control.

Photoshop CS or Photoshop Elements 3 include Camera RAW which will also open RAW files but they offer lots of control over the conversion, like Nikon Capture.

Other products include Bibble and Capture One.

Which one you choose depends on your needs and your workflow (e.g. Camera RAW boosts an excellent integration with Photoshop). Nikon View is the most limited tool however and it's hard to recommend it.

--ben

Michelle Amarante , Apr 07, 2005; 04:28 p.m.

Nikon View is very limited in what it can do with NEF files..... it's best used as a browser, to tag and sort image prior to processing and converting. It works well used in conjunction with Nikon Capture.

As already said PhotoshopCS and Photoshop Elements 3 do come with a raw converter, but these are also limited, PSE3 even more so than PSCS.

I would recommend saving your images as tiff's, especially if you plan on working on them further in photoshop. Then when you are sure you are done working save a copy of the image as a jpeg. This prevents your original image from degradation and loss of image quality.

Frankie Frank , Apr 07, 2005; 05:06 p.m.

Michelle,

Do you mean the in-camera Raw conversion to JPEG is better than Nikon Capture and/or PhotoShop?

Michelle Amarante , Apr 07, 2005; 05:26 p.m.

Jpeg is a lossy format, which you probably knew. I always work in RAW and the only time I convert to jpeg is if my output is going to be to web, otherwise I stick with tiff or psd file formats.

The problem with jpeg be it in camera or in an image editing program is that some data gets tossed out during processing..... processing in camera takes all control out of your hands. So unless you need card space RAW is the best way to shoot.

How you choose to convert your raw data is up to you... my only thought here was that if you work on your images in jpeg after conversion and then save in jpeg again, and again, each time you are compressing and further degrading image quality. That's all I meant. :~)

Lex Jenkins , Apr 07, 2005; 07:52 p.m.

Frankie, Nikon states in its most recent product catalogs that only its own software (View, Capture) can thoroughly implement all of the capabilities of NEF files and that everyone else is using reverse engineering to handle NEF files.

Based on the few examples I've seen on the web (I'm not at home so I don't have access to the URL for the specific site) it does appear that Capture offers a slight advantage over other image editors in terms of straightforward image preparation. The same files adjusted equivalently in Capture and Photoshop appear to favor Capture in terms of sharpness.

However, after using Capture for almost a month, I find it very limited. It's best for relative simple corrections in single or batch processing. Notice I didn't say "fast" - it is definitely *not* a fast program and tends to run more slowly in almost every operation. Even loading the program takes longer than software with far more capabilities, such as Corel Photo Paint and Jasc Paint Shop Pro.

It's fine for adjusting curves or using simpler color sliders, brightness, contrast sliders, etc. The "auto curves" button sometimes produces acceptable results, sometimes not. The white point, etc., droppers work fine.

There's an interesting utility called "Digital DEE" that facilitates adjusting shadows and/or highlights using sliders and a threshhold control. It does a good job with some images but it's the most painfully slow feature of Capture, taking forever to analyze even the slightest adjustment.

While there's a utility for dust removal it's a global sort of tool and more of a hassle than using a simple spotting tool for occasional touchups. There are no tools for cloning, no blur or softening filters, none of the usual assortment of stuff available in versatile image editing software costing between approximately $100 (Jasc, Picture Window Pro from Digital Light & Color) to full blown pricey stuff like Photoshop and Corel Photo Paint.

The unsharp masking utility is no better or worse than it is on other programs - never an easy sharpening tool to get good results with. The noise reduction utility is usually a too-much-or-not-enough proposition. It is nowhere near as flexible or effective as Noise Ninja.

OTOH, Capture does have one utility that I consider almost indispensible: The ability to create custom curves for loading into the camera. I don't know which other Nikon dSLRs can use custom curves - my only experience is with the D2H and I wouldn't want to be stuck with the camera's built in tone compensation settings for every situation.

The custom curves utility is part of Capture's camera control feature which allows tethered operation of the camera via a computer. Most camera adjustments can be made from the utility and photos can be saved directly to the hard drive. Very handy for studio use or other controlled condition shooting.

Whether Capture can produce superior jpegs, I don't know. One advantage to using only Capture to tweak NEF files and convert to jpeg is that there's no need for the interim step of converting the NEF to TIFF in order to use Noise Ninja and some other programs. That's the main disadvantage I can find with Noise Ninja - it can't handle Nikon NEF files. Since noise reduction is recommended as the first step in the image editing process, that means that the first thing you're forced to do is throw away many of the advantages of a NEF file in order to use a more effective noise reduction utility.

Presumably some of these shortcomings will eventually be addressed by either Nikon or the programmers of image editing utilities that hope to pursuade more Nikon dSLR users.

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