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Software for Nikon RAW/NEF file processing

Thangavelu Nachimuthu , Mar 09, 2006; 05:41 a.m.

I am a learner. I own D70s .How can process RAW/NEF files in Adobe Photoshop CS2 when I shoot in D70s. What software I should buy for this RAW/NEF file perocessing? Is it possible to process these files in CS2? I will be greatful for your guidance please.

Thank you



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Richard Williams , Mar 09, 2006; 06:55 a.m.

You can use Adobe's own Camera Raw plugin (version 3.3 - free download from Adobe). Or you can use one of the many other raw converters available from third parties (including Nikon itself, which provides Nikon View and Picture Project for free, or the more sophisticated Nikon Capture for a charge).

Bernard Frank , Mar 09, 2006; 07:43 a.m.

Nikon don't deserve that anyone buy their Nikon Capture. Get Phase One's Capture One LE. It's better, anyway. And cheaper, too.

Lex Jenkins , Mar 09, 2006; 08:01 a.m.

Nikon's new version of Capture, NX, is said to be significantly improved over 4.x. It'll be available soon as a free trialware, presumably a full featured 30 day trial.

IMO, nothing beats Nikon's own software for faithful rendering of NEFs, including the RAW converter available through Photoshop Elements (haven't tried CS2 yet). However, the interface and speed of Nikon software have been less than exciting, at least on PCs with less than 1 GB RAM. I'm looking forward to trying NX.

Ellis Vener , Mar 09, 2006; 08:53 a.m.

Get Phase One's Capture One LE. It's better, anyway.

I wish that were so. I use Capture One pro sometimes. Nikon Capture NX and ACR 3.3 and Bibble Pro are at least the equal of C1 Pro much less C1 LE.

Michael Bradtke , Mar 09, 2006; 10:05 a.m.

As far as I know Nikon Capture is the only one that gives you full control of your camera when it is tethered to your computer. I use CS2 and Capture. It all depends on the image. I like CS2 for some and Capture for others.


Lex Jenkins , Mar 09, 2006; 10:43 a.m.

Bibble Pro also offers tethered control, altho' I never got around to testing it when I had the trial version.

I've just uploaded some NEF conversions using Nikon Editor, RawShooter and Irfanview to this folder:


I plan to add more examples as I try other software.

Lex Jenkins , Mar 09, 2006; 01:20 p.m.

Having processed thousands of NEFs using each converter, my comments are based on a general impression of the overall performance of each.

And this particular image is representative of the best each is capable of, given the limitations of the photo (taken at ISO 640, the threshhold at which D2H noise becomes a problem). This is typical of how I use the D2H, between ISO 400-1600, rarely at 200 other than the first several weeks after I got the camera.

While I could add some clarification to my comments attached to each image by adding the above information, I'm not sure that anything else is necessary.

For one thing, it's up to each photographer to evaluate software based on individual needs and with consideration to the type of camera used and how the camera is used (optimal ISO vs. high ISO; type of subject; typical lighting; etc.).

My observations are based on my photos and my working style with each program. While I can't predict how others will evaluate these programs I'd be very surprised if other D2H users who shoot at ISO 400 and above see significantly different results from mine.

However, I'm not making a definitive statement about the performance of each program. It's merely a starting point for evaluation and discussion. If I wanted to make an inarguable case I'd provide specific methodology that each person could copy to confirm or refute my findings.

But, again, I don't believe this is necessary. These results are representative of each program. In every case, Nikon's own RAW converter has been better than everything else I've tried, altho' Photoshop Elements 3 and Bibble Pro were very close - close enough to make little difference for most users.

And in every case, no matter how many variations of adjustments I tried with RawShooter, the problems stated *always* were present: ugly artifacts and exaggeration of ruddiness in skin colors ... with Nikon D2H NEFs. Name a permutation, I've tried it, several times. If you read back several months my first impressions of RawShooter Essentials 2005 were quite favorable. But after literally thousands upon thousands of tries, I'm confident that my results can be replicated by anyone with a D2H.

Finally, my emphasis is on the quality of the basic NEF rendering and conversion, *not* on color correction, adjustments to contrast, brightness, gamma, curves, levels, etc., and not on noise handling or sharpening. In many cases I've used Nikon software only to convert NEFs to TIFFs with absolutely no further adjustments made in Nikon software. The results are consistent. Ditto RawShooter, altho' due to the number of adjustments made by default with RawShooter it's necessary to conduct far more experiments to reach any conclusion.

This is why I waited several months to offer conclusions and opinions. I'd actually created the folder for those sample images weeks ago, but decided to run some more experiments before uploading any examples. I wanted to be as fair as possible to Pixmantec's software, including trying RawShooter Premium. And when I learned they'd updated the freebie Essentials (version 2006) I wanted to give it one more try.

Admittedly, my expectations for Irfanview conversions was low because I consider RAW conversion an incidental benefit, not the primary purpose of Irfanview. And I was tougher on RawShooter because it's entire purpose rests exclusively on a single task - converting RAW files.

Len Stinn , Mar 09, 2006; 07:48 p.m.

One piece of software that no one has talked about is Photoshop Elements 4. A lot less expensive than CS2, and able to process NEF. This could be a good choice if cost is an issue, can be bought for less than $100.00. If you want free then Nikon View is your best choice.

Lex Jenkins , Mar 09, 2006; 09:15 p.m.

"It has helped me place your findings in context."

Hmm... I think I detect a left-handed compliment there. But I appreciate your civility. ;>

You're right, which is why I've tried to stress that these are subjective opinions, not inarguable facts. But they are representative of my results given the context I've stated.

BTW, I did also compare results in other color spaces, both on the monitor and in print: sRGB, Nikon sRGB, Adobe and others. The essential results are the same.

Keep in mind that I'm not just evaluating overall color accuracy, altho' I did comment on this factor. Confining the discussion to overall color accuracy alone would be equivalent to MTF testing - revealing of certain factors while completely ignoring other important factors. My observations are similar to observations about obvious barrel distortion, chromatic aberration, etc. If it's apparent to the eye, there's no need for testing.

That's why I don't fault RawShooter, as some others do, for overall color accuracy. Due to the flexibility of RawShooter almost infinite permutations are possible. And, frankly, overall color accuracy is improved in RSE 2006. But that's not the problem or solution.

The problem is the obvious, readily apparent emphasis of ruddiness, which exaggerates blushes, "gin blossoms," capillaries and circles under the eye. Apart from this characteristic the skin tones are flattering but - again, using the MTF analogy - that alone isn't enough to offset the problems. The sample photos are of a five year old boy. Nobody had slugged him recently but the RSE version makes him look like he's got a black eye or hadn't slept in a week. It's far worse with adults. And no amount of adjustment alters this basic flaw.

Likewise, the other problem, artifacts, cannot be satisfactorily resolved with any type of adjustment. Not only are edges such as eyelashes and eyebrows rendered with jaggies, there's poor separation between fine edges, making eyelashes and eyebrows and hair look like an ill-defined mass. Round objects like pupils and irises of the eye tend to resemble multi-sided geometric shapes. And, possibly worst of all, artifacts are introduced in areas that should be smooth, such as a child's skin.

But now I sound like I'm beating up on poor Pixmantec, who are generous enough to provide RSE free of charge.

Poor Pixmantec...

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