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Please help me to decide between Nikon Capture NX2 and Lightroom 2

Robin Barnes , Oct 31, 2008; 11:55 a.m.

I have been reading all the posts that I can find about these two programs and just can't decide which way to go.

First I should say that I know that I can download trial versions of both but as I am relatively new to digital (I bought a D40x last year after 30 years of using film) and have not used any kind of image processing software before I am not confident that I will be able to evaluate them properly. So I would appreciate very much any advice from experienced users. (My computer is a second generation 20' "white" Intel iMac with 1GB of Ram.)

Capture NX2

The consensus seems to be that this is the software that produces the best results from Nikon NEF files. However I have also seen it described as "buggy" and "slow"! My reading also suggests that Nikon is very slow with regard to fixing bugs.

I would be very grateful if someone could tell me what "bugs" there are in the current version that it would be useful for me to know about? Also I would appreciate an indication as to how slow is "slow" and what improvement I could expect if I increased my Ram to the maximum 3GB?

Also, so far as I am aware, NX2 does not include an image database like Lightroom's Library so I would need another program for this - any suggestions?.

Lightroom 2

Other things being equal this is the one I would choose. However I have read a number of posts by people who are not satisfied with the results they get when they process NEF files with it. I know that Adobe provides camera profiles which can be downloaded from their website and was wondering if anyone has done a comparison between NEF files processed in NX2 and the same files processed in Lightroom 2 with the appropriate camera profile? I know that Lightroom won't recognise Nikon camera settings - e.g. "vivid" - but I am not too bothered about this as I usually leave these on "normal" and would prefer to make any changes later.

Any other information about these programs which you feel would be helpful to me would be very welcome.


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Ilkka Nissila , Oct 31, 2008; 12:39 p.m.

Bugs in NX2 include erratic results when printing and general stability issues - i.e. sometimes it just crashes. Sometimes it prints so that a part of the image (a rectangular block ...) is missing. I print through photoshop if this happens so it's not a big deal. The stability of the latest subversion is acceptable - if I work on a hundred images it may crash once or twice. I've never lost data because of it, nor has it ever made an "incorrect" conversion. There used to be a bug which turned off sharpening when you touched exposure compensation but that was fixed.

The LR2/ACR 4.5/4.6 camera profiles mimic the Nikon picture control basic looks - and this part works great - the tones & colors indeed are similar. But I find the image definition (noise, sharpness) to be better and more consistently "good-looking" with Nikon's conversions. Other people may have different opinions, but I always convert my NEFs in Capture NX2 now, and I then may use LR2 for organizing large numbers of images (not NEFs, but images converted using Capture NX2) and printing with slight tweaks as needed. I love the LR user interface and wish Adobe and Nikon would collaborate in incorporating Nikon's algorithms as an option to be run from the LR2 user interface.

Chris Werner , Oct 31, 2008; 12:44 p.m.

I went with Lightroom many because I disliked the NX2 interface - just too clunky for me. I too prefer to make my adjustments outside of the camera, so the one place where NX2 seems to have a compelling advantage just didn't speak to me. Plus, the general ability to use profiles in Lightroom gives you a lot of ability to set standards for a variety of fine tuning approaches, and I've seen some places where you can download them as well.

I can't speak to speed issues - I too am running an iMac, but with 4 GB of RAM.

I am completely satisfied with the decision I made, but NX2 is certainly a worthy program as well. I did have some issues with it locking up (it always required a forced quit), but I never bothered to even try to debug it as my decision was already pretty much made. I know people are running it on Macs with no problems.

Sp ... , Oct 31, 2008; 01:27 p.m.

I down-loaded both and tried them each for the full 30-day trial period. Lightroom was the obvious choice. I didn't get the same results as Ilkka, in fact the LR image files were better, but I readily concede it may have been me. Now that LR2.1 is out, the choice would be even easier.

Hans Janssen , Oct 31, 2008; 02:15 p.m.

When you want to use acive D-lighting you have to use NX2.

Bruce Margolis , Oct 31, 2008; 02:35 p.m.

"My computer is a second generation 20' "white" Intel iMac with 1GB of Ram."

Robin, this will give you a headache with either program. Lightroom and NX2 are memory intensive so a minimum of 2Gb is really necessary to avoid frequent crashes.

Obviously you won't get an consensus here about software. Both are great programs, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Think about downloading both and try them out. Just like with camera bodies, there is nothing like a personal hands-on experience to tell you which will work best for you.

Ellis Vener , Oct 31, 2008; 02:54 p.m.

"...then you want to use active D-lighting you have to use NX2."

That is incorrect. Active D-Lighting on the cameras that have it (D3, D300, D700, etc.?) is applied on a photosite by photosite basis as the signal moves from the sensor to the EXPEED processor to be made into a NEF file (And from there to the buffer and the media).

Standard D-Lighting is indeed a processing step applied in Capture NX and can be applied (or turned off) wheter you set the camera for D-Lighting or not.

Robin Barnes , Oct 31, 2008; 03:22 p.m.

Thanks for your responses - I hope I will get some more. Opinion, so far, seems to be tending towards Lightroom.

Ellis - from your posts I know that you are a Lightroom user and, as I have been reading your D700 diary, that you use Nikon cameras as well. I would greatly appreciate your views on the quality of the results that can be achieved processing NEF files with Lightroom.

Dave Lee , Oct 31, 2008; 03:56 p.m.

If you have to choose one I'd go with Lightroom, overall it's a better application. However, I believe you do get better overall quality from RAW conversions in Capture NX than you do with Adobe Camera RAW. I use Capture NX to convert the RAW file, and then Photoshop to process the image.

Ellis Vener , Oct 31, 2008; 05:07 p.m.


The largest single frame from a D3 14 bit per channel NEF (converted to a 16 bpc DNG and processed in Lightroom) I've printed has been 20"x30". I think the results were pretty good and so did the client, a world class graphic designer / marketing consultant ( his clients are companies like ( think Coca-Coca, UPS ) who regularly hires some of the best photographers in the world for projects (I'm not i nthat league), so he sees a lot of high end work. We were judging prints shot from ISO 200 through 1600.

There are definitely differences in raw processors; differences in the algorithms and differences in features, as well as differences in the user interface. You have to decide which set of features works best for you. In my opinion Capture NX 2, Iridient Digital's "Raw Developer", and Bibble Pro can yield marginally to somewhat better results depending on the subject matter and how it was lit and shot, than Adobe Camera Raw's (the raw processing engine in Lightroom v2) defaults but the gap isn't that wide. it is narrow enough that i othen started considering what works best for the way I work. I think I shoot a lot but don't over shoot and I know many photojournalists, sports and wedding photogrpahers who shoot a lot more than I do) and I'm willing

to make that compromise and use Lightroom. The more you work with it, the better you and it gets.

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