Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

Nikon Capture 2 (V 2.0.1)

Review by Uwe Steinmueller

 

With the D1X Nikon also introduced the version 2 of it's NEF conversion software Nikon Capture. Except of the fact that it took quite some time after the launch of the D1X till capture reached the market there is one obvious improvement:

  • Lower price at $199 (although some might argue it should be free as part of the camera set)
 

Our review about Capture version 1 (list price of about $500) revealed that it was quite a good tool with some serious flaws:

  • Poor WB control
  • The tone compensation set in the camera could not be overruled in Capture

Capture 2 not only fixed these problems, it is clearly a much better product than Capture 1 at an acceptable price. For us it is clear that every photographer who uses the NEF format with the D1X/D1H needs this software (also we would recommend Bibble and Qimage as they complement Capture). If you even use compressed NEFs (as we do) then Capture 2 is an absolute must.

This review only looks at Capture 2 as a NEF conversion tool. Capture 2 also allows to control the D1X/D1H in tethered mode and the manipulation of in camera generated JPGs. Both is not the subject of this article.

We also recommend to read our first review as many observations and tips hold true.

As always this review is no replacement for the manual although we will look at the different tools in Capture and discuss how to use them. The version we use works on a PC but probably many things are the same on a Mac.
 
Setting up Capture 2 Preferences
 
 
We recommend to enable the "Copy Shooting Data to IPTC Caption" as this way Photoshop keeps the data found in the EXIF info as part of the file. This option was first introduced by Bibble and if we recall correctly we were pointing Eric this way.
 
 

These are the preferences for CMS (Color Management System). Most important is the setting for the monitor profile. This way you get nearly identical colors in Capture 2 and Photoshop 6.

As working space we use "Adobe RGB" and in this case the saved TIF files get correctly flagged with this profile.

 
 
In these preferences mainly the location of Photoshop is important. Capture 2 allows to open a saved file (TIF/JPG) in Photoshop.
 
White Balance
 
One of the most important operations on a converted NEF file is to get the WB (white balance) right. The D1X/D1H behave very differently from the D1 in terms of the WB. While the D1 modified the NEF data in dependency of the cameras WB settings the D1X/D1H only record the cameras WB setting in the meta data and leave the NEF image data unchanged. This allows any WB changes later in Capture.
 
 

The WB tool in Capture 2 is very sophisticated. One of the options is to set the "Gray Point" (this was the only WB option in Capture 1). Selecting a neutral gray is a powerful way to correct the WB. But only if there is some neutral gray area in the photo (a good strategy is to photograph a gray card as part of a photo series). Especially in nature photography there is often not any gray object inside the picture.

Especially useful is the correction of the WB using the "Red" and "Blue" sliders. This feature is also available in Qimage but NC2 displays the effect of the WB correction much more in real time on the full image. This looks to get my favorite WB tool!

Here the newly added Capture WB tools help.

 
     
 

Capture 2 allows to correct the WB as recorded in the camera or even to set some selected color temperature.

Getting the WB right is still not trivial. This is due to the complex nature of color and not because Capture 2 lacks the right tools.

 
Advanced RAW
 
    
 
The features in this tool were missing in Capture 1 and all are very important.
 

Exposure Compensation

Minus EV corrections shift the histogram to left and plus corrections to the right. Be aware that spikes in the right indicate blown out highlights which cannot be recovered by minus EV compensations

Sharpening

This tool uses regular sharpening (not Unsharp Mask see below). We currently use the setting "normal" as NEF files need sharpening since the AA (Anti Aliasing) filter on the CCD blurs the image slightly.

Tone Compensation

This feature allows to control the contrast of the image and this feature was very much missed in Capture 1.

Color Mode

We are not quite sure what this feature does and how it relates to the setting in the preferences.

Hue Adjustment

The standard value is 3. The values 0,1,2 shift the color to blue while 4,5,6 give it a more yellow cast.

 
Curves
 
 
We already liked the curves tool in Capture 1 a lot and you can read here how to use it.
 
Unsharp Mask
 
 
Even if this tool is very powerful we are not using it anymore as we now prefer to use normal sharpening in Capture 2 and later in Photoshop some edge sharpening actions by Fred Miranda.
 
Saving and loading Settings
 
 
All or selected settings can be saved and later loaded again.
 
 
Settings can also be copied and pasted to other images.
 
Size
 
 
The final image can also be resized in Capture 2. We only use this feature for 1000 pixel wide preview JPGs.
 
Batch Processing
 
 
We use batch processing mainly to produce 1000 pixel wide JPGs for preview. With the selection of "Apply settings in" you can control how all the tools in Capture 2 are setup.
 
Misc
 
Capture 2 also is an improvement if used with D1 NEF files.
 
 
Conclusion
 
We only covered some of the most important features of Capture 2. But hopefully you get the idea that Capture 2 is a powerful application to get good results from your NEF files. Overall we think Capture 2 is a major improvement over Capture 1.
 
What are we missing?
 
  • A tool to control saturation
  • Noise filters for higher ISO photos
 
 
You can order the Nikon Capture 2.0 here
 
 
You can find solutions for both in our Photoshop Corner.
 
 
 

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