|UPDATE (10-08-14): New Capture NX-D, a piece of Nikon software that I'm actually exited about. It is fairly fast, works well and beats ACR hands down. Best of all: it's free!|
|NX Characteristics | Settings & Output | Conclusion & Remarks|
It is fairly common to see people desperately searching the Web, because their version of Photoshop, Lightroom or Elements refuses to open the RAW files of their new camera, mostly generating either a “File not supported” or the far more scary “This file may be corrupted” message.
The same may happen in Nikon Capture, and in any case you will either need to update the ACR plugin or upgrade your software.
Most people are not aware that RAW – or in the case of Nikon, NEF – is not a single, unified file format, which is why every new camera needs to be specifically supported in the few good RAW converters out there, be that Nikon View or Capture, DxO, Phase One Capture One, Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), or a DCRAW based product like RAW Therapee or Picasa.
To further limit your options, in 2006 Adobe bought up Pixmantec – a company founded by a group of ex Phase One Capture One developers – and makers of the free “RAW Shooter Essentials” software.
Thus, if you’ve heard good things about RSE – rightly so – and would like to check it out with a post 2006 camera, you can stop looking right now...
With ACR being a widely spread tool amongst us Nikonians, the questions about compatibility are quite frequent.
Since the camera RAW plugin was launched way back in Photoshop 7, it has seen a constant evolution, but new main ACR plugin releases (v1.0, v.2.0, etc.) are not backwards compatible, and therefore demand an upgrade of Photoshop (Bridge, Lightroom, Elements).
As a result, people who buy a new Nikon (or some other camera), often get confronted with the unpleasant surprise that their RAW's will not open with ACR, and sometimes not in Nikon Capture either, for that matter.
To help Nikon users to check their cameras against their earliest supporting ACR/Photoshop versions, I have created a compatibility chart that can be found here.
It contains all discontinued and current models from the 1999 Nikon D1 up to the latest 2013 models D7100 and D5200, allowing you to check if you just need a (free) ACR plugin update or a full-blown – and expensive – Photoshop/Bridge, etc., upgrade.
For more information, visit the Adobe Website, and the Adobe ACR, DNG Converter pages.
Also, please notice the exclaimer included in the document, and don't blame me if anything goes wrong. Ask questions first, shoot later.
One alternative route you might want to try when your camera and ACR result incompatible, is going DNG; I did that for a while with the D40 RAW's. The Adobe DNG converter is free, stand alone and the resulting digital negative files can be opened in any version of Photoshop since CS1.
For a more extensive look at the DNG Converter, check this article.
The current version for CS6 and Creative Cloud is ACR 8.6, which adds support for the Nikon D810 among other cameras.
To find out about the latest updates, I suggest you check the Nikon DSLR - ACR/DNG Converter compability chart, here.
Nikon View 6.x.x & Nikon View NX
However, what most people are NOT aware of, is that apart of a limited number of free third party alternatives, Nikon have another FREEBIE for file management and RAW conversion, Nikon View, a program that gets rarely – if ever – mentioned when discussing Nikon Capture and/or ACR alternatives.
I have worked with Nikon View / Nikon Editor 6 since 2003, when it came packed with my D1X, offering quite basic, but useful RAW conversion tools:
• General adjustments: contrast, sharpening, effects (B&W, Sepia) and image size (100% or smaller)
• Red eye reduction: off, auto, click on eyes
• Color balance: brightness, contrast, red, green, blue
• RAW adjustment: exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV) and white balance (as shot, auto, 7 options)
The program can open the processed file directly in Photoshop (8 & 16-bits), save as a JPG (5 quality options) a 8 or 16-bits RGB TIFF, or as a 8-bits CMYK TIFF (for pre-press).
After 2005, Nikon started shipping - even with its better DSLR’s - the abominable Picture Project software, aimed primarily at Coolpix users.
This is probably why so few people are aware of the existence of Nikon View; to be honest, I didn’t even mention it myself in a previous article on free RAW alternatives...
I switched to Nikon Capture when I bought the D200 in 2006 and never looked back, until - of course - the D40 turned out to be incompatible with Nikon View 6, Capture 4.4.2 and Photoshop CS1.
I upgraded to CS3, discarding shelling out for Nikon Capture NX, but never ever even thought about taking another look at Nikon View.
Nikon View NX Characteristics
That is really funny (or stupid, if you like) when you consider that NX is quite capable, that it can be downloaded for FREE and already includes support for Nikon's latest D5000, D300s and D3000.
The program opens JPG, NEF, NRW (Coolpix RAW) and TIFF files, and allows for quite good - though not exhaustive - RAW review, manipulation and conversion, including:
• Exposure Compensation (+/- 2 EV)
• White balance (Recorded value, calculate automatically, use gray point, 11 presets)
• Color balance, Fine adjustment & Tint
• Picture Control: 9 standard tone curves, customizable
• Shadow-Highlight protection
• D-Lighting HS (3 options and off)
• Color Booster (People - Nature)
• Axial Color Aberration control.
Furthermore, the included Picture Control application allows the modification of the 9 preset tone-curves, levels adjustment, and the creation of personalized tone-curves (includes histogram, brightness-contrast, shadows & highlights eye-dropper and reset) plus the import & export of other preset and/or previously saved custom curves.
Other utilities include camera and shooting data tags, an IPTC/XMP (sidecar file) editor and IPTC templates (personal data, shooting location, copyright, etc.) plus a focus point indicator, labels & ratings and - last but not least: a geo-tagging utility based on Google maps.
Settings & Output
The program appears to set its default color profile at installation, apparently based on either Photoshop, Capture or the system standard – I’m not sure.
Mine is set to ProPhoto RGB, and I suggest you do the same, since this profile has a considerably wider gamut (color range) than the standard Adobe RGB and sRGB profiles – even though it's still limited when compared to the human eye...
The advantage of this is, simply put, that at conversion you squeeze the maximum of available color out of your original.
Even if this is not all printable, and will get partially lost when reconverting to sRGB for the Web or to CMYK for printing, it will still be available to you in the future, when wide gamut printers become more common.
It is important to remember that ProPhoto RGB files must be reconverted to sRGB for “normal” viewing and the Internet, or you’ll be in for an interesting surprise.
ProPhoto RGB tagged files, viewed in an Internet browser or file viewer utility, will sometimes show very weird looking colors indeed.
Just like Capture, and contrary to popular believe, Nikon View will adopt your personalized in-camera color settings (Color Mode I, II, III, Ia, IIIa) WB and sharpening as the default setting when opening a RAW file, which means less tweaking and a faster workflow.
You can modify these settings if necessary, and save them to the original RAW.
Note that – unlike JPG – these modifications are non-destructive, and can be undone at any time.
This characteristic is unique to Nikon Capture and View; there is no other RAW editor currently on the market that will import your recorded and custom in-camera settings, allow you to modify them and then save them back to the original RAW.
This is particularly true for Capture, which will import all your recorded and custom in-camera settings on opening: Sharpening, Tone Compensation, Color Mode, Saturation, Hue Adjustment and White Balance.
Nikon View NX allows saving the modifications in the original RAW, converting the file to JPG (5 quality options), 8 and 16-bits TIFF, or opening it directly in an external editor (configurable) like Photoshop, in either 8 or 16-bits mode.
True, Nikon View NX has less options and imports fewer custom settings than Capture, allows less “tweaking” than ACR, and has a user interface that leaves a lot to be desired.
Furthermore, it’s slow, even if not the notorious memory-hog Capture is, in my experience.
I have not tested the program in depth for this article, but am currently working on one (published 07-09-09) comparing ACR with Nikon Capture 4.4.x, Nikon Capture NX2, Nikon View 6, Nikon View NX and Phase One Capture One Basic and Pro, so you might want to check back here for a more thorough look at this program and its competitors.
Still, consider this:
• Camera support is up to date - the D7100, D5200 and D3200 are all supported in the current version (v.2.8.0).
• It offers a fairly good set of controls, and is definitely more capable than the earlier ACR versions, which you might be using if going the DNG-route.
• It includes geo-tagging (built on Google Maps), focus point indication, IPTC/EXIF management and a couple of other “goodies”.
• View (and Capture) are generally slightly less “rough” on RAW's than ACR, in my experience.
• Nikon View NX is absolutely FREE.
Food for thought for existing and new Nikon camera owners, say I.
Download it here, try it out, and please let me know what you think.
You may also want to read:
Got a new camera? Problems with Photoshop or Camera RAW? Check out Nikon Capture NX-D. FREE!
Compatibility chart for Nikon DSLR and Adobe Camera RAW & DNG Converter (Updated)
Which is the best RAW converter: Camera RAW, Nikon View, Capture or Phase One Capture One?
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Comment from: Dr Ramakrishnaaiah [Visitor]
CAn any one help me how to open NEF pictures taken in Nikon D300s in Adobe photoshop CS4?
Presently I am getting Cant open because it is not the right kind of format
Comment from: George [Visitor]
What’s the point of keywords in Nikon ViewNX version 1.5.0 if you can’t find images using these keywords? How do I conduct a search based on a keyword in ViewNX?
Windows search tool does not recognise any keywords placed in ViewNX!
Comment from: [Member]
Thanks for your comment, George.
I agree it would be nice to be able to search with View or Win Explorer for keywords.
However, they are still useful, because they are geared to Internet publishing and Stock libraries, where they are searchable, in most cases.