Nikon D300 NEF image files - Lightroom 1.3 vs. Capture NX 1.3

by George Mann

This is now part three in a series of Lightroom 1.3 vs. Capture NX 1.3 comparisons, some of you are probably getting tired of these posts, but if you either have or are thinking about buying one of the new Nikon D300 digital SLRs, you might find this interesting.

If you remember with the Nikon D80 NEF file comparisons, the default images out of the two applications was actually fairly similar but the default Nikon Capture output was a bit brighter and some of the colors were more realistic and vibrant.

The main advantage that Nikon Capture NX 1.3 has when it comes to editing the image, is the U-Point technology, which allows you to edit individual areas of the image (like for instance the sky) and punch it up (or even de-saturate it entirely to gray scale) without disturbing the rest of the image.

The main advantage that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.3 has is a much better user interface and workflow, especially when dealing with larger numbers of images, but also when trying to squeeze the most out of a single image.

Both applications allow you to export to Photoshop CS 3, so more advanced editing is not an issue, but for basic color and vibrance control a lot of Nikon photographers feel that (especially when they are confronted with a particularly difficult image), they can squeeze more image quality out of Nikon Capture than any other application.

Warning: I have not tested the Nikon D300, or the NEF files it produces, in depth yet, so this is a very early analysis and my findings and results may change dramatically as I start getting used to the camera and the image files that it produces.


Nikon D300 - Capture NX 1.3 - default image, resized, and saved to JPEG

My initial impression from processing the Nikon D300 NEF files in Capture NX 1.3 was that the files were somewhat soft and pastel like. Not really unpleasant but also not what I was expecting.


Nikon D300 - Lightroom 1.3 - default image, resized, and exported to JPEG

Imagine my surprise, to see more sharpness, vibrance and contrast in the Lightroom 1.3 default image file. It is actually kind of hard to see in these small images but in the application widows and at larger size, there is a noticeable difference. For the Mac users with the latest version of Safari, the difference will be pretty dramatic, even in these small images.

Conclusion: Well I don't really have a conclusion yet, but am reminded why I continue to use a number of different editing applications to get the results that I am after.


Richard Caccavale
2007-11-30 07:05:54
Definitely not tired of these posts. I am always doing the same kind of comparison myself. I guess I want to make sure that I am getting the best image possible, and I assume that Capture is likely to give me that, since it is Nikon's own software. However, I find it too painful to use for its lack of integrated workflow, so LR is where I do my work. Glad to know that LR is keeping up on image quality.

Richard Caccavale

2007-11-30 12:22:27
the quality difference seems not a big deal - and it is easy to fine tune a LR preset to each's own taste and camera.

I tried Capture and the interface was terrible and the workflow even worse.
I shoot 1000s of images and I need to use some software that does not make me cringe.
It is easier and more enjoyable to tweak Lightroom than to use Capture NX.

George Mann
2007-12-01 09:20:41
It seems that we all agree that Lightroom is a lot more fun to work with than Capture NX. In the past a lot of Nikon photographers have also grumbled about the fact that Capture NX does not come free with the camera, now that it does come free with the D300 and the D3 (for a while anyway) it will be interesting to see how many photographers will end up actually using it.
2007-12-02 14:16:28
Thanks for your comments on the D300, George. I have a question: Why is it that Mac users with the latest version of Safari will be able to notice a dramatic difference? Is it because you aren't outputting to sRGB and relying on the browser to handle the color space for you, which some stumble over and others, such as Safari handle in strange (though sometimes pleasing) and unique ways?
2007-12-02 19:56:32
just bought the d300 and using aperture to coordinate my images....until the raw code is written for aperture, what do you recommend....the nikon capture is not working with leopard...i still have some kinks to work out, until apple gets the code written.
Homer Arment
2007-12-04 11:54:41
This test just seems to show what the good folks at Adobe said about Lightroom. That it doesn't respect the camera settings when it processes the raw file. Capture NX does and the image it gives is about what I would expect from using the suggested default camera settings. I like to use Lightroom for a first look at my raw files but if I have one that I want to put on my wall I usually switch to Capture NX/Photoshop. I think I can get a little more out of a NEF file with Capture NX than I can with Lightroom. Maybe it is just because I am more familiar with Capture than I am with Lightroom.
George Mann
2007-12-04 18:00:41
Scott - I am not going to pretend that I know what I am talking about when it comes to color profiling in browser software but Safari is apparently one of the only browsers available at this time that understands "color profiling" and gives you what you intended to show (not the washed out version you often end up with in your browser). Maybe someone with more knowledge on the subject can give a better explanation.
George Mann
2007-12-04 18:08:34
Brad - It is unfortunately often a mistake to rush in too soon when a new product hits the market. When two or three new related products come on the market at the same time it can spell disaster. My only solution over the years has been to keep the old intact while exploring the new. This unfortunately means keeping two computers at all times and being prepared to switch to the older computer, system and software when needed. Sorry if that does not answer your question but it is the only way I have ever found of beating the "system".
George Mann
2007-12-04 18:12:25
Homer - I basically agree with you but sometimes find that I like the results better from Lightroom (sometimes Capture and sometimes Photoshop CS). Photography is after all an art form and being correct does not always make for the best art.