Nikon D300 NEF images - Adobe Lightroom 1.3 vs. Adobe Camera RAW 4.3.1

by George Mann

As most of you probably know by now, a few days ago Adobe released ACR 4.3.1. In the release notes it mentioned that there was an update for the new Nikon D300 and Nikon D3 cameras (among other things). I was kind of surprised at this because I thought that the Nikon D300 and Nikon D3 had already been included in the 4.3 update. (You have to excuse my present slightly disoriented state, I seem to have caught some kind of flu a few days ago, that is making it difficult for me to think clearly).

Anyway the appearance of a new ACR gives me an opportunity to run some more comparison tests, this time between Lightroom 1.3 (with the old 4.3 ACR) and Adobe Photoshop CS3 with the new and improved ACR 4.3.1.

I realize that to get the most out of an image in either application, I actually need to push some buttons, slide some sliders and use my brain, but the only way to make a head to head comparison is to let the programs work on auto-pilot and accept their default output.

In Lightroom I just chose Export straight out of the Library, reduced the image and saved to the maximum JPEG quality. In Photoshop CS3 I opened the image in Bridge (which applied the ACR 4.3.1 RAW conversion) with the default setting, reduced the size, applied the USM filter, and saved to JPEG at maximum quality.

Not surprisingly the results are actually quite similar, the only difference I see using Apple Preview (on my Mac) is a very slightly lighter image from Lightroom 1.3 (the preview of this blog actually shows me the opposite in a Mozzila browser), as usual the results will vary on different computers, monitors and browsers.

Update: I checked the results in Safari browser after publishing the Blog posting and the colors are more saturated and the best result (in my opinion) are from Lightroom 1.3 but the Photoshop CS3 images could easily be adjusted to be the same.

The images are of a temple very near my house and were taken on my morning bicycle ride a few days ago. The camera is the Nikon D300 and the lens used for these images is the 60mm f/2.8 AF Micro Nikkor.


Lightroom 1.3 - New temple construction.


PS CS3 & ACR 4.3.1 - New temple construction.


Lightroom 1.3 - Detail of a shrine residing on the side of a tree.


PS CS3 & ACR 4.3.1 - Detail of a shrine residing on the side of a tree.


George Mann
2007-12-08 05:02:50
Update Dec. 8, 2007: Adobe released Lightroom 1.3.1 today, which includes ACR 4.3.1, so everything should be completely the same now.
2007-12-09 08:43:28
I have the exact same rig! The 60mm Macro is my favorite piece of glass.

Hopefully Apple's next update (10.5.2) will give native RAW support for the Nikon D300. I prefer the workflow in Aperture to Adobe Lightroom, but there currently isn't any support for The D3/D300. I've been shooting RAW+JPEG until it comes. Time will tell. Thanks for the article.

2007-12-09 12:37:07
Is that to say there are different RAW converters in Adobe products???
George Mann
2007-12-09 17:43:48
Thank you for the comments.

Tom - I'm sure the update will come soon, unfortunately there is always a short (and sometimes long) down time for some of us when new products are released, which is why I always keep several different software solutions up to date and ready to roll.

Thomas - ACR is a plug-in for Photoshop CS and Elements but is embedded (is that the right term?) in Lightroom, it is of course much easier to upgrade the product that uses the plug-in, so it usually comes first. Lightroom is now upgraded too, so the article was made somewhat obsolete the day after it was posted.

George Mann
2007-12-09 17:49:46
For Tom again:

Yeah I really love the 60mm Micro Nikkor too and with the DX cameras it has a really comfortable working distance for close-ups and portraits.


2007-12-10 14:37:06
Thank you George for your feedback!
I have one big gripe about LR though: LR stacks JPEGs and NEFs (=good!)and seems to display the NEF image with LR-changes applied (=ok).
Unfortunately it loses all changes you did in CaptureNX to the NEF (=bad!) and also will not display whatever you did to the jpg (=very bad!) :(
Is there any way to make the jpg in the (jpg+nef)stack display instead of the "castrated" NEF?