Along with the Nikon D4s announcement, Nikon yesterday also announced a long-awaited upgrade to Capture NX2. Called Capture NX-D, this Nikon RAW converter is being offered for download while in beta form. Public beta testing is something Nikon has been reluctant do to in the past, and it’s something I applaud them for. I downloaded the beta of Capture NX-D to see what it would do. Unfortunately, it is clear to me that this new product is more notable for what it lacks than what it offers.
One of the biggest complaints about Capture NX2 was its speed, or should I say its lack thereof. Part of the reason Capture NX2 was slow was because it rendered NEF files fully at any zoom level, and because file changes were written directly into NEFs. Capture NX-D is certainly faster than Capture NX2, and it has adopted the use of sidecar files to store edits and metadata. Unfortunately, that’s about where the new “features” end.
Capture NX-D is built a lot like View NX2; a file browser with a built-in editor. From a file-management perspective, there is no catalog/database function. You can browse images in folders, apply color labels and star ratings, and filter images in the browser based on those ratings and certain EXIF data. You can also use the WB eyedropper directly from the browser’s grid view, as well as the editing tools. The use of sidecar files significantly speeds up batch processing, because files no longer need to be manually saved during the editing process.
Return to 2004
When it comes to the editing tools, you’ll find that Capture NX-D only offers the following corrections:
- White Balance
- Picture Controls
- Tone (brightness/contrast and shadow/highlight protection)
- Levels & Curves
- Noise Reduction
- Unsharp Mask
- Lens Corrections
- LCH Editor
Gone are all the “pro” tools that we had in Capture NX2, including high-pass filter, monochrome conversion, and Photo Filters, and the Auto Retouch Brush. Aside from the LCH editor, which is an excellent tool (and has been around since Nikon Capture 4), there is not one compelling “must have” adjustment tool in this list. And it gets worse. Because adjustments are saved as sidecar files, the embedded JPEG previews are not updated anymore. That means if you used Photo Mechanic as a front-end to Capture NX2, you’ll no longer see accurate previews of files edited in Capture NX-D. Any edits applied via the “Adjust” panel in Capture NX2 are not visible in Capture NX-D. Edits made in Capture NX-D are saved as Nikon-unique sidecars, so Capture NX2 (or any other program) won’t read them.
From bad to worse
Nikon has also removed all forms of local adjustments in Capture NX-D. Gone are brushes, gradients, and Control Points. Not only that, but Capture NX-D does not display edits made in Capture NX2, except for those in the “Develop” section. If you had Control Points in your images, Capture NX-D will not show their effects. That means all the work you did over the years in Capture NX2 is basically lost if you move to Capture NX-D, although Nikon has indicated it may try to support display of Control Point adjustments in the future. Nikon has also made it clear that Capture NX-D will not offer Control Points in the future… they are dead.
There are a few other things Capture NX-D won’t do. It won’t read files from other manufacturers (no surprise there). It also won’t let you save a JPEG or TIFF file in NEF format for non-destructive editing, which was a useful feature of Capture NX2. In fact, Nikon’s FAQ page reads more like a list of omissions rather than a list of features.
At the end of the day, Nikon’s Capture NX-D is clearly built as a browser with basic NEF/NRW file editing functions. It cannot be considered as anything other than a front-end to Photoshop or another pixel editor. In fact, this product should have just been called View NX3, because that’s really what it is. To suggest any similarities between Capture NX2 and Capture NX-D other than NEF editing would be laughable.
Am I being a little harsh here? Yes. Retro design might work for a camera like the Nikon Df, but when it comes to software we want professional features. Nikon Capture NX-D is quite simply not a professional product. It’s a browser that can edit Nikon NEF/NRW files in a rudimentary fashion. Moreover, Nikon has completely abandoned the loyal Capture NX2 users and not given them a clear way forward. The following entry on the Capture NX-D FAQ Page makes it pretty clear:
Q: For how long will support for Capture NX 2 continue?
A: We will continue to update Capture NX 2 as needed to add support for new cameras until the official version of this software is released.
At this time, the official version is scheduled for release in summer this year.
We will no longer update Capture NX 2 after the official version of this software is released.
In other words, if you were a Capture NX2 user, you’re hosed. No new camera support as of this summer. You can, of course, continue to use Capture NX2 on all your old NEF files, but that’s not much consolation. If you ever buy a new Nikon camera, Capture NX2 will not be supported.
If you’re still under the delusion that only Nikon software can properly process a NEF, then use Capture NX-D. If you want your Picture Controls automatically applied by your RAW converter, then use Capture NX-D. If you want a free NEF/NRW editor as a front-end to Photoshop, then use Capture NX-D. I’ll likely have a copy of it around once it goes final for doing things like viewing active focus points, but not much else. The only real value going forward is that it is free, and it will always be the first product to support RAW files from new Nikon cameras until the third-parties update their converters.
Right now, I feel like my decision to move over to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom in 2012 was the right move. I’d like to tell you more about Capture NX-D, but the beta just stopped working on my computer. SMH.