Nikon Capture NX-D: The end of Capture NX as we know it

Nikon Capture NX-D: A return to 2004 RAW editing workflow.
Nikon Capture NX-D: A return to 2004 RAW editing workflow. I made this screen capture before the beta software stopped working on my Mac Pro.

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:

  • Exposure
  • White Balance
  • Picture Controls
  • Tone (brightness/contrast and shadow/highlight protection)
  • Levels & Curves
  • Noise Reduction
  • Unsharp Mask
  • Lens Corrections
  • LCH Editor
  • Straighten
  • Crop

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.

Conclusions

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.

88 thoughts on “Nikon Capture NX-D: The end of Capture NX as we know it”

  1. I am not in the same league with you guys but have been using NX for several years now and love it. Am so sad to see it dropped. My big question is will edits I have made in NX2 be recognized in Lightroom, or am I going to start over on all my photos. I plan to keep NX2 forever just in case, assuming my computer does not die. Think I will download a new copy and put it on a disk to save for that eventuality. Now if I really like Lightroom and it reads all my old edits, I will dump NX2. Thanks for the heads up Jason.

  2. Jason, as always, insightful review. I have been a staunch Capture NX2 user with all my Nikon DSLRs. I have bought your books, learnt a lot and enjoyed the resulting images. The demise of NX2 is very disappointing, but for Nikon far more serious. It has kept me loyal to Nikon; have D300s and D5100. But, I have been looking at the Fiji X System. Now I believe that there should be a smooth flow between the camera and the post processing software to obtain easily the images I want; Nikon provided that link. Now that they have broken it there is no reason not to jump to Fuji. Some may argue that I am allowing the software to dictate my camera choice, but for me and for ease of use as a busy amateur this influences my buying decision. Thanks for your update. So, after you have run the NX2 to LR session will provide a book? Jules.

  3. I converted to Lightroom 4 a few years ago for the vast majority of my post processing. The one exception is infrared. Similar to Howard Wood (see February 28, 2014 at 1:10 AM post) I use NX2 for my initial infrared processing. As long as my converted D70s works I assume NX2 will be my first IR step. That is unless I find a better way to do it in LR.

  4. I’m currently using CNX2 as my main editing program and will need to switch to Lightroom 5. I also have the LIghtroom plug in version of the Nik Software suite.I frequently open files in one of the Nik Software programs ( Silver Efex Pro, etc) from within CNX2 using a very useful little free “Open with” program refered to in your blog on using Nik Software with CNX2. WIll I be able to go on using this suite as a plug in to Lightroom 5 or will I need to purchase a new suite of NIK plug ins? Incidentally I’ve found that I can use the “Open with” program from the beta version of Capture NX-D with few hassles.

  5. If you own the Nik Collection, it will work in Lightroom. You may just need to reinstall the plug-ins.

  6. Here’s how to do it in LR:
    http://www.luminescentphoto.com/blog/2013/07/15/setting-white-balance-on-infrared-images-with-lightroom-with-video/

  7. Dumped NXD Beta last night as I will not use it. I have Lightroom on 30 day trial now. Went through the first if their tutorials on downloading photos and creating a catalogue. The tutorial was very good and made my first step easy and even liked the first photo I played with. Most liked will buy Lightroom. I kike the was the catalogue works and ability to have keywords and even use presets on download. Can rename photos by location or job etc. still not sure about the editing aspects. Am wondering how the photos will be saved.

    Will they still be NEFs and will the original still be there after editing and saving? Do I have to save them all as copies so the original will still be there. Guess I need to stop this and get on the tutorials. Think I will give Nikon an earful too of my displeasure.

    Will HDR Effects Pro work as a plugin. From I read above I think it will. Only thing I need to know is do I need to reinstall it so Lightroom recognizes it?

    Jason I really appreciate you helping with all this. As an avid amateur I need lots of help.

  8. Hi Jason,
    I can’t believe that Nikon is actually doing this. I have really enjoyed working with CNX2 since buying your eBook on how to work with it. I went digital in 2008 and wanted an image editing software that did everything I wanted. I didn’t want to have to go from one image editor to another. I’ve never been an Adobe person, Photoshop in particular. That software was probably one of the reasons why I didn’t go digital sooner than I did. It is way too complicated. I want to be a photographer that does very little editing, not a graphic editor that owns a camera. I made it a point not to spend more than eight minutes on an image, including captioning and keywording. I do the same thing to about 80% of all my images with varying amounts of the same edits. Two of the edits I use a lot are control points and the auto retouch. At the moment I’m good with my two year old computer and CNX2 but I’ve held out till Nikon comes out with their long awaited replacement of the D300, so I’ll have to do something then. I read that you were working on an eBook for Lightroom, keep me posted as I’ll be in line for sure. It’s difficult to believe that all the work done on thousands of images over the last six years that I won’t be able to see the edits in Lightroom and could have issues with CNX2 if there’s some registry issue. I’m very disappointed in Nikon if they don’t come out with a proper upgrade to CNX2. Thanks for your article. Dave Blackey Photography

  9. Thank you, Jason, for your help re using Nik plug-ins with Lightroom. I’ve installed LR5 and the Nik software I was using with NX2 works seamlessly as a plug-in. I also found that I could add “Edit List2″ to the “Edit In” List if I wanted to. I tool look forward to your book on using LR5. I’ve found the one on CNX2 particularly helpful.

  10. Hi Jason.
    Your NX ebook was my first digital processing tutor.
    NX was my first editor.
    From Dxx, to Dxxx and now Dx,
    Always i like and still like NX and NX2.
    Well, Nikon does not care about loyalty.
    Nikon cares about dollars and cents and not sense.
    Somehow, intrinsically i have to use Nikon.
    No Nikon, got cry.
    NX-D i also have tried, and i agree wholly with your comments.
    Guess it is time to ditch NX2 and embrace LR with a whole heart.
    Mr Odell, you have any books on LR?
    A book that is easy enough for an old bloke like me?
    How old, you asked?
    I am of museum quality.
    Started years ago with silver plates (just kidding).
    Thank you.

  11. Hi Jason, Once again a spot on review. I’m a LR user myself (switched from NX2 quite a while back) but as a Nikon shooter I’m always very interested in NX2 updates when they emerge. I know this post is from February but just now realized the dilemma NX2 users are in. As you stated very accurately the feature list reads more like an “omission” list but in doing research the big one that I see most folks balking at is the U-Point technology. My question would be… Didn’t Google purchase that patent? I could be way off base here but I seem to remember Google snagging some patents from Nik Software (i.e. Nikon) and U-Point was in there (I think). Perhaps this has severely handicapped Nikon in NX-D? Maybe this is why, once again as you already stated, NX-D will be a basic raw editor similar to View? Purely speculation on my part and I’ve done no homework on this… just tossing it out for discussion. Love your books and teaching style! I have many…

  12. Scott-
    I really don’t know what patent rights Google has after purchasing Nik Software.
    Thanks for your support!

    -Jason

  13. And did you convert your edited nefs from NX into LR or do you just use LR for newer photos and stick to NX for the old ones?

  14. I’ve just discovered NX2 is supposed to be replaced by NX-D. The first things I noticed were no more U-Points of high-pass filter. U-Points was the whole reason for using NX2 instead of anything else. While I don’t like this, I can understand the reason behind this move: U-Point is actually a patented technology of Nik Software, which is now in Google’s courtyard. On the flip-side, the whole range of plugins from Nik is now available for $149.
    As this post says, NX-D looks more like ViewNX. If Nikon will offer it for free, then it would be an ok product. But if they hope to charge $200 for it, they’re in for a surprise.

  15. Isn’t this a beta?

    Obviously the first version will have many more features, so I don’t understand why so many seem to be moaning about a new RAW processor from Nikon. Personally speaking I can’t wait till it’s out of Beta and released to see what I can do with it. I’m using C1 and it’s great but a Nikon RAW processor for my NEF’s sounds good. I trialed NX2 and found it clunky and slow and the interface was horrible.

  16. Steve- I suggest reading the Nikon FAQ page and prepare to be insulted. Beta or not, this is simply SilkyPix with a Nikon wrapper. I do not recommend that anyone who is serious about their images use this software, as it is a dead-end.

  17. I can convert important images to TIFF if I want to view them elsewhere. And for the majority, I just worked on them in LR. No issues.

  18. I use NEF and I don’t need XMP (metadata are written into the LR catalog). Lightroom does not use sidecar files by default.

  19. Hi Jason, hope you are well. I have just purchased the Nikon D810 and am very happy with the new camera, however was very disappointed when I realized that it is not supported by Capture NX2. I have installed the Nikon NX-D program and agree with all your comments. For those who still want to use Capture NX2 if you have one of the new unsupported cameras you can use the Capture NX-D program for the corrections you mention above and then go to the Image-Open with-Capture NX2 bar and it will open the file in Capture NX2 but as a TIF, not a NEF file. It does save the changes you made in the Capture NX-D program. You can then use the U-point technology etc. and save as a TIF or JPEG file. Not ideal I agree and no going back to the NEF file if you want too tweak it in the future. I do use Lightroom but not as much as Capture NX2 but that will have to change in the future,
    Mike

  20. I downloaded the new software and was completely lost! All key functionality seemed to have gone! Thank you for your clear review. Like many I think I need to move to Lightroom

  21. Sunil-
    I do not have any support for Capture NX-D. I do not use it. I imagine batch processing can be done via the browser, but I haven’t tried it.

  22. I have used LR5 for about 6 months. And, it is not hard to make the switch from NX to LR. The LR5 info on You Tube is abundant and useful. Nevertheless, I still use View NX2 to screen all the incoming NEF RAW files for the keepers.

    To back up and future proof my images, I save the keepers in NEF RAW format [compressed (unedited) virgin files] to a external HD. And, from those files I import a separate copy of the keepers in DNG RAW format for LR5 processing, and store them on a separate HD database. I found, using DNG RAW has the same outcomes as using the NEF RAW (with sidecar file) in LR5. Thus, the DNG saves a lot of space, and I only deal with one file per image vs using 2 files with NEF RAW. Also, the original NEFs serve as insurance for not only a back up, but for future product changes. After using LR5 for the past 6 months, It’s unlikely I will ever change to another digital software designed for photographers.

  23. Having now looked at NX-D 1.01 (still free, still beta though not called so) I agree with Jason’s condemnation. It’s essentially useless. (Unlike the other posters, I never liked Nik’s u-points!)
    LR5 is my weapon of choice. DxO Optic Pro 7 elite is available as a free download (yes, really, current version is 9.5) and is useful for awkward cases (noise, distortion) because it’s auto system based on body-lens modules work better than LR5’s and take less effort. Maybe Nikon should stick to making cameras which they (mostly) do quite well. Support DNG as an option and forget writing lousy software.
    I’ll stick to LR5 for 90% of images, preprocessing about half the rest in DxO to DNG and back to LR. The rest might need PS with layers and other goodies. All end up in LR for printing.

  24. Delusion? I know it. You cannot properly develop NEF files in Lightroom. The Nikon profiles are useless. Using several programs in my workflow is the last thing I want but it’s necessary. I’m a pro (weddings) and I take the time and convert them to tiff, and then import to Lightroom. NX-D is full of bugs (eg filtering by EXIF doesn’t work properly when several boxes are ticked) and it is so slow but I simply don’t see a way around it. I’ve tried everything. Without Nikon software pictures look washed, faces brown… Lightroom is so much faster, besides I’ve spent some money on VSCO presets… Hopeless.

  25. “You cannot properly develop NEF files in Lightroom.”

    Really? Because I do it every day and get perfectly good results. Actually, I get excellent results. I’m perfectly happy using Lightroom, but it took some getting used to to learn all the nuances.

  26. @Jules Horse Switching to Fuji X doesn’t solve your problem with raw processing. I switched from D3 to X-T1 because I wanted a smaller, lighter system. I couldn’t find a good raw converter for the files, bought Iridient but it has no nice UI, bought Capture One, good results but allso clumsy UI.
    So, then Nikon came with the small fullframe D750 allso with tiltable screen and I sold my X-T1 and bought the D750. Now to find I cannot proces my NEF’s in Capture NX2 because it’s not supported……..Capture NX-D is way to slow on my iMac with 8GB internal mem…bummer

  27. For the last four weeks I’ve been seriously considering buying the new D750 …… until today when I realised NX2 will no longer be supported and is to be replaced by NX-D.
    What are Nikon thinking about? My first look at the software tells me there are no control points; no double threshold; no auto retouch brush; no selection brush!!! If this is the case there will also be no camera sale to me: I’m frankly disgusted and so so disappointed. Goodbye Nikon…

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