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Nikon Capture NX Software
for Nikon Digital SLR
First Look Review

Nikon D200 digital SLR and Nikon Capture NX
Nikon Capture NX software for Nikon D50, Nikon D70s, D200, D2X and other digital SLR's

May 13th, 2006

Although Nikon Capture NX is ideally geared towards post processing the Nikon Electronic Format (NEF) files created by such cameras as the Nikon D40x, Nikon D80 and Nikon D200 digital SLR's, for the first time, Nikon Capture version NX processing can now be applied to JPEG and TIFF images. (with some limitations compared to NEF)

Nikon Capture NX for Nikon digital SLR's enables a full non-destructive image editing workflow, and provides a number of new features, including Color Control Points powered by U Point™ technology, selection tools for image adjustments, improved batch processing, and full support for ICC based color management.

Nikon Capture NX Workspace

Nikon Capture NX Software Workflow Window
Nikon Capture NX workspace window (beta) Nikon D50 digital SLR image being edited

The Power of NEF

One of the most unique and powerful features of NEF is the ability to utilize Nikon Capture NX to process the image with the camera settings that you assigned within the camera using Nikon processing algorithms to produce the highest possible image quality. With Nikon Capture NX you can alter or change the original camera settings such as, white balance, sharpening, color mode, saturation, tone compensation, hue adjustment and more.

Nikon Capture NX Main Features

  • NEF, TIFF and JPEG file support – realizes the full potential of NEF files and non-destructive editing.

  • U Point™ technology - simplifies selection and isolation of all or chosen areas of an image to be enhanced.

  • Show selection – shows image areas to be adjusted in reverse black-and-white view for easy, accurate control.

  • Edit list – helps photographers track, cancel or add new modifications to an image.

  • Image browser – comes with the advanced functions including labeling, sorting and editing and makes quick adjustments directly through each image thumbnail.

  • Batch processing - enhances multiple images automatically by applying a user-selected series of adjustments to several images at once.

  • Selective tools – include Brush, Lasso and Marquee (four kinds), Gradient and Fill/Remove, for positive or negative application of enhancements.

  • Color management control – advances control of how colors of an image correspond to colors that a printer can produce.

  • Multifunctional versatility – inherits such advanced Nikon Capture functions including Color Aberration Control, D-Lighting, Image Dust Off, Vignette Control and Fisheye-to-Rectilinear Image Transformation.

  • Improved noise reduction – based on the latest, most advanced Nikon algorithms.

  • Distortion control - reduces pincushion and barrel distortion effects.

  • Nikon Total Imaging System compatibility - expands the world of Nikon photography even further beyond conventional limits.

Nikon Capture NX
Sample Workflow #1

Nikon D50 digital SLR JPEG image before Nikon Capture NX edit
Nikon D50 with AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G JPEG
Image before Edit

Nikon D50 with AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G JPEG
Image after Edit

A quick edit is performed on the Nikon D50 digital SLR flower image with four easy steps.

Step 1: Straighten and Crop the Image
The Straighten tool within Nikon Capture NX is applied by simply tracing a line in the image that should be straight. Capture NX will automatically rotate the image to straighten based on the traced line. Next the Crop Tool is used to crop any unwanted detail from the image.

Step 2: Apply D-Lighting
Next, D-Lighting is applied to the foreground green leaves to brighten the
shadows. Using the Brush Selection tool, D-Lighting is applied only to the leaves.

Step 3: Increase the Contrast
Levels and Curves tool is then used to increase the contrast of the entire image, brightening the sky and bringing out the details of the clouds.

Step 4: Enhance the Sky and Flowers
Color Control Points are then added to intensify the sky and the flowers. One Color Control Point is added to increase the vibrancy of the sky, and another Color Control Point is added to increase the contrast and brightness of the clouds. A third Color Control Point is added to brighten and increase the saturation of the flowers.


Nikon Capture NX Sample Workflow #2

Use Capture NX’s Color Control Points to Selectively
Enhance Your Image, Quickly and Easily

Nikon D70s with AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G before
Nikon D70s with AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G after
Nikon D70s with AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G
JPEG image before edit
Nikon D70s with AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G
JPEG image after edit

Step 1
Crop Photo and Enhance the Lake

First, the Crop Tool is used to crop any unwanted detail from the image. A Color Control Point is added to the lake. Using the Saturation slider, the blue of the lake can be intensified, and then using the Brightness slider, the lake can be darkened slightly. This is done without making a complex mask of the lake, and works amazingly well even around fine detail objects like hair.

Nikon D70s digital SLR image being edited

Step 2
Adjust the Camera Settings

Using the Camera Settings Palette, the Color Mode is changed from original Mode Ia to Mode IIIa which produces more vivid colour for nature and landscape shots. Additionally within the Camera Settings Palette, the White Balance is adjusted to ensure the highest quality colour rendition throughout the image.

Nikon D70s digital SLR image being edited

Step 3
Correct the Skin Color

Using Capture NX’s Color Picker in combination with a Color Control Point enables you to select an object and set a specific color for that object. In this case, the Skin Tones memory color range within the Color Picker was used to select a skin tone.

Nikon D70s digital SLR image being edited
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Step 4
Sharpen the Image

Finally, the image is sharpened using the Unsharp Mask tool. This ensures the detail you saw in the original image is maintained in the final print.

Nikon D70s digital SLR image being edited

Non-destructive Image Editing

Every tool within Nikon Capture NX offers non-destructive image editing, enabling you to change or remove any effect or enhancement to the image at any time without adversely affecting image quality. When images are saved as an NEF file, the original image data is saved along with a set of instructions to be applied to the image. JPEG and TIFF files can also be saved as NEF files to take advantage of this non-destructive image editing workflow.

An additional benefit of NEF is that each enhancement within Nikon Capture NX is saved as an instruction set thus requiring virtually no additional hard disk space. When you use the Marker feature within Capture NX you can create multiple versions of the same image and take up virtually the same amount of hard disk space as the original image.

Color Control Points

Color Control Points let you directly select and isolate an entire image or an area within it for enhancement in a fraction of the time that other image editing tools require. Within moments, you can choose and use any control point to modify hue, brightness, saturation, red green, blue, warmth, and contrast within each selected area

U Point Technology

Nikon Capture NX is the only application that contains Nik Software’s patented U Point photo editing technology, a powerful technology for selective image editing. U Point™ technology is revolutionary in how it uses Control Points to help realize results envisioned in the editing process. Using NEF files for optimal performance, Control Points allow photographers to select and isolate an entire image or selected areas within the image for enhancement, without the complications required by other photo editing software. Enhancements can be instantly cancelled or added with ease, without compromising the original quality of the image, and U Point control is perfectly compatible with each NEF file’s Instruction Set.

With Color Control Points, a photographer can adjust any of up to nine different sliders for each respective area selected. In the default setting, four sliders are available to adjust size, brightness, contrast and hue, respectively. Additional settings are available by accessing each Control Point’s Settings box.

Other Control Points include Black and White points, both of which are convenient for setting dynamic range, Neutral Control Point to correct color casts in images even without a gray tone, and Red-Eye Reduction Control Point.

With U PointT technology, red-eye can be easily removed. Just place a Red-Eye Reduction Control Point on each of the offending eyes, and away it goes! With just a few slider adjustments, you can use a color Control Point to make blue (or any other eye color) eyes brighter, darker or more radiant. With a mere Ctrl-D click, you can duplicate your Color Control Point, so that the effect to each eye will be the same.

Selective Tools
Selective tools are a new set of features added to Nikon Capture NX. The selective tools in Capture NX enable you to apply over 25 different enhancements. You can use the Brush tool to paint in or paint out an enhancement, the Lasso and Marquee tools to create traditional selections, or the Gradient tool to gradually add or remove an effect.

Color Management
Nikon Capture NX fully supports ICC based color management. You can assign ICC profiles to any image or convert an image from one ICC profile to another. These assign and convert features enable true soft-proofing so that you can see how your image will appear on a range of displays or hard-copy prints. Total control over the selection of ICC profiles and rendering intents is now available for printing directly from Nikon Capture NX.

Continuing the Nikon Capture Tradition

Capture NX continues to provide the high quality enhancements and controls of Nikon Capture 4 .4 . Along with new tools and enhancements, Nikon Capture NX contains most of the features from Capture 4.4 including:

  • NEF Raw Processing
  • D-Lighting
  • Image Dust Off
  • Highlight Recovery
  • Lens Correction Tools
  • Noise Reduction
  • LCH Editor


The Full Power of NEF / RAW: Shooting RAW has a number of distinct advantages over shooting and saving processed files. When shooting in NEF mode, all Nikon digital SLR models including the new Nikon D200 capture 12-bit images, instead of 8-bit in JPEG modes. In Capture software, these images are processed into full 16-bit images using advanced algorithms, offering tone and color enhancements with the smoothest gradation and fidelity. Using Nikon Capture a 16-bit NEF image can be easily transformed into a JPEG or TIFF.

Image Dust Off™:
A useful tool that automatically removes the appearance of sensor dust and particles from a NEF image. Using a reference image taken by the user, the software maps out a sensor dust pattern and applies this to selected images, automatically removing the effect of sensor dust.

The following cameras support the Image Dust Off feature: Nikon D50, Nikon D70s, Nikon D200, Nikon D2Hs, Nikon D2X, Nikon D70, D1X (firmware version 5.01 or later), D1H (firmware version 1.10 or later), D100, and D2H. The Image Dust Off is not supported with Coolpix cameras, D1 cameras or with earlier versions of firmware for D1X and D1H.

Automatic 'dodge and burn' control that applies appropriate brightening and darkening values to specific areas of a photo, bringing out the highlights and achieving overall exposure balance. This feature is ideal for "fixing" photos that, for example, have strongly backlit subjects, and therefore a darkened foreground with little visible detail. In other words, "fill-flash" effects can be applied in post processing with no noticeable loss in image quality.

Fisheye-to-Rectilinear Image Transformation With DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm lens:
Nikon Capture software can automatically transform an image taken with the AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED lens (offering a 180º diagonal angle-of-view) into a rectilinear image with about 110º angle-of-view.
This function allows the lens to double as a useful ultra-wide angle lens, offering photographers both a fisheye perspective and wide-angle capabilities in a compact, pocket-sized lens.

The Major Improvements in Capture NX over Capture 4.4 are:
  • U Point technology powered tools, such as the Color Control Points, Black, White, and Neutral Control Points, and Red Eye Reduction Control Points

  • A highly-featured Browser, which enables users to sort, compare, and apply batch processes directly within the Browser; this performance exceeds that of the Multi-Function Window feature of Capture 4.4.

  • For easier, more intuitive photo editing, the new Capture NX Edit List helps you to track, cancel or add new modifications.

  • Simplified and very convenient Batch Processing

  • Fully Color Managed workflow

Nikon Camera Capture Control:
Now an optional stand alone plug-in and is not included with Nikon Capture NX. Tethered Remote Operation with compatible Nikon D-SLR cameras. Build your own custom hue and tone adjustment. Wireless remote operation when using the optional WT-2A Wireless Transmitter to support the capabilities of the Nikon D2X, Nikon D2HS and D2H digital SLRs. Control AF, Exposure Mode, Shooting Mode, Exposure Compensation, Custom Settings and more, all from your computer.

First Look Conclusion

From what we have been able to see from Nikon Capture NX so far, we are very impressed with the simplicity of the user interface and the intuitiveness of the editing process. We feel that Nikon Capture NX will provide the photographer with a great tool with a wide range of powerful and exclusive image processing options to maximize the image quality when using Nikon's NEF files, and also when shooting in JPEG and TIFF.

Since we have only seen the results from a Beta version of Nikon Capture NX, we will not make any final comments regarding the quality, speed and overall performance of Nikon Capture NX until we have had the opportunity to properly evaluate a final release version. As a result, we have also not provided any full size image samples in the above sample workflows.

See the latest price on Nikon Capture NX Software

From our experience so far, Nikon is delivering a software package geared and designed more towards a photographer's image processing needs, while taking into consideration that not everyone is a graphics professional, and offering a solution that is professional in terms of versatility and features while still remaining user friendly. Update Aug 19th: Nikon Capture NX has won a European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) Innovative Product Award for 2006/2007

To see the latest price on Nikon Capture NX Software, we recommend visiting B&H Photo.

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