Nikon’s Capture NX2 RAW Editor

One of my students (so K. this is for you) who uses a Nikon DSLR found a copy of Nikon’s proprietary RAW editing software Capture NX2 and she wondered if it was something she could use.

After we talked about the difference between shooting JPG images where the camera makes all the decisions and essentially bakes the image so there’s not much you can do to change any of the parameters like brightness, contrast, noise reduction, etc. as compared to shooting RAW images where you make all the decisions in post-production software like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Lightroom.

Many new photographers just want to view their images of their vacations or the kids at Christmas and shooting JPGs which can be viewed in just about any software including IPhoto which is included on all MACs or Picasa which can be downloaded for free and can be used on MACs or PCs. Most point-and-shoot cameras only create JPGs but all DSLRs give you the choice. In fact, all DSLRs (I think) allow you the choice of shooting RAW files plus JPGs so you can have the best of both worlds (with the caveat that you’re using up twice the memory space on your memory cards and causing the camera to do more processing during each shot).

But let’s get back to Capture NX2. Here’s a link to Capture NX2 After The Shoot book.

Many professional and advanced amateurs shooting almost exclusively in RAW believe that NX2 is the best RAW photo editor for Nikon NEF (Raw) files. Some say it’s better than Lightroom 3 ($299) which is a huge favourite with wedding and special event photographers who shoot a lot of images on each job. Some say it’s better than Photoshop ($800) which is the industry standard and is used by everyone who wants to highly manipulate their images. Portrait and landscape photographers use Photoshop as do top-notch wedding photographers who use a lot of secondary software plug-ins to create photographic works of art. (BTW these are the photographers who get $5k to $10K a wedding and are in high demand.)

So if you’re a Nikon shooter and you find a copy of NX2 in your box what have you got?

NX2 is a full-featured, non-destructive RAW editor that uses something called U-Point technology which allows you to drag a pointer directly onto the photo and change anything locally right on the image with having to make masks (as in Photoshop). Not only is U-Technology super fast but it doesn’t create huge image sizes which can be a problem in Photoshop.

I find NX2 now to be very fast on my MacBook Pro which is a big improvement over previous versions which could be slow. NX2 also can use NIK’s Color Efex filter software editor which is a very versatile tool and well worth the cost.

NX2 also does what’s called non-destructive editing. In other words you never edit your original file, which some software editors do. With NX2 you can always return back to your original RAW file.

In NX2 it’s recommended that you begin with global adjustments such as cropping, straightening, noise reduction, white balancing, overall brightness and contrast changes before moving to specific changes such as selective colour or sharpening changes before ending with overall sharpening and outputting a finished JPG image (which is where you would have started if you were shooting JPGs but in this case you’ve made all the decisions about how your image is going to look).

It takes some patience to learn NX2 but that’s the same with any photo editor and trust me NX2 is a lot easier to use than Photoshop and does as great a job as a photo editor. Can’t ask for more than that.



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