Why I still use Nikon’s Capture NX2

Find out why I'm still using this program for my image editing.

It’s been over two years now since Nikon released Capture NX2.  In that time, the competition for our image processing dollars has been furious.  Adobe has updated Photoshop Lightroom to version 3; Apple has done the same with Aperture.  And yet, despite the temptation to switch, I still use Capture NX2 almost exclusively. Let me explain why.

The first thing that you have to understand is that Capture NX2 has only one mission: image editing (particularly NEFs). Capture NX2 is not a pixel editor, at least not in the sense that Photoshop is.  Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture also behave differently.  They are image management applications that also offer editing features. Comparing Capture NX2 to either of these products is apples to oranges, unless you only focus on image editing capabilities.  And that’s where I feel Capture NX2 still holds its own in many regards.  I will also address what I feel are the program’s weaknesses and areas for improvement.

Self-contained, Non-Destructive NEF Editing

For me, Capture NX2 has two major strengths as an image editor.  First, it saves all edits directly into your NEF file, meaning that all the image metadata and associated information is inside the NEF container. You won’t lose image metadata unless you delete your image file. Other programs store image metadata in sidecar files (Bridge/Lightroom) or in a separate image database (Aperture).  The downside to this approach to data-handling is that file transfers take much longer because you have to copy 20MB NEFs instead of 5kb XMP files. Capture NX2 also embeds a full-resolution JPEG image preview inside each NEF (just like your Nikon DSLR does).  I know people using Lightroom who convert their NEFs to DNG just to “gain” these benefits!  If you know how to leverage the right software, you can view and work with your NEFs just like they were JPEGs!

The other major strength of Capture NX2 is that any adjustment you make to your image is completely reversible, or non-destructive, provided that you save the file in the native NEF format.  While it is true that the other products out there also offer non-destructive editing, I’ve found their toolsets to be lacking. Let’s take a look at some tools that Capture NX2 has built-in that other programs don’t have:

  • LCH Editor: Enables the adjustment of brightness and contrast independently of color.  Standard Levels/Curves tools also affect image color, as they modify the RGB channel data
  • Non-destructive Color Control Points: To add this functionality to Lightroom or Aperture, you need to purchase Nik’s Viveza 2 software plug-in. But guess what? Viveza for Lightroom/Aperture creates a flattened TIFF file of your image.  If you want a non-destructive workflow for this plug-in, you’ll need to pony up for the full Photoshop version of the plug-in (and have a copy of Photoshop CS3 or later, too).
  • Selection Control Points: Selection Control Points use Nik Software’s U Point technology to make smart selections (masks) in conjunction with Capture NX2’s onboard tools.  Every tool that can be applied in the Adjust Section of Capture NX2’s Edit List can be applied selectively with both brushes and Control Points.  Other products only offer brushes, and even the “smart brushes” aren’t quite as convenient of having Control Points onboard. With Capture NX2, you can use Control Points to selectively apply sharpening tools like USM and High-Pass, as well as selectively control your Noise Reduction. People ask me if I prefer other NR programs; and the short answer is while I’d like to see Nikon’s NR algorithms improve, the advantage of a non-destructive workflow that leverages Control Point selections is better than spending another $150 on specialized NR software that I can’t apply non-destructively unless I use Photoshop Smart Objects.  As much as I like using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro; you can’t use Selection Control Points with it to apply selective B&W effects like you can with Capture NX2– even in Photoshop CS5.
  • Non-destructive editing with Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3 plug-in: Only Photoshop CS3 or later gives you this option.  Lightroom/Aperture users get flattened TIFFs when using any of the Nik plug-ins.

Is the NEF Format a Dead-End?

There was concern a few years back that Nikon would abandon support for the NEF format, and the call for an open RAW standard was very loud, indeed.  Here’s my two cents on the matter.  From the people I’ve talked to at Nikon, the NEF file is the software developers’ version of the F-mount– sacrosanct.  At the time of this brou-ha ha, I think a more valid concern would be if 3rd-party developers abandoned support for earlier NEF versions. So far, this hasn’t happened, at least not with the major players.

Why not just use DNG?

Sure, Adobe published the format of their “open” DNG RAW file, but at the end of the day, you still need to use Adobe’s products to get maximal functionality out of it.  You can open a NEF with just about anything, and should the day come when Nikon stops providing RAW-editing software (remember, View NX2 is still free), you can convert your precious NEFs to some other format.  But for right now, I don’t have a compelling reason to convert my entire library to Adobe’s format (which limits my software editing choices, too).  I could still use older versions of Capture NX2 as an external editor to Lightroom or Aperture, too.

Room for Improvement

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Capture NX isn’t due for an upgrade, can’t be improved, and is the best imaging software on the market. Far from it.  Nikon (Japan) needs to get it through their collective egos that they are stifling the development of potentially excellent software by not giving users a clear upgrade path to native 64-bit OS support, etc.  This, combined with the numerous reported issues of failed installations, etc. is totally unacceptable. With that out of the way, I’ll note that I’m running Capture NX2 2.2.6 on a 64-bit (Snow Leopard) Mac Pro– a 6-core machine with 12GB RAM.  I rarely have issues with the application.  That aside, there are some significant areas that I’d like to see Nikon address in future versions of Capture NX:

  • Provide users with a viable workflow for multiple image editing.  The current “browser” in Capture NX2 is such a joke that it only serves one useful purpose– filtering images on stars/labels for easy opening or batching.  The NX2 browser is not color-managed, can’t preview at 100% without opening the image in the editor, and offers no search/find options whatsoever.  Fortunately, this problem is mitigated somewhat if you use Photo Mechanic as the centerpiece of your NEF-based workflow.
  • Figure out a way to speed up batch operations. This has been a problem since the original Capture NX release in 2006; Nikon needs to figure out a way to make batch operations go faster.  Consider giving users the option of updating JPEG previews in the background, or changing the size (resolution) of embedded preview JPEGs.
  • Add Version support to the browser.  Capture NX2’s Versions are great, but you can only access them through the editor.
  • Improve the NR algorithms. Get with Nik Software and figure out a way to implement the Dfine algorithms into Capture NX.  You’ll make people happy.
  • Don’t destroy the UI, but make it easier to read. I actually like the Capture NX2 Edit List.  It shows me all the adjustment steps I’ve made (like a history window) in a way that’s easily accessed.  But geez, make the fonts and controls larger so we can read them!
  • Find the next “killer feature” and go for it. I’d really like to see Nikon take the lead with a new feature like they did when they implemented Nik’s U Point technology in CNX1.  How about HDR? Dual-processing a single NEF into an HDR image?
  • Support for DNG and Canon RAW files: Give the competition some competition! Why not just support these other file formats and be done with it?
  • Native support for Nik’s Plug-in lineup: I realize there are some coding challenges when writing for Capture NX2, but c’mon, man!  There are users out there who are migrating away from your platform because it appears as if the software developer (Nik) doesn’t support their own product!
  • Native 64-bit support and better memory management: Time to get into the 21st century and support more than 4GB RAM.  ‘Nuff said.

Final Thoughts: Pricing Comparisons

With Capture NX2, you get a powerful RAW/TIFF image editor, non-destructive Control Points, but a poor image management/workflow solution.   Let’s see what the comparative costs are between some popular NEF-editing options:

Capture NX2 Solution

Total: $352.95/$532.90* (*with CEP 3.0)

Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom Solution

  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3: $279.95 (Image management solution with RAW editor)
  • Adobe Photoshop CS5 (for non-destructive editing with Nik Plug-ins as Smart Filters): $699
  • Nik Software’s Viveza 2 (Color Control Points): $199.95
  • Nik Software’s Dfine 2 (NR with Control Points): $99.95
  • Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro 3 (Sharpening with Control Points) $199.95
  • Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3 for Photoshop (optional plug-in): $299.95 (complete edition)

Total: $1778.75/$1578.90* (*if you purchase the Nik Complete collection instead of individual plug-ins- I’d recommend it, and you’d also get Silver Efex Pro and HDR Efex Pro.)

The above pricing is similar for users wishing to utilize Apple’s Aperture 3: Substituting Aperture 3 for Adobe Lightroom at $199 gives a total suite price of  $1697.80/$1497

The point of this comparison is to show that when it comes to a non-destructive editing workflow with Control Points, which is something built-in to Capture NX2, users of other applications would need to fork out for the full version of Photoshop and all of the associated Nik plug-ins.  Obviously, if you’re happy with destructive editing or not using Control Point tools, then you can get by for far less money.  The major drawback for Capture NX2 users is that even with Photo Mechanic, you don’t get a true catalog/database option.  If that is a requirement for your workflow (it isn’t for mine), then you’ll need to go with either the Adobe or Apple solution.  For me, right now, I rarely have a need for Photoshop when it comes to my NEFs.

70 thoughts on “Why I still use Nikon’s Capture NX2”

  1. I was a heavy NX2 user until Aperture 3 came out. I am now up to Aperture 3.2. The main reasons I used NX2 were the LCH editor, brushing in adjustments and to a lesser extent control points. Aperture 3 now provides all those capabilities out of the box with non-destructive editing. It is 64 bit also, so it is much faster than NX2. I was sorry to leave NX2 behind, but my workflow has improved dramatically now that I can stay in Aperture 3 nearly 100% of the time.

  2. Thanks for this article. Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about LR3, and I’ve been questioning my choice of Photo Mechanic & NX2. It’s nice to hear good things about PM+NX2 also.

    As far as prices, awhile back I purchased PSE8 for less than $80. Some time later Adobe sent me a upgrade deal I couldn’t refuse, full Photoshop CS5 for $299, only for PSE owners. I don’t know if they always do that; if so it’s a cheap way to get CS5.

    Also, last month I saw LR3 on sale from Amazon for $149 (full edition, not educational) as a Black Friday deal. I’ve been kicking myself for not picking it up when I had the chance. I haven’t seen anything close to that price since then.

    Speaking of Educational versions, people can save a ton of money if they meet the qualifications. Unfortunately I do not … 🙁

  3. I am a fan of both your website and your ebooks. I agree with you on sticking with Capture NX2. I downloaded the free trial of Aperture and evaluated it for a couple of weeks but I still prefer using NX2. As you point out, the LCH editor is very powerful and unrivaled in other programs, and the implementation of the non-destructive Control Points in NX2 is very nice. I also agree with your suggested upgrades, particularly native 64-bit support, native support for Nik’s plug-ins (as you said, c’mon support your own product!), and HDR support would be nice (native or through Nik’s plug-ins). I am also using the same programs you recommended in your Capture NX2 solution (NX2, Photoshop Elements, PhotoMechanic, and Color Efex Pro).

  4. Nice synopsis!

    I hope Nikon and Nik are listening to you Jason. CNX is my main choice of Editor, with Photo Mechanic as a browser/file manager. I doubt NIK adn Nikon can make a browser as good as PM and integrate it into CNX, but I do what to see it’s editing/conversion capabilities improved: speed, reliability, customization, plug-in integration. The idea of integrating other formats (CRW, DNG) makes sense as a way to expand the market and inprove their returns. My biggest fear is that NX becomes Orphanware.


  5. Jason a nice succinct article. We have been having a similar discussion in the Nikonians CNX2 forum and you have covered the key points well. I have CS5 but never bought LR as I thought it was lame compared to the power of Photoshop. When CNX came out I started to use it just to do my RAW processing as I was already an advanced user of Photoshop and was very comfortable around esoteric features. LCH in CNX2 sort of mimics using LAB space. I realized that I could get better quicker results just using CNX2 and only going to Adobe when I needed something like a pano or to merge images. As a result, I rarely ever go to Photoshop now, primarily for all the reasons you stated above.

  6. Your essay eloquently mirrors my observations and accurately describes my practices. I’ve carefully checked out trial versions of nearly every image editor out there and only CNX2 and CX5 met my needs.

    I use CNX2 for most of my post-processing, and, when I need some additional capability from CX5, I still initiate the processing in CNX2, then open the baked in pre-edits as a TIF file in CX5. I also use Camera Bits’ Photo Mechanic as my browser, in part because it can be modified easily with quick, responsive, help from their support personnel. Nikon could beneficially emulate that support; it has often required many email exchanges just to get them to escalate the problem to someone who can understand it. Hopefully, your comments will be appreciated and acted upon. I believe I speak for many Nikonians in saying that we are looking forward to something like CNX3 which will embody your suggestions.

  7. Amen, bro. And the combo of CaptureNX2, ColorEfexPro and either Photomatix Pro or Nik HDR Efex Pro simply can’t be beat.

  8. I find it easier to get better quality images using NX2 than Lightroom 3. I get better colour and way better sharpening with NX2 in particular, and also get more accurate prints with my Canon 9000 from NX2. It does need an update though.

  9. I have been running NX2 on my MacBook Pro and 8 Core Mac desktop for over two years. My experience is a bit different than some. NX2 (even the latest release) still crashes with some regularity and it is very slow. I wish NX2 also had a ‘pixel’ editing facility but would be happy with stability and speed fixes at a minimum. Every time I loose work on NX2 because of a crash (usually associated with using the brush took for masking) I go back to my CS3/bridge combination. In no case have I have been as satisfied with the results with CS3 as I have been with NX2 in terms of color and clarity (though I do agree with the comments about better plug ins for noise reduction). All this said the folks at Nik have been great to deal with. Nikon on the other hand is inexcusably non-communicative and is completely unwilling to forecast anything in terms of features or fixes for bugs that have been outstanding for more than a year. This tells me they just do not get it and it will just be a matter of time before they fall further behind and it will be harder to justify the use of NX2.

  10. In the interest of continued superior imaging results, it would be great if Nik’s Define and Sharpener were build in natively to CNX3, which I am sure will be out Q1 2011.

    I am quite happy with using the rest of Niks offerings as plugins just like CEP currently is in the next version.

    I am also very happy with Photo Mechanic for browsing and tagging, and almost as happy to use MS Windows Live Photo Gallery to find and catalog, since that is just levering Windows indexing that is already there.

    CNXx will always be at the center of my image editing universe. I consider it 50% of the reason to buy Nikon hardware in the first place now. Nikon – did you hear that?

    Thanks for the article Jason, and Happy New Year all.

  11. I also certainly hope Nikon is reading this and taking notes. Thanks to your sleuthing out the trick with Nik’s software, I use it in a round about way with VNX2 and CNX2. It would definitely be nice to have it natively integrated into CNX2 and NEFs though.

    One other thing I’d like to see and am not sure if I just missing it in CNX2 as it is in VNX2, is the ability to change the color of the background of the editing space. Sometimes I like to match up a white sky to absolute white. That can involve a lot of saving and exiting out to VNX2 currently to make sure I have the right blend.

  12. Jason, while I agree with most of the points in your post, I think your price comparisons are misleading.

    One, you’re using near-list prices for the Adobe bundle but street prices for the NX2 bundle. I know you’re using primarily B&H’s prices, but they’re selling close to list and all of the Adobe software you’ve listed can easily be found for much less at Amazon, which is of course just as reputable a retailer. For example, LR3 is on Amazon.com today for $224.99, and complete Nik collection is $441.54.

    Second, for many people the Photoshop cost will be substantially less. If you’re upgrading from the last three versions, the price is $169.99 at Amazon. If you’re upgrading from Elements, take off about $125.

    Third, it’s debatable that you’d need Dfine and Sharpener in the Adobe bundle, as the NR and sharpening algorithms Adobe instituted with LR3/PS5 are vastly superior to what’s in NX2 currently (at least to my eye and based on my experimentation, but this is hardly an uncommon perspective based on reviews I’ve read).

    Assuming someone doesn’t even need Photoshop (which, arguably they don’t; they could get the LR versions of the Nik plugins – yes, you lose non-destructive capabilities, and PS does gobs of things that NX2 is incapable of doing as well and therefore including it isn’t really an apples-to-apples comparison), you could replicate most of what your CNX2 bundle does for as little as $675.38 (Amazon prices for LR3, Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro), which is about a $145 price difference. Still more, but not the $1,000-plus difference you are portraying. Yes, you give up some flexibility by editing the NEF instead of TIFFs, but if one wanted to stick with Adobe/Nik, they could do so without spending a grand more like you’ve presented here.

  13. I think Nikon, as a total camera system, is the best and NX2 helps to give Nikon the edge. NX2 is the biggest reason I would not consider shooting with another brand of camera. I do 90% of my image editing with NX2 and I hope Nikon continues to support this program.

    I also like the NEF file system. I can make multiple adjustments to the image and save each version in the NEF file. This is helpful because I can always go back to review the list of edits in case I want to apply this same list of edits to another image at a later date.

  14. I was fairly content with CNX2, but it seemed like Nikon was standing still while the competition was moving forward. I decided to try LR3 and Nik Software Complete based on positive reviews and based on heavily discounted Black Friday pricing. I’m still learning, but so far I like the new tools. I miss the simplicity of storing all of my edits inside NEF file, but I really appreciate the speed of LR3, and I like the additional control that LR3 provides with sliders for Fill Light, Brightness, Clarity, and Vibrance. The LR3 Adjustment Brush works similarly to CNX2 Color Control Points and Selection Points. And all of the native (non-Nik) LR3 adjustments are nondestructive. I like being able to make lens distortion adjustments for non-Nikon lenses, and I like using the same RAW workflow for NEF files from my Nikon DSLR and for CR2 files from my Canon point-and-shoot. I still use ViewNX2 (for displaying focus points and for browsing folders), but at this point, I expect that I will stick with LR3 as my primary editing tool, and not go back to CNX2.

  15. Steve-
    I’m assuming you have to go out and buy the software from scratch. I used Dfine and Sharpener Pro in my comparison because Lightroom and Photoshop do not offer Control Points with their NR and Sharpening algorithms. To get that, you need either Capture NX2 or the Nik plug-ins.

    There are lots of ways to get Photoshop for less money (up front) than what I’ve presented here; but not everyone qualifies for those prices. Not everyone is an academic, has bought the previous three versions, etc.


  16. A never ending story continues….. 🙂 Which app should I use, which one is the best etc. I just want to point out that Nikon/NIK, just like Apple, are living on their own planet, not listening to customers and doing their own thing, period. Update schedule Nikon/NIK? Noway! Absolutely ridiculous policy, having to wait for more then two years for updates. I’m reading about for two years NX2 should be updated, but still nothing happens. Only webnoise… Take a look at Thom Hogan’s website and read what he is thinking about Nikon….. So hello Adobe for me, everything I need they offer me, including regular updates.

  17. Good point on the control points, Jason. Hadn’t considered that in the price comparisons. That feature is perhaps the biggest reason why I like CNX2.

  18. Thanks for the great read. I agree with you 99 percent.

    My main reason I like to use Capture NX2 is its ability to read my camera settings. I try my hardest to get it close in camera. Plus the automatic color aberration control.

    Keep up the great work on the Podcasts and Websites Jason 🙂 You should travel up here and do a Canada Rockies meet up. Just bugging.

  19. Lots of interesting thoughts and comments by people. I’ve always liked the results from Capture. I have used it since Capture 4.4 through the current NX2 version but I’ve been drawn away by Lightroom finally. I think the shift had mostly to do with the shift in my photography. Now that I’m doing more portraiture and weddings, the batch capabilities (including cataloging and other things) of Lightroom are a huge time saving over a NX2 centric workflow. And with the current camera profiles the color rendition is very close to the NX2 rendition.

    I still think that NX2 can give us a better picture *overall* with some work but the other tools have caught up nearly in features and have abilities NX2 doesn’t have.

    I have high hopes for NX3, assuming it ever makes an appearance. I really want to continue using NX for special images but it’s getting harder to justify the time spent in it when I can get results faster through Adobe that are essentially as good (again, experience leads to better results). Not to mention the ecosystem around Adobe is better. Far more training, tutorials, tips, videos, etc. exist for Adobe than Capture.

  20. Jason,

    Sorry for a second posting, but on reading the responses, I wanted to add one thing.
    My guess is that the people on this Blog are more sympathetic to NX2 than just about anywhere and yet, depending on how you count the responses, at least 10% of us have significant concerns with NX2 and have shifted to something else. For another group there are serious concerns that if unaddressed will likely cause us to move on. As someone else posted…… I hope Nikon is reading this, but I am sure that even if they were it will not have an impact.


  21. @William Barrow: you are sure CNX3 will be out Q1 2011? Really? The past few years a lot of people wrote and were pretty sure CNX2 would be updated soon…. Maybe you have a secret source 🙂 ? I’m pretty sure it’s more whishful thinking you are doing mmm? Somebody wrote it before, what you are writing is just webnoise, useless! I guess you have a very big thumb 🙂 ?

  22. Jason, I’m a convert from NX to Lightroom. Lightroom continues to get better and with all of the other features that it offers, and the ease of use, it does not look like NX will see me again soon. Lightoom allow me to stay away from Photoshop for most of my image processing. It’s mission is to satisfy photographers.

  23. “No complaints here. I’d like LR a lot more if it were actually non-destructive.”

    Care to clarify this remark Jason? Are you referring to addins? Adobe have dropped the ball of opening the rendering pipeline to third parties. I believe this is due to an autocratic viewpoint of Thomas Knoll and tis a pity. Might still happen but I’m not holding my breath.

    You also mentioned the sidecar files. As you likely know, they are not necessary if you maintain the lightroom catalogue, where all changes are recorded. There is also the risk of writing to the NEF file, although that is not significant if you have backed up the original.

    I used all the versions of capture and became tired of the constant stability and performance issues. I liked the ergonomics of capture 4, but that was lost when NX came about. I decided long ago that Nikon would never “get it”. Fortunately lightroom has improved significantly and I will likely never return to NX, but remain just a little wistful of what could have been.


  24. None of the plug-ins are non-destructive, either in LR or Aperture. The serious pros I know who use LR still end up doing their “real” PP in Photoshop.

    I won’t disagree with you that Nikon needs to re-think the way they are developing/marketing NX, but as an editor I think it has some significant advantages, especially considering the price.

  25. LR3 was an eye-opening experience for me in terms of workflow and image management. I don’t like its inability to do truly non-destructive image processing, or, alternatively, allow me to manage in LR and edit in NX2 so nondestructive edits to the image file will be properly integrated with LR3 — or am I missing something?

  26. Jon-
    The underlying issue is not between LR and NX2. It’s between any two different RAW converters. NX2 edits are not visible to LR, which uses Adobe Camera Raw. Likewise, LR edits would not be visible to any RAW converter outside of Adobe’s product line. The one thing that NX2 does by default is update the embedded JPEG preview inside each NEF file. If LR or Aperture had the option of disabling ACR rendering and using the embedded preview JPEGs (kinda like what it can do with DNGs), then it would be a great pairing. Unfortunately, LR and Aperture lock you into a particular workflow stove-pipe. The only work-around is to export TIFFs from NX2 and put them in your LR catalog. I use Photo Mechanic for my workflow because it does honor embedded JPEG previews. When I view my NX2-edited NEFs in Photo Mechanic, they display on-screen exactly how I edited them.

  27. Actually, you can set Lightroom to use the embedded jpegs. It’s called the fast preview method. I’m at work so I can’t go through the steps but it was something like going to essentials workspace and using one of the toolbar buttons in the upper right and switching to embedded jpegs for preview.

  28. Thanks, Jason. Very much as I thought, though your description is much clearer. This whole thing would be solved, wouldn’t it, if there were an appropriate plugin for LR3 to be able ot treat NEF’s as Photo mechanic does? I would very much like to avoid the whole conversion to TIFFs, at least in part because of their hugeness, and because I think the color space is smaller than NEF’s can do (?).

    I just d/l Photo Mechanic to see if it fills the bill. While LR3 has very nice, whizbangy editing tools, I have yet to find anything it can do that NX2 can’t, so I’m going to try to stick with it.

    To digress a bit NIK’s HDR module really ought to integrate seamlessly with NX2, no? I’m sure there are complex reasons why not, but still….

  29. When I bought NX1 my decision process was like Jason’s: cheaper than Photoshop, more flexible, non-destructive, and a much easier learning curve. I still think that. I still think that NX2, when it works, is the best qualitatively, and overall the fastest in terms of total time spent editing.

    However, I am seriously thinking about leaving NX2. This is because Nikon has not provided a stable program and has not provided support in any meaningful way. I’ve used NX and NX2 on two completely different rigs: an AMD running XP Pro and an Intel i7 running Win7. NX and NX2 have continually crashed on both of them, often at the moment of opening an image. For over two years I have asked Nikon for help, with no solution. Emails go unanswered and telephone support people mostly say, in effect, “NX is fine, it has to be your fault.” and then offer no suggestions.

    Just recently they wrote me that they wouldn’t provide support for custom made computers! After a series of angry emails pointing out that even though not a brand name my rig was put together by a reputable national builder, I got a new person who, yet again, asked for system information. Latest communique from Nikon (three weeks ago) is that there may be some “memory issues with NX2” and they are sending the information to Japan. I think that’s shorthand for the support black hole.

    I don’t know how long Nikon thinks people can remain loyal to NX when they ignore or actively insult customers. More to the point, how long does one wait for a stable program, no matter how good it is on paper, before you go somewhere else?

  30. I found your article very interesting but for me I am done with Capture NX2. I bought your book on it and it was very well done. I was using NX2 with Photomatix and after numerous crashes and hours with Nikon on the phone, I gave up. I am now using Aperure 3 with the Nik’s suite and I am happy. Beside the editing tools, one of the big advantage of Aperture 3 and manage librairy and the vault’s back up system.

  31. Jason – the one thing missing from your CNX2 solution is a photo database? I don’t know whether Elements suffices in this respect. Lightroom certainly provides this in the Adobe solution.

    However, I see that Camerabits (who produce Photo Mechanic) are currently developing a SQLite database … see their forums. No hint on delivery times but hopefully it’ll mean I can just use PM & Capture NX2 & the new PM database. Here’s hoping!

    kind rgds from New Zealand

  32. Jason

    Very nice summary of the benefits of NX2.

    Let’s hope your wish list becomes reality – along with increase support for Nik from Nikon.

  33. I’m still using CaptureNX version 1.3.5 and find it meets all needs. I purchased your CaptureNX guide and learned how to enhance my photos. Thanks!

  34. Apple just dropped the price of Aperture 3 to $79.99.

    I really wish Nikon would give us a new release of Capture NX, but the silence is deafening – I think I’m about to switch at this price point.

    Thanks for your book, it was really helpful.

  35. Yes, but it’s not as bad as you think.
    1) Very few photographers need a database to actually find their photos. Unless you’re selling micro-stock (my apologies if you are), then most of us will know that the folder called “Christmas 2010” contains our photos from that event.
    2) If you are on the Mac platform (I am), then Photo Mechanic already uses Spotlight searches to quickly find images by keywords and other metadata. It’s not perfect, but I expect it to improve once Camera Bits gets us that database-enhanced version of Photo Mechanic.

    I’ll be teaching my NEF-Centric workflow class on Jan 29th if you wish to learn more.

  36. Jason,
    That’s the price for the full version. They haven’t updated the price on the apple.com website yet.

    After reading scads of reviews of LR3 vs A3 it’s clear to me that the rest of the world is innovating and Nikon is being silent. I will still continue to us NX2 – I love the edit list model and the non destructive control points. But I feel like I’m being forced to straddle two worlds which is frustrating.

    Why Nikon doesn’t communicate something to it’s existing customer base baffles me. I’d like to see something like this –
    Dear loyal NX2 Customer:
    We have exciting new solutions for you in the future. Software development is time consuming and hard so we can’t promise a date but we can tell you that we will be supporting all NIK plug-ins, 64 Bit support and a host of bug fixes and improvements in the future. You will be the first to know when the next release will be, Thanks for you patronage. Signed Nikon Capture NX Team.

    As it stands I have no idea if they are even working on a next release – or if the program is dead.

    I’d love to take your class, but Photo Mechanic costs $150 and the class is $90 which is more than the price to switch to Aperture3 with the Viveza plug-in. I’m not working and this is a hobby – so the money matters.

  37. James-
    Most people need to buy the full version at least once before getting an upgrade price. 🙂

    I agree with you fully on the communication issue. This is a problem with Nikon Japan.

  38. @John McKelvie; yes have been reading the same about Camerabits ‘we are currently developing a SQLite database…’ These posts started for > 3 years ago! Nice marketing to keep your eyes focussed on their product. So, keep on dreaming about the update from Camerabits :). Imho, noway!

  39. I wish someone could explain to me why people like LR so much. I have tried the free trials of every version and I guess I just don’t get it. I always end up back in NX2, which I find much easier to use. With NX2 I can process most images in a few minutes and then occasionanlly use Elements, if I need to. For 90% of my photos I can do everything in NX2. I found that I can usually get the output from LR to look relatively close to NX2, but it takes a lot longer.

  40. The problem with CNX2 has never been image editing tools or conversion quality. The problems with it come down to Nikon’s ability to provide timely service updates to support newer OS’s, failure to have considered a reasonable workflow for users (editing is just PART of the workflow), and IMO a complete failure to market their product for what it is– a good value image editor that is great for NEFs.

    Adobe, on the other hand, has created a product with workflow as its core tenet, and marketed the hell out of it with their public beta program. The allure of LR is that it is a great image management tool, and has some very nice on-board options for image output (print module). I find it weakest as an image editor, especially when you factor in the inability to run 3rd-party plug-ins non-destructively. There’s a very good reason why many serious photographers who use Lightroom still prefer the Photoshop editing environment for their best images.

  41. @Sirraj: well I should say, stay with NX2! I think it is also a matter of personal taste which app suits best to you (A3, LR3 or NX2).
    @Jason: that is good news about PM! The workflow PM/NX2 will become much more interesting to me. Could be a great combo. We will wait and see 🙂 !

  42. Jason, by now you’ve probably realized that the $79 Aperture deal is the full version, not an upgrade, if bought at the new Apple “App Store”. Apple hasn’t confirmed if this is a limited time only offer , or the going price from now on. Still, it’s a deal and one of the top sellers at the new App Store.

    Regarding the subject at hand. I was a die-hard NX2 fan (and am still a fan, just not die-hard), but I’ve been pretty much living in Aperture 3 these days since they allowed “selective editing”. It’s not as elegant as the NX2 edit-list, but you can now have multiple instances of the same edit tool (e.g. you can add several sharpening steps and select different regions of the image for each). The highlight protection I find even better than NX2 at recovering blown highlights, but most of the tools are arguably better in NX2, especially LCH which I miss. I do have the Color Efex Pro plugins, though I prefer they way they work in NX2 (as just more non-destructive edit steps).

    I also really, really miss control points in Aperture and I sometimes use NX2 as a TIFF editor just to get them (at the cost of a flattened TIFF). That said, most the time I’m fine using Aperture’s tools which have improved to the point that I “live there” and only exit to a TIFF editor (photoshop or nx2) on rare occassions.

    Secretly, I’m hoping that Nikon has something up their sleeve and/or that the Photomechanic SQL-lite catalog add-on comes to the rescue. But the concern remains of whether Nikon is truly dedicated to NX2 or if they will let it flap in the wind and die a slow death of neglect. I mean, at the rate they are going, they must be selling less , not more, and thus they’re thinking about cutting back on development resources, not increasing them. That is, unless someone decides they really do want to invest to compete with LR/Aperture and to a lesser extent Capture One Pro and Bibble 5.

    Even Nik themselves doesn’t offer their own products for NX2: Silver Efex Pro comes to mind. What a pain that is! So if you like Silver Efex Pro, the NX2 user ends up exporting to TIFF anyway to use it, night as well go with LR3 or Aperture at that point.

    Obviously I’m not an NX2 optimist, but would love to be proven wrong. The way it’s going, the best thing may be for LR and/or Aperture to figure out how to mimic control-points (or license the technology from Nikon/Nik). Then the LR3+Photoshop or Aperture+Photoshop combos become tough to beat.


  43. Yes, Adobe has made great improvements both to LR and ACR. And yes, the NX2 developed image is still better and nearer to what I did with my camera. That’s the final point we work for: best image quality, and the ability to get as near as possible to our vision, to what we saw or imagined. NX2 has still an andvantage here, and for me that puts an end to the discussion.
    Still I strongly object to the research for a holy grail that does everything, a swiss knife of raw developement and image editing that solves every problem. Nothing similar exists. For many operations, filters, different sharpenings, Photoshop cannot be replaced by something in the early steps of developement. And I see the problem for a total beginner, but I cannot imagine a serious image worker who has no Photoshop. I cannot remember when I bought my CS3, and how much I paid for it. Looks like it has always been in my computer. NX2 gives the best starting point for image editing. Photoshop is the most complete final image editor. Anything else is a compromise.
    I also suggest that Adobe (Lightroom) and Apple (Aperture) think we are complete idiots, unable to develop and refine through the years a hyerachy of folders and back ups strong enough to store and retrieve our images.

  44. Have you checked the download cost of Capture NX2 lately? It went up. Where is it available for $129?
    I am running licensed copies on four P.C.s
    I don’t leave home without it.

  45. I use Lightroom but in regards to your batch processing slowness comment, I’d like to see all these applications take advantage of the GPU’s in most machines today. Video conversion and editing is simply amazingly fast now that most products do use the GPU.

    Time for photo editing to also use the GPU.

  46. The only reason I’m still with Capture NX2 is that it’s the only product that can do IR translation properly from RAW… if adobe get their act together and do a good job out of it, I might just drop NX2…

    If they were to stop NX2 before then I’ll be on trouble…

  47. @William Barrow: Are you still there? You wrote Dec: “In the interest of continued superior imaging results, it would be great if Nik’s Define and Sharpener were build in natively to CNX3, which I am sure will be out Q1 2011.”
    Well William any NX3 signs from your secret source? Still sure NX3 will be out Q1 2011? :).
    Me…. not so sure, it’s more NX2 die a slow death.

  48. Having browsed through your reviews, the one area that I think may be lacking is where the NIK Software ‘plug-ins’ are superior (or not) to those available in NX2.
    With a current interest in HDR I note that this can be (or was?) run as a stand alone application. What of the other Nik plug-ins (Windows platform)?
    Having looked at pricing on the Nik plug-ins, it seems sensible to purchase the whole suite just to get the HDR package – iff there is any benefit in doing so.
    I’ve looked at the other software packages available over the years (and again lately) but none compare, ‘out of the box’ with CX2 with OOC NEF files.
    I don’t take that many photos that are worth keeping and/or post processing so I’m not worried about the workflow aspect and agree with you on this topic – I like to know where my files are, concisely, without having to worry about ‘duplicates’ created by other software products. Back-up is then never an issue.
    BTW, a great website full of useful information. As a Nikon user, very much appreciated! Thank you 🙂

  49. Jason, I learned how to use Capture NX2 from you ebook. Well done.
    I like CNX2 a lot but I’m in the process of learning CS5. Although I’m fairly sophisticated now using Camera Raw and Photoshop, I still find that CNX2 works much better for NEF files.
    Anybody else found that Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw render NEF images as grossly over-exposed? I see the images of JPEG and NEF side-by-side and the NEF is an absolute mess. I can open the NEF in Camera Raw but, again, grossly over-exposed. I’ve seen the same problem on my brother’s computer, using Lightroom.
    My experience is the Adobe doesn’t seem to have all the codes for Nikon’s raw files.
    What do you think?
    Best wishes, RC in NYC.

  50. RC-
    I don’t seem to have any major issues with ACR or Lightroom processing NEFs. The default conversion is a little different, but not so different to be dramatically noticeable. I’m talking very subtle differences. You might need to check your ACR processing defaults and make sure that something in the exposure slider didn’t get set by mistake as the default processing settings.

    I’m able to generate very good images from ACR/LR and Aperture, as well as CNX2.


  51. Jason –

    I too learned the wonders of CNX2 from your ebook. I’ve been living by it for a couple of years now, with only occasional forays into an old, decrepit version of Photoshop for minor pixel touch-ups. But now CNX2, for some reason I just can’t figure out, has spontaneously decided to stop running. I’ve tried everything I can think of to get it to run, and it won’t even start up. My wife is a teacher and gets an educational discount on Adobe products (I believe $200 for CS5) and I’m debating switching over. But I’m hesitant for all the reasons you suggest. I don’t even know how my workflow would go if I switched to CS5 for everything. A main concern is the quality of raw conversion. I’ve heard Lightroom is pretty good, but I’ve not heard much about ACR. What about ViewNX2 for Raw to TIFF? Does it compare to CNX2?



  52. Relatively new to the dSLR world and I am contemplating making a switch from iPhoto to Aperture. I am shooting a Nikon D5000 and understand that one benefit of using Capture NX2 is the Nikon lens abberation adjustments that are applied based upon the specific lens used. Can I use Capture NX2 as my RAW editor in conjunction with Aperture for photo management and minor adjustments? Would this be a good work flow? Also, how can I expect NX2 or Aperture for that matter to run on a 1 – 1/2 year old Mac Mini (I have a 500 GB external drive and a 1.5 TB back-up drive (Time Machine); with Aperture, I will be able to have photos on multiple HD’s.

  53. Reading some old posts about NX2 and Camerabits etc. On January 12, 2011 at 11:53 AM Jason wrote about an upgrade from Camerabits: “I think you’ll be proven wrong soon, Tim”. Well as writing this now for > one year later….. still no show from Camerabits. What does the word ‘soon’ mean to you Jason? 🙂

  54. NX2 gives superior results for processing the RAW files but Lightroom is best for cataloging, reviewing, organizing, and finding one of the tens of thousands of files I have. Unfortunately, with the latest versions/upgrades, the labels you save in one program no longer appear in the other so that means a lot of wasted effort.

    I can no longer sort photos in LR and then see the stars and colors in NX2 the way I could before upgrading – and the ITPC data no longer translates between programs – some upgrade!

    The thing is, there are things you can do in Photoshop in terms of heavy editing, cutouts, etc that you can’t do in NX2. It would be nice if they played together. Don’t they realize that if they did, they’d be MORE likely to sell both so it’s to their financial advantage to do so. I’ve gone back to reviewing in View though I like LR better but because they don’t work together anymore, I won’t bother upgrading to LR4. Otherwise, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

    ACR seemed to be better for some types of photos before, but now they are all overexposed – my settings are correct from what I can see – the same I’ve always used.

    I now have an i7 processor and a SSD so NX2 is incredibly fast.

    Any fix for the label issue?

  55. I figured out the overexposure issue in ACR. “Use autotone” was ticked in the camera raw settings. I also figured out that if you review your file in View NX2 first and then go into Lightroom and highlight the file, go up to Metadata and say “read metadata from file”, the labels and ratings from ViewNX2 will show up in LiIghtroom.

    I can’t seem to make it work the other way but if I can get an answer from Nikon I’ll follow up. I saw settings to make it compatible through Bridge CS3. Not very helpful for LR3. It’s too bad because I want to be able to review the photos in LR since its compare feature is much better than View.

  56. Hi Jason,

    After reading your posts I thought this would be the right place to ask my question. I am encountering an error in CNX2 with respect to applying settings file that contains linked-enhancements (i.e. containing more than one enhancement in a single edit step). CNX2 would not apply the enhancements after the edit step that has the linked enhancements. Are you aware of this issue or I am doing it in a wrong way? Is there any rule that must be followed when creating settings file containing linked-enhancement?
    The settings file that do not contain any linked-enhancements can however be applied smoothly without any issue.


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