If you’ve followed my or my photography over the years, you probably know that I’m a huge fan of Nikon cameras and also Capture NX2 editing software. You’ve probably also noticed that I’ve been experimenting with Lightroom 4 recently, and I started teaching classes on it.
I made the move to digital photography from film in 2005. At that time, there were raging battles between Nikon and Adobe over things like “encrypted White Balance” and such. At that time, converting NEFs (Nikon RAW format) images with software other than Nikon Capture 4 (or later, Capture NX) was potentially risky. Early versions of Adobe Camera RAW and other programs sometimes created artifacts and rendered colors differently than what Nikon’s converter did.
The beauty of processing RAW files is that every setting is plastic and reversible. However, the initial conversion parameters set the baseline for exposure, contrast, and color rendition and differ with each RAW converter application. One thing that Nikon photographers point out is that they like their default (starting point) conversion to match the “as-shot” look (as viewed on the back of their camera) as closely as possible. This makes sense. If you like the look of Nikon’s Picture Control “Standard,” then it’s very convenient to see the initial image rendered this way when you open the RAW file. After that initial conversion, you can do whatever you want to process your image.
Unlike in 2005, when Nikon and Adobe appeared to be engaged in some kind of arms race, it’s clear that the two companies are working together closely. First, new camera support is usually available in ACR/Lightroom very shortly after a new model is released. I think I had to wait about two or three weeks to see the Nikon 1 V2 supported by Lightroom. Second, and probably most importantly, is that Adobe started offering camera-specific “Profiles” within Lightroom (and ACR).
Camera Profiles in Lightroom/ACR set the default conversion parameters (color, contrast, etc.) The default is something called “Adobe Standard,” which I don’t particularly like. For some reason, it renders NEFs with a slightly greenish tint in skies. If you were simply judging conversions based on this parameter, you’d probably like the Capture NX2 version better. Moreover, trying to manually adjust the Camera Calibration settings in Lightroom isn’t something I find enjoyable.