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Nikon releases Capture NX 2  
Monday, June 2, 2008 | by Rob Galbraith
Nikon has released Capture NX 2 for Mac and Windows, an upgrade to its flagship image editing and NEF conversion application that beefs up both the program's image editing features and, perhaps more importantly, its overall usability.

Changes in Capture NX 2 include:

Workspaces and support for two monitors To help tame the program's collection of palettes, Capture NX 2 introduces Workspaces. The program comes with four canned palette and toolbar arrangements - Browser, Metadata, Multi-Purpose and Edit - plus you can create your own layout, across one or two displays, and save the arrangement as a custom Workspace. Both canned and custom Workspaces can be assigned a keyboard shortcut (Option/Alt plus keys 1 through 9 are assignable for this purpose).

Seeing Double: A custom two-display Workspace layout in Capture NX 2 for Mac. Click to enlarge (Photos in screenshot by Rob Galbraith/Photo Journey)

Better browser The Browser palette in Capture NX 1.x is a minimalist affair; in Capture NX 2, Nikon has grown its feature set just enough to reduce or eliminate the need to switch to ViewNX for thumbnail viewing by photographers using an all-Nikon software workflow. The new Workspaces makes it simpler to get in and out of the Browser as needed, and once in the Browser you have ready access to labels, ratings, primary and secondary sort and filter options, the ability to display NEFs, JPEGs or both (though in a release candidate of the Mac version the NEF+JPEG pairing doesn't seem to be working properly) as well as TIFFs. Labels and ratings applied in Capture NX 2 carry over to various other applications.

A new Favorite Folders option makes quick work of getting to the folders you view most often. Viewing a folder of several hundred photos is still slow initially in Capture NX 2 for Mac, as it is with Capture NX 1.x, though actually opening a photo from the Browser is noticeably faster. For working with small to medium photo volumes, the bulked up Browser in Capture NX 2 should be just fine.

Quicker fixing The new Quick Fix and Adjust sections of the Edit List bring order to this key Capture NX palette. Exposure Compensation, levels and curves adjustments, Contrast, Saturation and the new highlight and shadow preserving Highlight Protection and Shadow Protection controls are all on top, or at least they can be with a little Workspace tweaking, and are arranged in an intuitive, easy to use manner. Other adjustments such as Noise Reduction and Unsharp Mask are accessed almost as easily just below that. If you found yourself forever expanding disclosure triangles to get at some of these basic tools in Capture NX 1.x, you're bound to really like Capture NX 2's improved Edit List layout.

While there are other changes in Capture NX 2 that are sexier than the three described above, there are few that improve the day-in, day-out experience more. Capture NX 2 is easily the most pleasant Capture version to spend a lot of time in since the original Capture was introduced in 1999.

Sharper U Point The U Point technology that is the cornerstone of Capture NX's image editing capabilities has been expanded in Capture NX 2. Now, U Point's selective simplicity has been extended to almost all photo adjustment tools, including Noise Reduction and Unsharp Mask. U Point is both cool and useful, and its extension to a wide range of correction functions in Capture NX 2 enhances an already powerful feature for applying changes locally.

Auto Retouch Brush This new one-click dust and pimple remover seems to work really well.

Flies in the ointment

As improved as Capture NX 2 is, it retains several of the quirks of previous versions, and is still built on a creaky batch processing concept that dates back to the earliest days of its predecessor Capture.

For instance, the Camera Settings palette in Capture NX 2, while improved over its equivalent in Capture NX 1.x (the flyout menus are gone), is still oddly arranged and requires too many clicks of the mouse to do simple stuff. Worst of all, though, is the workflow experience when handling dozens or hundreds of NEFs that require individual adjustments of things like Exposure Compensation and White Balance. Doing this on a few hundred photos in Capture NX 2, like Capture NX 1.x and all versions of Capture before that, will slowly drain you of the will to live. Emphasis on slowly: the process is way too cumbersome, and the time it take to save even minor Instruction Set changes to the NEF is way too long, particularly when compared to performing the same tasks in Apple Aperture, Adobe's various RAW conversion options, Canon's Digital Photo Professional (the latter with Canon RAW files only of course) and more.

You can offset this problem a little by using ViewNX to apply Instruction Set tweaks, but even then you're still faced with a lengthy NEF resaving process before the files can be passed off to Capture NX 2's batch processor. For example, in the time it took to store a white balance change to the Instruction Set of two dozen Nikon D3 NEFs, Digital Photo Professional made the equivalent change to several hundred Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III CR2s.

Conclusion

Capture NX 2's changes aren't extensive, but they're all welcome and improve the application in key ways. In fact, as a general purpose image editor it's really getting very good; it's worth a look even if you don't shoot with a Nikon, since the program's best photo adjustment features work as well with JPEGs and TIFFs as they do with NEFs. Some quirks remain, as noted, but the main thing that will hold Capture NX 2 back from greatness is its handling of medium to large numbers of NEFs that need Instruction Set tweaking on a per picture basis. In what is becoming a strong program otherwise, this longstanding oversight is truly perplexing.

Capture NX 2 for Mac and Windows
will be available in the U.S. at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of US$179.95, or US$109.95 if upgrading from Capture NX 1.x (other Nikon regions will likely offer a similar new/upgrade price differential). A 60-day trial version is available now, which can be converted into a registered version in the U.S. once Nikon USA switches on purchasing of Capture NX 2 (other Nikon regions will probably proceed down a similar purchase path). Capture NX is expected to be available for purchase starting on about June 20, 2008.

More information is in the press release below, and in an article at Digital Outback Photo. An eBook entitled The Photographer's Guide to Capture NX2 is also now available.

Press Release

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR IMAGES: NIKON INTRODUCES UPGRADED
CAPTURE NX 2 PHOTO EDITING SOFTWARE
Powerful New Tools Make Photo Editing Quick and Easy

MELVILLE, N.Y. (June 3, 2008) – Nikon Inc., today introduced the latest generation of its robust image processing and editing software, Capture NX 2, which provides photography enthusiasts with a suite of powerful tools and a simple, visual operation to streamline photo editing. Capture NX 2 utilizes revolutionary U Point® technology to give photographers access to powerful Control Points that enhance color, exposure, and other image quality settings quickly and easily.  New technologies abound in Capture NX 2, including the innovative new Selection Control Point that places a commanding suite of image editing tools at the user’s fingertips to simplify and accelerate the image editing experience.

In addition, Capture NX 2 adds an advanced Auto Retouch Brush for seamless retouching, an improved yet simple user interface, updated menus, browser functionality and an increase in performance.  Whether you choose JPEG, TIFF or RAW (NEF) files, Capture NX 2 is the perfect complement to the growing Nikon Digital System.  It also offers advanced RAW (NEF) processing capabilities, simplified image-browsing, selection and labeling as well as improved batch-processing capabilities, superior color management and comprehensive system compatibility with Nikon’s EXPEED image processing concept.

“We have listened carefully to the requests of current Capture NX users and photographers in developing this powerful new software.  This is an economical solution for the photographer who requires non-destructive image editing and wants to quickly and easily process their images,” said Michael Rubin, senior manager for Software Products at Nikon Inc.  “With the addition of revolutionary new tools, photo enthusiasts as well as professionals will be able to reap the benefits of Capture NX 2.”

While providing incomparable editing options for Nikon’s Electronic Format RAW (NEF) files, Capture NX 2 enables simplified editing and processing for most JPEG and TIFF files regardless of camera manufacturer or model.*  Its broad range of editing tools makes image retouching, enhancing and editing simple and intuitive, allowing users to immediately see the effects as they are applied.  Whether a professional photographer, enthusiast or casual shutterbug, many will find Capture NX 2 to be a great stand-alone photo editing solution, while others will discover that Capture NX 2 is a remarkably effective addition to their existing photographic workflow.

New Additions to Capture NX 2

Capture NX 2 is complemented by a myriad of features and tools that include the following:

  • Selection Control Points: Now users can selectively edit photographs without the need to manually outline or mask the area for editing.  Simply place a Selection Control Point anywhere on the photograph then choose from almost any adjustment such as D-Lighting, Unsharp Mask or noise reduction, while limiting the “reach” of that adjustment to just the selected area.

  • Auto Retouch Brush: Capture NX 2 adds an automatic retouch tool to its image editing toolbox, allowing users to seamlessly remove blemishes, dust, and other distracting elements from photographs while maintaining the integrity of the image.

  • Shadow/Highlight Adjustment: With just a simple slider adjustment, users can easily open up shadows or recover blown out highlights.**

  • Redesigned GUI with Customizable Workspaces: As part of an interface redesign, the new Capture NX 2 includes a Workspace feature that maximizes the tool and palette layout for the task at hand.  Users can create unique custom workspaces ideal for working with single or multiple monitors.  All palettes and windows within can be docked or undocked or hidden as needed.  Predefined workspaces include: Browser, Metadata, Edit, or an optimized combination of each.  In addition, users can access their most used folders with the new “Favorite Folder” feature.

  • Improved Edit List: Nikon’s Capture NX 2 also incorporates an improved edit list that allows users to apply common enhancements to images with ease.  Common tools like tone curves, exposure compensation, contrast, and highlight and shadow protection are just a click away via the Quick Fix menu.  The improved edit list allows for camera and lens corrections like color moiré reduction, dust off, auto color aberration, auto red-eye correction, vignette control and fisheye lens correction.***

  • Simultaneous Use of Tools: Users can now complete image editing faster than ever before with the use of simultaneous tools.  For example, users can adjust the brightness and contrast of an image while boosting the color of the image at the same time.

  • Filters, Ratings and Sorting Toolbar: Capture NX 2 offers an advanced filtering system in its tool bar, affording users an efficient way to filter through hundreds of images by user-defined labels, ratings, file types and file attributes.  What’s more, these new filters, ratings and sorting tools are integrated into the metadata palette, allowing users the ability to easily edit and view XMP/IPTC information.


Nikon’s new Capture NX 2 software represents the core of Nikon’s integrated digital imaging systems, including cameras, lenses, software, speedlights and accessories, and allows photographers of all skill levels to experience the highest performance their Nikon equipment has to offer.

Capture NX 2 will be available for purchase throughout the United States in late June 2008 with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $179.95 (full version) or $109.95 (upgrade).  A 60-day free trial version will be available today for users who wish to experience all that Capture NX 2 offers.  For more information, and to download the 60-day trial version please visit www.nikonusa.com.

About Nikon
Nikon, At the Heart of the Image™. Nikon Inc. is the world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and photo imaging technology and is globally recognized for setting new standards in product design and performance for its award-winning consumer and professional photographic equipment. Nikon Inc. distributes consumer and professional digital SLR cameras, NIKKOR optics, Speedlights and system accessories; Nikon COOLPIX® compact digital cameras; COOLSCAN® digital film scanners; 35mm film SLR cameras; Nikon software products and Nikon sports and recreational optics. Nikon D Series digital SLR cameras are recognized as “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with digital SLR cameras,” according to the latest J.D. Power and Associates 2007 digital Camera Satisfaction Study. Nikon Corporation, the parent company of Nikon Inc., recently celebrated its 90th anniversary and announced the production of over 40 million NIKKOR SLR interchangeable lenses. For more information, dial (800) NIKON-UX or visit http://www.nikonusa.com, which links all levels of photographers to the Web's most comprehensive photo learning and sharing communities. 

*Some Capture NX 2 functions apply to NEF files only.
**Highlight Adjust supports RAW images, JPEG and TIFF, but is most effective for RAW images because they store additional highlight information.
***Fisheye Lens correction is only available when the image was captured using a fisheye lens.
For J.D. Power and Associates award information go to jdpower.com


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