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Nikon announces Capture 3.5, SLR firmware updates and D1X RAM upgrade  
Monday, October 7, 2002 | by

A number of details in the article below are different than Nikon Europe and USA published information; in all cases where the information is different I have confirmed with Nikon representatives that the details below are correct.

Nikon this morning has announced three updates of interest to Nikon digital SLR owners:

Nikon Capture 3.5

Though there's a heady list of new features in Capture 3.5 for users of either computer platform, Mac users appear to benefit the most from the upcoming new release of Nikon's RAW file processing and camera control suite. This is, in part, because Capture 3 for Mac has lagged behind its Windows counterpart in both compatibility and overall performance. Mac-specific changes include:

  • D100 users will finally be able to control their camera from Capture Control. A firmware update for the D100 is also required (see Nikon Digital SLR Firmware Updates below for information on that).

  • Support for Mac OS X 10.2.

  • Improved speed when opening, viewing, and saving photos. The actual amount of improvement will vary with the computer, but should be noticeable by anyone with a late model Mac. The speed improvements are not expected to bring performance on the fastest Mac in line with the ultra-quick operation of Nikon Capture on the fastest PC, owing to the faster processors available for computers running Windows.

Changes in Capture 3.5 on both platforms include:

  • Output of the equivalent, in file size, of about a 10.5 megapixel (MP) camera. Currently, Nikon Capture processes the data from the D1X sensor's 4024 x 1324 rectangular pixels into a finished file of 3008 x 1960 square pixels, for about the equivalent of a 5.9MP (actual image pixels) camera. This requires interpolation of the sensor data both horizontally and vertically and was deemed, at the time of the D1X's release, to be the optimum output size (in-camera processed JPEGs and TIFFs are also processed to 3008 x 1960). In Capture 3.5, an additional output option will interpolate only in the vertical dimension, such that the final image dimensions will be 4016 x 2616 pixels, or about the equivalent of a 10.5MP (actual image pixels) camera. Note that while it's unlikely that the larger files will contain the same level of fine detail of a true 10.5MP camera, they will almost certainly be a better file to start with for those who need to enlarge D1X photos substantially.

  • Large preview option. When resaving NEFs out of Capture 3.5, the program will optionally embed a 1600 pixel wide, fully processed preview image in the file. This will speed up the viewing of photos in Nikon View 5's draft quality preview mode. Look for updates to third party programs that allow them to call upon this preview as well.

  • Monitoring of up to four different points in the Information palette. The palette lists before and after RGB values for each of these points.

  • Finer control of Color Noise Reduction. A 10-increment slider replaces the current popup menu's 3 settings.

  • Tool palettes can now be moved to a second monitor in dual monitor Mac configurations; in the Windows version, however, palettes remain restricted to the first monitor only.

  • Automatic Vignette Control. A Nikon Europe press release describes this function:

A brand new feature designed to counteract the effects of light fall off (vignetting) around the edges of certain images especially when shot at maximum aperture. Nikon Capture 3.5 can automatically adjust marginal lumination (vignetting) for optimal results with NEF format images taken with a lens that outputs a D signal (D or G type) to a camera equipped to record this information. D100 or D1 series camera upgraded with recently announced firmware (D100: Ver. 2.00 and D1 series Ver. 1.10). Capture 3.5 recognizes this information against its built-in lens adjustment algorithms and compensates for any vignetting that might be apparent. The function is also user adjustable via a Manual slider control for D100, D1X, D1H with previous firmware versions, or the D1.

Nikon Capture 3.5 will be available free to licensed users of Capture 3.0, and is to ship in November 2002.

Nikon D1X Buffer RAM Upgrade

Kodak was the first to announce buffer RAM upgradeability, when it introduced this as a feature of the upcoming DCS Pro 14n at Photokina last month. Nikon, however, appears to be the first digital SLR manufacturer to implement such an upgrade. By doubling the capacity of buffer RAM in the D1X, the number of consecutive frames in a burst jumps from a maximum of 9 JPEGs/TIFFs to 21, and from 6 NEFs to 14. The larger buffer RAM is to be installed by a Nikon service facility; Nikon USA will begin offering the upgrade service November 1 at a "list price of $234, excluding local taxes and a $12.50 shipping and handling fee" says Nikon, in a statement. Pricing and availability may vary in other regions.

Nikon Europe's web site provides additional information. Nikon USA's web site details where to ship the camera depending on your location.

Nikon Digital SLR Firmware Updates

All of Nikon's current crop of digital SLR cameras are slated for firmware updates.

Nikon D100

Firmware version 2.00 offers the following improvements:

  • Compatibility with Capture Control 3.5 on the Mac through the addition of support for the PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol) PTP in the camera. The combination of this firmware upgrade and the upcoming update of Nikon Capture should bring D100 control capability to the Mac.

  • When the camera is set to Color Mode II, a Nikon Adobe RGB ICC profile will be embedded in the metadata of the photo (the same profile that's embedded by Nikon Capture when it saves files). In addition, the EXIF ColorSpace tag inside the file will no longer be set to sRGB; instead, it will be set to "uncalibrated," the only other choice allowed in the current EXIF spec. These changes will undoubtedly make it easier to handle D100 photos in colour managed workflows, and should also solve a problem with Photoshop 7 whereby Color Mode II photos are incorrectly identified as sRGB (note: Adobe's Ignore EXIF Color Space extension/utility fixes this too).

  • Support for Lexar Media's Write Acceleration technology, which Nikon estimates will improve write speed in the D100 by about 10%.

  • D100 WAV sound files are now numbered to match the photo they accompany.

The firmware in Nikon digital SLR cameras is not user upgradeable. To have Nikon D100 v2.00 firmware installed in your camera means it will need to be shipped to a Nikon service facility; in the US, a special Nikon USA upgrade centre in Kentucky will perform the update exclusively, and is set to begin receiving cameras starting today, though actual updating will not commence until October 14 in the US. A D100 firmware update page on the Nikon USA web site includes a link to a packing list form with instructions on shipping the camera, though the link is not operational as I write this. The procedure for receiving the firmware update in other Nikon regions will almost certainly vary, though in most or all regions the update will be done at no charge.

Release notes on Nikon Europe's web site provide additional information. Also available is an update to the camera user guide; it contains important information on setting up the D100 for use with Nikon Capture Control (part of Nikon Capture 3.5) or Nikon Transfer (part of View 5).

Nikon D1X and Nikon D1H

Firmware version 1.10 offers the following improvements:

  • When the camera is set to Color Mode II, a Nikon Adobe RGB ICC profile will be embedded in the metadata of the photo (the same profile that's embedded by Nikon Capture when it saves files). In addition, the EXIF ColorSpace tag inside the file will no longer be set to sRGB; instead, it will be set to "uncalibrated," the only other choice allowed in the current EXIF spec. These changes will undoubtedly make it easier to handle D1X and D1H photos in colour managed workflows, and should also solve a problem with Photoshop 7 whereby Color Mode II photos are incorrectly identified as sRGB (note: Adobe's Ignore EXIF Color Space extension/utility fixes this too).

  • Support for Lexar Media's Write Acceleration technology. When Lexar announced Write Acceleration last month, they estimated a jump in NEF write speed of 28-29% for the D1H, and 23% for the D1X.

  • Recording of additional lens information from D and G-type Nikkor lenses. This additional information is employed by the Auto Vignette Control function of Capture 3.5.

  • Photos are written out in the accordance with the EXIF 2.2 spec.

    Improved battery support. An LCD panel icon flashes to indicate the battery is spent. A Nikon Europe FAQ entry provides additional detail.

  • Spanish joins English, French, German and Japanese as the languages of choice in the camera's menus.

The firmware in Nikon digital SLR cameras is not user upgradeable. To have Nikon D1X or D1H v1.10 firmware installed in your camera means it will need to be shipped to a Nikon service facility; in the US, a special Nikon USA upgrade centre will perform the update exclusively, and is set to begin receiving cameras starting today, though the actual updating will not commence until late October at the earliest in the US. A firmware update page on the Nikon USA web site includes a link to a packing list form with instructions on shipping the camera, though the link is not operational as I write this. The procedure for receiving the firmware update in other Nikon regions will almost certainly vary, though in most or all regions the update will be done at no charge.

Release notes on Nikon Europe's web site provide additional information. Also available is an update to the camera user guide.

Note: D1X units with serial numbers above 5145001 already have firmware v1.1.0 installed. D1H cameras with serial numbers greater than 5217001 do as well.

The original D1 is not included in this round of firmware updates.

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