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A preview of the Nikon D2H - Continued

To be released at the same time as the D2H are new versions of Nikon View and Nikon Capture.

Nikon View 6.1

Nikon View 6.1 is expected to be a minor update that will add support for D2H photos, including the recognition of the orientation information inside D2H files so that the program can automatically present D2H photos right way up. It will also introduce a refined version of 6.0's red-eye reduction (which can be overly aggressive, sometimes removing the red from lips as effectively as it does from eyes). And finally, it promises an easier method for editing file names and captions, as well as faster browsing and photo transfer.

Nikon Capture 4.0

Capture 4.0, like the current v3.5.1, is really two applications: one, Capture Control, is for controlling supported cameras over a USB or FireWire connection; another, Capture Editor, is for editing Nikon NEF, TIFF or JPEG photos. Most or all of the changes in v4.0 are to Capture Editor (beyond the addition of D2H control capabilities to Capture Control).

nikon_capture_4_1.jpg
Nikon Capture 4.0

These changes include:

Dust Removal

This function assists in the removal of debris in a photo that is a result of dust and other guck on the surface of the optical filter over the image sensor. If it works as advertised, it could save considerable time in manually spotting out dust spots. The software knows where the dust is from a dust reference file, a photo of a blank white scene that must be shot by the camera in question, then loaded into Capture through the Dust Removal palette.

nikon_capture_4_2.jpgThough a dust reference file is required for the function to work at all, it's also smart enough apparently to recognize the topography of dust in a photo, removing dust but not removing a distant seagull, for example. The D2H includes a mini-wizard on the rear LCD monitor for creating the dust reference file; other supported cameras will have to create the file manually. Obviously, the effectiveness of this function will be dependent on the dust pattern not having changed much in the interval between shooting the actual photo and shooting the dust reference file.

Photos from cameras other than the D2H are supported, including the D100, D1H and D1X (though the latter two cameras must have the latest firmware installed). Files from the original D1 and Coolpix cameras are out of luck. And while full-resolution NEF files will be dust removal candidates, Nikon has not yet determined whether JPEG, TIFF and reduced resolution photos from supported models will also be able to make use of this feature. One other qualifier: only photos shot with D or G Type Nikkor lenses need apply.

Digital DEE

Developed for Nikon by Applied Science Fiction (which is now called Kodak's Austin Development Center in the wake of Kodak's purchase of the Texas-based company), Digital DEE is an enhanced version of Digital SHO. While Digital SHO is a technology for bringing out detail in shadows exclusively, Digital DEE does that while also improving detail in highlights (as long as they're not blown out altogether).

nikon_capture_4_3.jpgIt has been variously described to us as digital fill-flash, a silhouette enhancer and a fix for even severely underexposed photos. One thing is clear: it's not for magically restoring blown out highlight detail, though it should provide a measure of highlight contrast tweaking to make more visible the detail that's there.

Digital DEE is compatible with any file format supported by Capture 4, from any compatible camera. Its only limit is a file size of 169MB.

Fisheye-to-Rectilinear Correction

A filter for use specifically (and only) with AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED photos that makes straight edges curved by the lens into straight edges again. There are two fisheye-to-rectilinear correction modes:

  • Horizontal. The 180 curved-edge view through the lens is transformed into a 110 straight-edged view. If you've attempted to make rectilinear photos taken with a fisheye lens before, you know that once the edges inside the photo are straightened, the boundaries of the photo itself are bowed inwards. This means some careful manual cropping is required. That cropping is automatically applied by Capture 4.0 during the horizontal correction operation.

  • Vertical. This correction is hard to describe, but the net effect is it's useful for creating straight-edged panoramas from an AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED photo. The careful manual cropping we described above is necessary after applying vertical correction, at least in the sample output we've been shown.

If you regularly need extra-wide rectilinear photos, the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED will be a better lens choice, in part because the degree of pixel shifting the fisheye-to-rectilinear filter performs will inevitably take a toll on image detail. But for occasional straight-edged, ultra-wide results from an ultra-compact lens, Capture 4.0's fisheye-to-rectilinear should be handy. The fisheye-to-rectilinear correction filter works with AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED photos shot with any Nikon digital SLR, past and present.

Also new in v4.0 are some minor performance improvements, a change to the Batch function that enables the output folder structure (including subfolders) to mirror that of the input folder structure (including subfolders) as well as other tweaks.

What's Missing

These changes, some of which are pretty jazzy, aren't enough for us to get excited about Capture 4.0. For our purposes, the program still needs attention in more mundane areas, including speed of image processing on the Mac platform. While we're not always pleased by the image quality we get from Adobe's Photoshop Camera Raw, this Photoshop plug-in demonstrates that a dual-processor G4 Mac can crunch through RAW data quickly, certainly much more so than Capture 3.5.1, which doesn't appear to take advantage of multiple processors at all. Multiple processor support, as well as any and all refinements that optimize the code for a single processor G4 (and upcoming G5) machine, are a must.

Also not on the roadmap for v4.0 is the ability to quickly apply instruction set changes to a group of photos. In Kodak's DCS Photo Desk, for example, such changes take only a handful of seconds for a folder full of RAW files. In Capture 3.5.1 this same operation requires that each file be processed through the Batch function, turning it into a multi-minute affair. Fisheye-to-rectilinear correction is cool, but saving hours per week running RAW NEFs through a speed-optimized Capture would be infinitely cooler, regardless of whether you call Mac or Windows home.

There are other changes we would like to see, including the ability to insert a custom camera profile into the program's processing path as well as the simultaneous editing of one photo while processing another. These are two indispensable features found in Phase One's Capture One DSLR that would make Nikon Capture a more powerful and efficient tool.

Nikon Capture 4.0 and Nikon View 6.1 are slated for release in the fourth quarter of 2003. Pricing and upgrade details for Capture 4.0 have not yet been announced, while View 6.1 will be included with the D2H.

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