Please help me to decide between Nikon Capture NX2 and Lightroom 2

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by robin_barnes, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. I have been reading all the posts that I can find about these two programs and just can't decide which way to go.

    First I should say that I know that I can download trial versions of both but as I am relatively new to digital (I bought a D40x last year
    after 30 years of using film) and have not used any kind of image processing software before I am not confident that I will be able to
    evaluate them properly. So I would appreciate very much any advice from experienced users. (My computer is a second generation
    20' "white" Intel iMac with 1GB of Ram.)

    Capture NX2

    The consensus seems to be that this is the software that produces the best results from Nikon NEF files. However I have also seen it
    described as "buggy" and "slow"! My reading also suggests that Nikon is very slow with regard to fixing bugs.

    I would be very grateful if someone could tell me what "bugs" there are in the current version that it would be useful for me to know
    about? Also I would appreciate an indication as to how slow is "slow" and what improvement I could expect if I increased my Ram to
    the maximum 3GB?

    Also, so far as I am aware, NX2 does not include an image database like Lightroom's Library so I would need another program for this -
    any suggestions?.

    Lightroom 2

    Other things being equal this is the one I would choose. However I have read a number of posts by people who are not satisfied with the
    results they get when they process NEF files with it. I know that Adobe provides camera profiles which can be downloaded from their
    website and was wondering if anyone has done a comparison between NEF files processed in NX2 and the same files processed in
    Lightroom 2 with the appropriate camera profile? I know that Lightroom won't recognise Nikon camera settings - e.g. "vivid" - but I am
    not too bothered about this as I usually leave these on "normal" and would prefer to make any changes later.

    Any other information about these programs which you feel would be helpful to me would be very welcome.
  2. Bugs in NX2 include erratic results when printing and general stability issues - i.e. sometimes it just crashes.
    Sometimes it prints so that a part of the image (a rectangular block ...) is missing. I print through photoshop if this
    happens so it's not a big deal. The stability of the latest subversion is acceptable - if I work on a hundred images it may
    crash once or twice. I've never lost data because of it, nor has it ever made an "incorrect" conversion. There used to be
    a bug which turned off sharpening when you touched exposure compensation but that was fixed.

    The LR2/ACR 4.5/4.6 camera profiles mimic the Nikon picture control basic looks - and this part works great - the tones & colors indeed
    are similar. But I find
    the image definition (noise, sharpness) to be better and more consistently "good-looking" with Nikon's conversions. Other
    people may have different opinions, but I always convert my NEFs in Capture NX2 now, and I then may use LR2 for
    organizing large numbers of images (not NEFs, but images converted using Capture NX2) and printing with slight tweaks
    as needed. I love the LR user interface and wish Adobe and Nikon would collaborate in incorporating Nikon's algorithms
    as an option to be run from the LR2 user interface.
  3. I went with Lightroom many because I disliked the NX2 interface - just too clunky for me. I too prefer to make my adjustments outside of the camera, so the one place where NX2 seems to have a compelling advantage just didn't speak to me. Plus, the general ability to use profiles in Lightroom gives you a lot of ability to set standards for a variety of fine tuning approaches, and I've seen some places where you can download them as well.

    I can't speak to speed issues - I too am running an iMac, but with 4 GB of RAM.

    I am completely satisfied with the decision I made, but NX2 is certainly a worthy program as well. I did have some issues with it locking up (it always required a forced quit), but I never bothered to even try to debug it as my decision was already pretty much made. I know people are running it on Macs with no problems.
  4. I down-loaded both and tried them each for the full 30-day trial period. Lightroom was the obvious choice. I didn't get the same results as Ilkka, in fact the LR image files were better, but I readily concede it may have been me. Now that LR2.1 is out, the choice would be even easier.
  5. When you want to use acive D-lighting you have to use NX2.
  6. "My computer is a second generation 20' "white" Intel iMac with 1GB of Ram."

    Robin, this will give you a headache with either program. Lightroom and NX2 are memory intensive so a minimum of 2Gb is really necessary to avoid frequent crashes.

    Obviously you won't get an consensus here about software. Both are great programs, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Think about downloading both and try them out. Just like with camera bodies, there is nothing like a personal hands-on experience to tell you which will work best for you.
  7. "...then you want to use active D-lighting you have to use NX2."

    That is incorrect. Active D-Lighting on the cameras that have it (D3, D300, D700, etc.?) is applied on a
    photosite by photosite basis as the signal moves from the sensor to the EXPEED processor to be made into a NEF
    file (And from there to the buffer and the media).

    Standard D-Lighting is indeed a processing step applied in Capture NX and can be applied (or turned off) wheter
    you set the camera for D-Lighting or not.
  8. Thanks for your responses - I hope I will get some more. Opinion, so far, seems to be tending towards Lightroom.

    Ellis - from your posts I know that you are a Lightroom user and, as I have been reading your D700 diary, that you use
    Nikon cameras as well. I would greatly appreciate your views on the quality of the results that can be achieved processing
    NEF files with Lightroom.
  9. If you have to choose one I'd go with Lightroom, overall it's a better application. However, I believe you do get better overall quality from RAW conversions in Capture NX than you do with Adobe Camera RAW. I use Capture NX to convert the RAW file, and then Photoshop to process the image.
  10. Robin,

    The largest single frame from a D3 14 bit per channel NEF (converted to a 16 bpc DNG and processed in Lightroom) I've printed has been 20"x30". I think the results were pretty good and so did the client, a world class graphic designer / marketing consultant ( his clients are companies like ( think Coca-Coca, UPS ) who regularly hires some of the best photographers in the world for projects (I'm not i nthat league), so he sees a lot of high end work. We were judging prints shot from ISO 200 through 1600.

    There are definitely differences in raw processors; differences in the algorithms and differences in features, as well as differences in the user interface. You have to decide which set of features works best for you. In my opinion Capture NX 2, Iridient Digital's "Raw Developer", and Bibble Pro can yield marginally to somewhat better results depending on the subject matter and how it was lit and shot, than Adobe Camera Raw's (the raw processing engine in Lightroom v2) defaults but the gap isn't that wide. it is narrow enough that i othen started considering what works best for the way I work. I think I shoot a lot but don't over shoot and I know many photojournalists, sports and wedding photogrpahers who shoot a lot more than I do) and I'm willing

    to make that compromise and use Lightroom. The more you work with it, the better you and it gets.
  11. Robin, I use Nikon Capture NX2 to process all of my raw images from my D 300 and to do all of my printing on a windows pc. Reading the above posts was the first time I have ever heard of anyone ever having a problem with printing in Capture. I also own Photoshop 7 but use it only for adding a copyright to my prints. I have seen Lightroom demonstrated, but I have never used it. Capture is the only program that will read all of the settings that you make with your camera. Lightroom and other raw processors will read on the white balance setting. So when you start of processing with non Nikon products you are in one sense starting from a blank page and have to add back stuff.

    That being said, it is like choosing between two new cars with equal features. You have to get in them and test drive them. Car one might work for me, but not my wife, while car two works for her but not me. The same goes for software "with equal features." One might be easier for you to learn how to use and and enjoy using than the other. That factor alone can make it the one for you! You need to try out both. Better yet, have a friend who has one or the other show you how they use it.

    I believe that all processing steps and edits in Lightroom are non destructive just like Capture NX. That is a big plus for both of the programs. Nikon Capture NX2 has U point technology which is a joy (for me) to use. So simple and quick and powerful. Check this out.

    I am not sure what you mean by a image library. NX2 has a built in browser. Nikon offers View NX for free. And you can launch right into Capture NX from it. It is a browser too. You can add metadata to the images in NX2 if that is what you were looking to do.

    I agree that if you only have 1GB of RAM, your mac might need more for either program. For a mac, you ought to check the nikonusa web site under capture nx2 to look at the processors required in addition to RAM (768 MB minimum and 1 GB or more recommended) and hard disk space for the program (200MB for installation).

    Joe Smith
  12. For me it was not hard to decide. I have hundreds of files to process and the Lightroom is the way to go. Especially after the introduction of new camera profiles. I use mostly D2X mode 2 profile and I can not see meaningful difference comparing the results to the files processed with NX2. Without new camera calibration profiles the difference was painfully obvious, especially with red, yellow and orange colors but I preferred Lightroom nevertheless because of the saved computer time.

    Regards, Marko
  13. OK, I have personally not tried Lightroom, but I have a friend who's going through trying to decide where he wants to go. He's been working in NX & when he bought a Mac he decided to try Lightroom. He says he likes how it works & organizes - however, the jpgs just don't turn out as nice as NX.

    So, he's going with NX or NX2 - - he simply says Lightroom can not match NX's IQ for NEF files.

    Now, as for NX2 crashing - I've worked in NX & NX2 for over 2 years. Crashes are rare. I do all my normal work in NX2 these days. I also have CS3 - but that's only used for removal of potential dust bunnies & potential cloning I may need to do.

    As far as I go, I will stick with NX2 & up, it may be a tad slow at times, but on my new fast computer I have no speed issues. On my three year old laptop it was slow. But not on my new Dell. I speed through my files these days & I work in 14bit D300 files which are on the average 25MB each.

    I love Nikon's easy tutorial videos. Those got me started on NX & I've since loved the program, past occasional changes in layout which I now hope is over.

    If it was me - - I'd go with NX2


    Lil :)
  14. I use Lightroom. One reason is because I started using it a long time ago and I'm used to it now. The NX user interface feels klunky to me. Maybe that's because I'm used to Lightroom.

    One important reason I use Lightroom is that it provides me with digital asset management. I can tag my photos and sort through them all by looking at tags and combinations of tags and even combinations of tags, dates, equipment, etc. I have more than 30,000 pictures on my computer so that's important to me. I haven't figured how to do that in NX yet, probably because I don't use it that much.

    HOWEVER, I find that Lightroom doesn't do everything well. NX excels at some things and has features that I haven't figured out how to do in Lightroom. So I use both programs. After downloading images from the card I run them through Lightroom. 90% of them do just fine. 90% of the rest only need some postprocessing in Lightroom. The remaining 1% need more than Lightroom will do for me, so I turn to NX. So far I have managed to fix things in NX that I couldn't in Lightroom, even though I'm not really used to NX and don't know all the ins and outs.

    A while back I was also using DxO since it had a nice wide angle lens distortion correction. I didn't have NX, so when I had a problem with Lightroom I would try DxO. I was able to do some things that way, but I had a picture of a cat in a tree which was backlit. Lightroom would bring up the backlit cat against the sky, but in doing so would produce a halo around the cat (Highly Inappropriate for that cat). DxO would do a better job without the halo, but in doing so would posterize the color range and make the cat look terrible. I finally had to do the picture both ways, then cut out the posterized cat and replace it with the Lightroom cat in such a way that the halo didn't show.

    My conclusion was that both programs had strengths and weaknesses. I was able to use them because the strengths and weaknesses were different for the two programs. I suspect that's the same situation with Lightroom/NX. I think you can do a good job with either, but I have my own preferences, partly due to my background with the programs.

    Since you're relatively new to digital, you probably don't have that many pictures to keep track of, so you can probably do it by descriptive file names and directories. In that case, you might prefer NX. However, since digital pictures are free, they tend to build up, so you will eventually have a lot of pictures to store. For that reason it's a good idea to find a way to find pictures easily in the pile.
  15. Thanks again to you all and particularly to Ellis for responding to my request.

    A couple of points that seem to be emerging are that if you want the very best NEF conversions NX2 is the better option
    - I was rather put off by the reports of bugs but, Lil and Joseph, your comments have reassured me.

    On the hand if you have a lot of images to deal with, as a professional like Ellis does, and time is an important
    consideration Lightroom is probably the way to go.

    I am an amateur but have recently started selling some of my work through a gallery and, obviously, I would like to sell
    more. At the end of the day therefore it is image quality that should concern me most so, even though Lightroom
    appeals to me for the other things it does, I am now thinking it will probably be NX2.

    Oh well now I guess I'd better get some more memory and download the trial version!
  16. Dwight - just seen your post. Yes I don't have many digital photos yet - although I have a fair number of slides that might
    be saleable and which I must scan but nowhere near your 30,000. It had occurred to me that eventually I might end up with
    both programs!
  17. What do you want to do?
    Is your primary goal to catalog images? Then Lightroom
    If you only want to post-process then use Capture NX2

    By the way NX2 is not slow, NX1 is slow .. and therefore people say NX is slow. NX2 is a LOT faster than NX1. The slow speed of NX has been fixed.

    Try the free trials - they both have them.
  18. I have downloaded Capture on my iMac a couple of weeks ago, to compare it with Lightroom. I have had no bugs, no crashes
    with it. As far as my taste is concerned, I like the the landscape colors I get from converting NEF images with Capture better
    than from the conversions by Lightroom.
  19. I second NX2. After downloading all kind of trial versions, I went with LR first, but did not like the results so
    much, even if workflow was easy. But then I got "The Photographer's Guide to Capture NX2" by Jason P. Odell
    (ebook), and that changed everything. NX2 has an easy and fast workflow, once you found out about the basics. I
    used it both on iMac and Windows-PC, had lots of stability problems on the PC due to lack of memory and rather
    slow processor, but none on the iMac, obviously memory and CPU speed does matter.
    Hope this helps,
  20. To reiterate what has already been said, and I cannot speak for Capture NX 2, but 1Gb of ram is unnacceptable for LR2.
  21. Joe - the answer is that I would like to do both - hence my initial inclination towards Lightroom - but getting the best
    possible image quality comes first.

    Mikhail and Holger - very helpful information.
  22. "getting the best possible image quality comes first."

    Robin, that's exactly why you need to try both. The 'best' image quality for you may be different for someone else. Moreover, if your monitor is not calibrated, you may get different results than someone else with the same software.

    FWIW, I use NX2 and PS, depending on what I need. Neither works for me all the time.

    YMMV, of course.
  23. Robin, regarding digital asset management issues, ie "library", look into adding keywords and metadata at the time you download the images into your mac.This would be a big time saver. I use Downloader Pro for windows pcs only, so it is not an option for you. Check out Photo Mechanic in that I believe it allows you the choice of adding the info directly into the NEF file or into a separate sidecar file. I do not know how metadata is handled by Lightroom. The general rule of thumb is that many programs have trouble writing info into NEF or raw files. Instead they write it into sidecar files linked to the NEF file. You might want to do some homework on how both programs handle the entry of new metadata and access to "old" metadata already in sidecar files. I am trying to figure all of this out for myself right now as I try and catalogue my images after the fact. You can join the "DAM Forum" for free to get advice.

    Joe Smith
  24. NX2 has to be part of my workflow for four reasons:
    • Noise reduction is superb on high iso or low light images, although I use noise ninja for portraits.
    • Rectify chromatic aberration. Sometimes Camera Raw/Photoshop just lets me down
    • Colour control points
    • Consistent use of on camera settings between camera and computer (Picture control). Get this right and you'll depend much less on post processing.
  25. Joseph - I have just come across a couple of videos reviewing NX2 by Harun Wahab on youtube. He begins by showing
    how to add metadata to each photo as the first step of processing raw files. However I am not sure whether that covers
    fully the point you are making.

    Thanks for making me aware of the "DAM Forum".
  26. I like the image quality of Phase One Capture 1 as the best I've used, though I haven't used NX. I shoot a D200. It's a raw processor only, but I can save a stop over LR, Aperture or ACR and the color accuracy and clarity of the image is noticeable to me.
  27. Also I forgot to say, I agree that your ram limitation should be addressed. It's now pretty inexpensive to max out your computer. Try Crucial or OWC or Corsair etc. all good stuff.
  28. Choosing a RAW converter based on the supposed superiority of 'the interface' (a matter of some debate of course, including what people mean by non-defined terms like 'clunky') is a lot like worrying about which type of aircraft will take you to a destination. If the destination is more important to you, the answer is Capture NX.

    I have the feeling we have many camera users who seem to be new to computing, and who suffer from that scourge of modern times, ADHD. All applications reward practice and research into their usage, via technical fora, the help system and (eek) the manual. There are still plenty of IF issues to dislike about Photoshop, and that application is seemingly older than many photographers!

    I particularly recommend NX to you as a newcomer, since it alone renders the NEF according to its camera settings. Many users love this feature and even some pros suggest using these settings as a starting point for editing. I don't agree, I believe one should have a consistent 'ground up' approach to image preparation, but the value of this feature as a learning tool is obvious.

    Control point technology is another key advantage, now available for almost all tools in NX.

    But finally, take this piece of information: many rusted on Nikon users of Adobe products (and there seems to be an army of them) still return to NX to deal with what they regard as 'problem images' - the reason is that the application always seems to have a tool to provide an answer for your problem. At the end of the day, the output quality is what should matter to serious photographers. Lightroom reputedly makes for a great file manager.
  29. I have used lightroom from its origins it is a great organizational tool. I am going to purchase a copy of Nx 2 because I like the way it makes the photo's look so much better. It not only does a great job on the nef's it also does a great job on jpg's.

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