Posted by: kerryl29 | March 7, 2014

Fool Me Twice…

As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, I use Nikon Capture NX2 to convert my RAW files.  This, as much as anything, is a result of inertia.  When I first started shooting with a digital camera back in 2003, I made the transition from a Nikon film camera to the D100, a Nikon DSLR, in order to utilize my existing F-mount lenses.  At the time, Nikon’s software did a palpably superior job with NEF (Nikon’s RAW format) files than third party converters, including Adobe Camera RAW (part of Photoshop).  This is at least in part because Nikon’s RAW files encapsulate a series of proprietary algorithms, and the folks at Nikon know exactly how to decode them.  The third party folks, by contrast, have to reverse engineer the file format and that isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.

Bridle Path, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Bridle Path, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

As time has passed, the distinction between the results obtainable with Nikon’s RAW converter and third party options has narrowed and, arguably, has disappeared altogether.  Yes, I could have migrated to something else, such as Adobe Camera RAW, but my attitude was, essentially, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  I was already plenty facile with Capture, so why reinvent the wheel? Capture may have been effective, but it was never a very elegant, well-programmed or well-designed piece of software.

Forest Moon, Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico

Forest Moon, Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico

In fact, Nikon has a rather well-deserved reputation for putting out lousy software.  (In fairness, I’m not sure any of the camera companies handle the software end of things very well, but some are worse than others [COUGH, Nikon, COUGH] and some have been better than others at realizing that they’re not doing very well on the software front (Nikon?  not so much).  Most Nikon software is buggy, has a relatively (or very) poor user interface, bucks a lot of conventional operating system conventions for no apparent reason and often performs fairly sluggishly.  (Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?) And yet, my complaining notwithstanding, I’ve managed to adapt to Capture’s quirkiness and make it work for me.

Sulphur Springs, South Chagrin Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

Sulphur Springs, South Chagrin Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

So what’s the problem? This is the problem.  Briefly, Nikon is beta testing a replacement for Capture NX2, called Capture NX-D.  The new program is actually a significant substantive downgrade.  NX2 is apparently going to disappear, as will support for it.  As a practical matter, a fully featured version of Capture will become orphaned software.  You may ask why this is a problem, and the answer is that as long as I don’t get a new camera (which would be unsupported by an orphaned program) and as long as I don’t need to change computers/operating systems, there is no problem.  And, as luck would have it, I have no plans any time in the foreseeable future to do either.  But eventually–particularly on the computer/OS front–something will have to give, so at the very least the clock is ticking, even if nothing needs to be done immediately.

Sunflower Morning, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois

Sunflower Morning, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois

Then there’s this.  The long and the short of it is that, if you’ve been using Capture software for RAW conversion and have been saving your edited changes using your original NEFs (as opposed to using copies), you have some real problems going forward.  Any saved changes to NEFs using Capture software were embedded in those files (as opposed to being written out as instructions to separate sidecar files, as virtually all other RAW converters do), and at least some of those changes can’t be recognized, edited or undone by any other software–including, at least at this time, the soon-to-become standard Capture NX-D.  In other words, your original RAW files aren’t truly original anymore; they were altered when you made changes using Capture and saved the files.  The article offers a few suggestions for dealing with this matter, and one choice is less palatable than the next, as Thom Hogan plainly states; the options, he says, “suck.”  (Seriously, take a look at the choices one faces and consider how viable they seem to you.)

October Light black & white, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia

October Light black & white, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia

I’ve been using Capture software for more than 10 years now, and in a sense, I feel kind of lucky.  Yes, you read that correctly:  lucky.  In addition to having four unaltered backup copies of every RAW file I’ve ever shot, I’ve never saved any of the changes that I’ve made in Capture to the files I’m editing.  Those changes are written to a TIFF and then opened in Photoshop for further work, and once that happens I’ve closed the original NEF without saving any of the changes.  (In that respect, I have five copies of every original RAW file, all of them unaltered.)  So the problem outlined above doesn’t apply to me; that’s why I feel lucky.  I really feel for anyone whose work has been impacted, however.

Pink Canyon Abstract, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Pink Canyon Abstract, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

But just because I feel lucky this time around doesn’t mean I’m complacent.  Some of you may remember my near death experience last October,  While I certainly share in the responsibility for the unneeded stress that was experienced (due to an admittedly less than flawless in-the-field backup regimen–which has now been rectified, incidentally), the foundation for the entire problem was–wait for it–Nikon software…and Nikon’s exceptionally cavalier attitude toward dealing with a known catastrophic problem with one of its programs.

Grotto Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Grotto Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

In light of all this, I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise  that the revelations about Capture strike me as yet another example of the (seemingly) never-ending catastrophic litany of problems that have bedeviled Nikon software for ages.  There’s no harm–I guess–in continuing to use Capture NX2 the way I’ve been using it (i.e. non-destructively) all of these years, but given that the “new” version of Capture is going to be less functional than its predecessor and the old version evidently won’t be supported anymore, I think this may well be the time to move on to a different RAW converter and simply be done with Nikon software once and for all.

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Responses

  1. Well done. This reminds me of North Carolina

  2. Bellissime immagini, un vero sogno!!!

  3. I suppose you are pretty fortunate for having edited files the way you have all these years. It really does stink to be in someone else’s shoes. Still, I hate having to adjust to new software simply because I’m human and we apparently don’t actually like to change our routines 😉 Good luck going forward.

    • Thanks and, yes…inertia is the most powerful force in the universe. 🙂

  4. Your pictures speak for themselves, beautiful!

  5. Beautiful photos really nicely done. Re the software, one more gotcha. When I had an issue with my lens a while back Nikon was unable to deal with the photos I sent them for diagnosis, which had been converted via Aperture. The insisted I reprocess them via Capture NX. Luckily they were still on my memory card so I could comply. I agree totally with your comments re their software “expertise”!

    • Thanks, Tina. Yeah, Nikon really should just get out of the software business entirely. Maybe, in a sense, that’s what they’re in the process of doing by converting Capture into what amounts to a bare bones image browser/converter, kind of a slightly pumped up version of View NX2. I thought that the problems might be solved when they signed the agreement with the Nik folks a some years ago (that’s where the control point functionality in Capture NX2 came from), but obviously I was wrong.

  6. No matter what software you’re using, your photos are a feast for the eyes and soul!

    I feel doubly lucky, when my D 50 died, I got a rebate from Sigma on one of their 150-500 mm lenses by turning the camera in, even though the body was shot. I sold the 70-300 mm Nikkor lens I had to a co-worker for his id to use, and made the switch to Canon. Now I’m not going to say that Canon’s software is great, but it’s a huge improvement over Nikon’s. and I’m getting the best photos of critters that I have ever taken. My landscapes need work though.

    • Thanks.

      I haven’t heard anything about Canon’s software in quite some time. I remember, about 10 years ago, friends of mine who shot Canon said that DPP was totally unusable. At some point more recently (at least 5 years ago, I’d guess) I recall being told that the program had been completely overhauled and, while pretty bare bones, was now quite functional.

      I’m not sure there’s a single camera company that produces truly good software. Maybe they’ve decided that, since the third party options are so robust, they (the camera companies) don’t need to produce anything consequential.

  7. A very thoughtful and insightful post, Kerry. Have you considered contacting Nikon’s customer support folks with your concerns? It seems that this would be a logical step for you to take. And I’d love to hear what (if anything) their response might be. Surely there’s someone there who might listen and respond…

    • Hi Gary–thanks for the note.

      Re contacting Nikon support, I can’t imagine what anyone there could/would do for me. The current situation–the impending doom of Capture NX2–is a function of a corporate decision on the part of Nikon to change directions re RAW conversion software. It’s kind of a “that’s the way it is” situation. For the folks that are facing the prospect of orphaned RAW files because of their workflow, the (cockamamie) method by which Capture has saved changes to RAW files and the strong possibility that the new version of Capture won’t be able to read those changes…well, if I were in that particular boat I think I’d be involved in some kind of a petition drive to try to “convince” Nikon to do whatever was necessary to make sure that Capture NX-D was fully capable of editing RAW files that had been processed with previous versions of Nikon software. But, short of begging, pleading and cajoling, I’m not sure the options would be in that case.

      Regardless, I don’t have a lot of confidence that dealing with Nikon support would do much good. The problem I outlined last fall, the one where a version of Nikon’s own software was corrupting RAW files unbeknownst to people who were using it? Nikon was made well aware of this in 2012 and they’ve done essentially nothing to repair the problem, inform people that the problem exists or direct people to the (third party freeware) solution to the problem.

      If I sound a bit cynical… 🙂

  8. I really like your photos! I can feel the passion on each photo 🙂

    • Thanks very much!

  9. Your photos are an inspiration to me…. something to strive for (like the holy grail!)

    I’m not sure about the problems you’re referring to… I have a program that pops up when I insert the memory card called “Image Capture”. I think I deleted Cannon’s software and generally just import my RAW files in Lightroom where they seem to show up as CR2 files. Am I missing something by not going through the Cannon RAW conversion?

    • Thanks very much!

      Re your question about RAW workflow…no, if you’re happy with what you’re getting with Lightroom (which uses Adobe Camera Raw as its RAW conversion engine), there’s no need to change a thing. The Develop module in LR is quite robust. Keep right on doing what you’re doing.

  10. I’m pretty software inept, having only recently gotten one that has more than a half dozen functions, but good lawd, I’d read an encyclopedia about Nikon software if it had photos like those. Well…I’d flip through it anyway…
    I hope you can find a software home that can keep those images coming!

    • Thanks. There are plenty of good alternatives out there (and I already possess one of them, since Adobe Camera Raw is part of Photoshop, which I use for post-RAW conversion anyway, so I should be just fine.

  11. Hi! I am hosting a Nature Monday in my blog. I would love to see this beautiful picture there. Please http://easytocookmeals.com/nature-monday-party-1/

    • Thanks, I’ll look into it.

  12. Gorgeous scene of the full moon along the tree tops (Santa Fe Nat’l Forest).

    I’m pretty much the same when it comes to software: if it works, keep using it until it doesn’t work anymore. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with software and hardware changes. It’s all about having developed a comfort zone with what I use.

    • Thanks, David.

      Yeah, inertia’s a powerful force. When I find something that works, I’m loathe to spend time developing another way to accomplish the same thing. My way isn’t necessarily the “best” way (if such a thing exists), but if it ain’t broke…

  13. Great stuff Kerry. My two favorites are the last image and the B&W.

    I bought a Fuji X10 just before Christmas. Nice little camera but the software truly sucks. Fortunately Fuji does a nice job with jpegs so I skipped the raw files at least for now. I may change my mind when the weather changes and I can get out of the house.

    • Thanks, John. And, congrats on the new camera! (I’m not surprised that the software’s so bad; the vast majority of software produced by/for camera companies is miserable.)


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