Nikon’s Capture NX 2; A Good Raw Editor Just Got Better Page 2

You can also compare the original with the current version, something I found invaluable to make sure I didn’t go too far, or conversely, took the image far enough. The comparison opens your eyes to your mistakes.

Unlike color control points (which require limited use of the edit list), any menu-selected adjustment or filter that uses plus/minus selection control points must first be fine-tuned in the edit list panel.

The Capture NX 2 interface is very user-friendly and largely intuitive. The greatest asset is the edit list on the right, where you can track practically every step of your editing, and undo or redo changes at will and in any order. Here we see an interim version of one shot that I later toned in NX 2, after converting to black and white. You can see my use of the new selection control points identifying where I needed to apply the black and white conversion or protect areas from it. There were many more, as shown in the edit list.

In Use
I found NX 2 so inviting that I couldn’t stop working with it, applying it not only to NEF files generated by my Nikon D300, but also to TIFF files previously converted in Adobe Camera Raw from Canon raw files captured with various Canon EOS SLRs. I do, however, have some suggestions for improvement. It would be much easier if selection control points could be manipulated with the aid of the same branching tree structure and sliders similar to those used with color control points. In addition, I’d like to be able to individually define the shape of each control point—rectangular, oval, irregular—rather than be restricted to a circle. I’d also like a magnetic lasso for enhanced selection control of some effects. And maybe even a magic wand selection tool.

NX 2 is a really great complement to working with NEF and other file formats. There are some issues, though—after working extensively with a file, it may start to drag and complex files take minutes to open. The new retouching tool is good, but it needs to be developed further, more like the Healing Brush in Photoshop. Also, other tools, such as sharpening and blur, are provided in limited forms. Noticeably lacking are dodging and burning in, cloning, and text tools. Distortion control only goes so far, and when it comes to non-Nikon files, vignetting correction is not available.

Of course NX 2 was never meant to be another Photoshop, so you’ll still need the granddaddy of image-editing software to do complex layering and photo compositing and to apply sophisticated processes such as Merge to HDR, not to mention using a plethora of effects.

The first five icons in this NX 2 toolbar represent the original control points, whereas the one far right is the very useful new selection control point, with the choice of applying an effect (+) or protecting an image area from it (-). To the left of that is the new Auto-Retouch Brush tool, which needs some retooling. Additional tools (not shown) can also be found on the toolbar.

So, is Capture NX 2 a muscle car? Not just yet. It still has a ways to go. Still, not only did it allow me to take my pictures down roads where I never dreamed possible, it had that new car smell that made me want to go out and drive it. Capture NX 2 has, without question, become a positive driving force in my image editing these days.

Color Efex Pro 3.0 Plug-In For Capture NX 2
Nik Software released a version of their Color Efex Pro 3.0 plug-in for the new Capture NX 2, for Mac or Windows ($179.95/Complete Edition with 52 filters; $99.95/Select Edition with 35 filters—also available as an upgrade or as a trial download). Now all those neat color and toning effects are simply grouped under “stylizing” and “traditional” filters (a distinction that I still find somewhat artificial). However, this new version adds a histogram associated with the protect shadow/highlights sliders, along with an analysis of the detail in each. Along with the blending options, you also get the benefit of NX 2’s new selection control points, so you can selectively apply effects to only parts of an image. What you don’t get is the magnifying loupe—not a major loss. If you haven’t tried Color Efex Pro before but plan to use NX 2, this is one effective way to expand your horizons and take your NEF, TIFF, and JPEG images to the next level. For more information, visit www.niksoftware.com.

Technical Notes
I used Capture NX 2 on an Intel iMac that has 2GB RAM. Practically all the work was done with a mouse, although the few times I tried a Wacom tablet and pen, there was no problem. The program does support a pressure-sensitive input device.

To download a 60-day free trial (Mac and PC versions) of Capture NX 2, visit www.capturenx.com. NX 2 can be purchased from retailers, or you can buy a license to fully activate the trial version online at www.nikonmall.com. MSRP is $109.95 to upgrade from Version 1, or $179.95 for the full version.

For more information, contact Nikon Inc., 1300 Walt Whitman Rd., Melville, NY 11747; (800) 526-4566; www.nikonusa.com.

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