Unlike Canon’s bundled-in editor, Capture NX2 is an added-cost option, though Nikon will occasionally include it as a freebie with DSLRs during sales promos. The pricing might be justified for members of the Nikon nation, as Capture NX2 offers considerable sophistication when editing Nikon-sourced raw files.
The original Capture NX had an obtuse user interface, but the latest version cleans up many of the UI issues. How you go about editing images still takes some effort to learn, but once mastered, certain types of edits are much quicker to make than in a traditional app, like Photoshop.
The adjustment panels on the main Capture NX2 screen offer highly granular control over the image.
The number of options can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to wander into the weeds and get completely lost. However, Capture NX2 is a nondestructive editor, making it easy to revert to earlier versions. Every setting has an undo button, and if you load up a saved file, there’s even a way to revert to the original. Capture NX2 saves all the changed data in the main NEF file (Nikon’s raw-image file format), so the saved file is larger than the original raw file shot by the camera.
Perhaps one of the coolest features is something Nikon calls control points, a tool for masking off and making changes to specific areas of an image without the tedious selection process required in an app like Photoshop. Want a more saturated blue sky in your landscape? Pop a control point onto the sky area, select everything with sky in it, and move some sliders. It doesn’t matter if some of your selection includes non-sky pixels, since the control point itself is in the sky color.
Using control points made it easy to alter the sky saturation (original image on top).
Control points can also be used to easily set layers, letting you quickly remove or change background colors. In addition to color control points, you can set white, neutral, and black control points for maximum control of white balance, highlight, and contrast. Capture NX2 also integrates tightly with newer Nikon cameras, including support for D-Lighting (if that feature is turned on in the camera). D-Lighting underexposes brighter areas to preserve details. Using NX2 allows you to tune the image to brighten up the underexposed parts while maintaining detail.
As with the Canon software, Capture NX2 makes poor use of modern multithreaded CPUs. Converting 100 Nikon NEF files shot with a D300s (12 megapixels each) crawled along at eight minutes, eight seconds. Still, if the app’s specific features provide exactly what you’re looking for, it might be worth buying if you’re already committed to the Nikonian way of life.