Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Processing The RAW

Photographers in the digital age are inundated with software so Digital Photo Pro talked to the experts to get the ins and outs on two of the most popular RAW processing packages on the market

The Power Of NEF

Developed to leverage the full power of NEF and tightly integrated with Nikon PictureProject software, Nikon Capture allows you to exercise exceptional image control from capture to archive.

The NEF file is composed of raw image data, a thumbnail and an Instruction Set. Combined, these elements provide extensive image-editing capability. Raw image data is the information collected by the image sensor's pixels, which includes brightness and color range. With TIFF and JPEG files, this information is processed and embedded into the image file “in-camera” to produce finished files with 8-bit color depth; NEF files capture and store this data in 12-bit color depth. The image control settings you selected on the camera prior to shooting are stored separately in an Instruction Set. Using Capture to process the NEF file's raw image data with its Instruction Set, you create an image that displays the effects of the camera's original settings, plus any settings you've added during Capture editing.

With Capture, you can change the original Instruction Set to correspond to alternative camera settings—essentially allowing you to “retake” the photo on your computer—and instantly view the effects. Plus, you can create new Instruction Sets and apply them to other images. Because NEF operates with raw data, Capture enables you to manipulate images in ways that are impossible with ordinary file formats—for example, by altering exposure and white balance settings.

Also, when you use the NEF file compression mode, a built-in option that can reduce the size of an uncompressed NEF by 50 to 60 percent, the finest details can be rendered without concern for excessive artifacting. In addition, the smaller file size of compressed NEF versus TIFF saves disk space while delivering superior image quality.

Maximum Flexibility

Capture is a robust tool for professional image enhancement of JPEGs and TIFFs, offering cropping, size and resolution adjustment, unsharp masking, color balance adjustment, batch file conversion, camera custom setting management, and other indispensable features. The software allows NEF files to be saved as JPEGs or TIFFs. In addition, Nikon supplies a NEF plug-in so you can edit your images in Adobe Photoshop.

A Permanent, Infinitely Versatile Original

In the Capture workflow, the NEF file's original raw image data and accompanying Instruction Set are always preserved. Any adjustments made in Capture can be made active or inactive with the click of a mouse, enabling you to see the changes and quickly make editing decisions. When you've completed and saved your changes, the file will have two Instruction Sets, the original and a new one that reflects your saved changes. You can reopen the file, view the most recent version and change the settings once again, if you wish. The file will store your saved changes in the second Instruction Set. At any time, you can revert to the original version of the image by turning off the adjustments you've made. Your original data remains unchanged, like an archival negative, but infinitely adjustable. Here's how it's done.


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