In my original comparison of raw converters for Nikon NEF files, I mentioned DXO Optics Pro briefly. While it appeared to be a decent RAW processor software, a major shortcoming was that it did not have any local adjustment capabilities. Hence it was a difficult option to recommend, especially since it was not significantly cheaper than competitors which do have local adjustment capabilities and which were selling at similar (or lower!) prices.
Fortunately, things have changed now. DXO Optics Pro has evolved to become DXO PhotoLab and now includes the very highly regarded U Point technology from Nik Collection Plugins for making local adjustments. With this change, the value proposition of DXO PhotoLab has improved dramatically and is now a serious challenger to the other tier 1 RAW processor giants including Adobe Camera Raw (from Adobe CC/Lightroom/Photoshop) and Phase One’s Capture One Pro. Continue reading
Updated 29 April 2018 regarding recommendation for colour moire reduction.
Updated 2 August 2017 for recommendation about colour noise reduction. Clarified recommendations for colour profiles. Revised grammar.
Updated 22 June 2017 for information about astro noise reduction.
Updated 2 December 2016 for revised recommendations.
Updated 25 November 2016 to include reader observations and suggestions. Also included amended recommendations for noise reduction.
Updated on 5 October 2016 to include more details about the Picture Controls and adjust some grammar.
Capture NX-D is a great RAW converter for Nikon NEFs, no matter how you feel about its in-sufficiency for everything else. For those initial steps of detail extraction, colour interpretation, global exposure adjustment, and noise reduction – it is a great tool. I have spent nearly two years experimenting with the various RAW conversion tools – ACR, Capture One Pro, Photo Ninja, DXO OP, etc. Against all these paid options, NX-D performs surprisingly well. It is especially good at colour reproduction, where none of the competition could quite get the kind of accurate true-to-life colours as NX-D could. Of course, I should emphasize that realistic colours does not automatically mean it looks good to everyone! It really boils down to a matter of preference. Personally I find it easier to perform my edits on a well-exposed image with a neutral colour palette. I use NX-D to produce a globally exposure-adjusted, colour-corrected, noise-corrected, high quality 16-bit TIFF to feed into other post-processing applications that are better for detailed adjustments, such as Lightroom. Use the right tool for the job.
However as I have mentioned earlier, NX-D is not user-friendly and insufficient in many aspects. So here are some tips that could help get that RAW conversion part done. Continue reading
2018 July update: We have a new winner. DXO PhotoLab is my new RAW conversion champion for Nikon NEFs! See the details here.
2016 November update: Added observations for DXO Optics Pro 11
A RAW file contain so much more image data than a JPEG file. Most serious enthusiasts and professional photographers shoot in RAW to extract the most out of a photographic image during post-processing. RAW conversion is the very first step in the work-flow with raw files, so it should be obvious how important this initial process is. Get a flawed result from this initial step at the start and the implications will affect all subsequent post-processing efforts. Continue reading