Friday, March 11, 2005

New Software

This is quite a week for new raw image development software. Nikon released a new version of Nikon Capture (NC); Pixmantec released Raw Shooters Essential 1.1 (RSE) yesterday; and Raw Magick is expected to have an updated beta of Raw Magick Light (RML) in a few days.

Each product excels in its own way. None are the best at everything.

RSE excels at ease of use and provides a more complete workflow solution than the other products. It is the fastest of the three. However, it lacks some key features such as direct access to curves and image rotation. It does not recognize the camera settings as recorded in the Nikon raw NEF files.

RML probably has the ultimate in raw image developing, at the expense of being the slowest of the three tools. Fortunately, like RSE, a lot of the work can be relegated to a background process and not interfere too much with continued editing. I am able to recover more highlight detail with RML than with any other tool. I am hoping that the next beta will address various problems I have had. However, the workflow is not as well developed and the user interface is clumsy. RML recognizes camera settings.

NC is slow and a memory hog. The user interface is not that great and the dialog layout is the worst of the three. NC follows standard developing practices and is the weakest of the three in recovering lost highlights. NC saves changes in a non-destructive way in the original NEF file. Coupled with a plugin from Nikon's Picture Perfect, I am able to read the modified NEF files directly into Paint Shop Pro 9 and have all changes made by NC applied. With either RSE or RML, I have to save the image to another format such as TIF or PSD and then read that file into Paint Shop Pro 9, meaning there are more files for me to manage and store.

I've been using Nikon Capture to develop my raw images. I am experimenting with both RSE and RML, focusing first on RML. Now, if only the new beta were to be available soon!

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