Saturday, 25 August 2012

Apple Aperture 3 and Nikon Capture NX2

During the past year I have imported all my old photographs to Aperture 3. I had edited photographs either in Photoshop or, for Nikon Raw, Nikon Capture NX2. I was so impressed by Aperture 3 for both organisation and editing that I started to import Nikon Raws and to work on them there. However, I was struck that they seemed much flatter and darker than when imported into Capture NX2 and needed more work to produce a basic image.

On a Google search, I found others had noticed the difference, for example, this excellent website:

If one uses Capture NX2 from within Aperture, the useful Nikon picture controls are lost because the Raw NEF file is not exported to NX2.

To illustrate the difference, I show below a photograph I had taken out of the back door to test a lens on my D700. I imported the raw file into Aperture 3, Capture NX2 and the Adobe Raw converter. I then had to export jpgs in order to upload the photographs shown.

Aperture - As shown at import of NEF Raw File
Nikon Capture NX2 - As shown at import of NEF Raw File
Adobe - As shown at import of NEF Raw File
Aperture plus Nikon Raw Preset from AppleAperturePresets
I also show above, the effect of the appropriate Nikon Raw preset from:

Even that does not come close to the initial view of a Raw in Capture NX2.

However, I then found Catapult, a plug-in for Aperture 3 that does allow the export and re-import of the original Raw file from Aperture to Capture NX2. Although one has to remember the various 'save' steps to make sure the process works properly, Catapult works and is highly effective. All the controls of Capture NX2 are retained while the files are managed in Aperture.

Catapult can be downloaded from:

The full version costs $29 and the 'lite' $9 (no batch processing with the latter).

I also have PTLens installed as an Aperture plug-in. This is an excellent piece of software that corrects lens pincushion/barrel distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration, and perspective using the characeteristics of the lens read from the metadata (now called 'Info' in the upgraded Aperture 3).

Capture NX2 will also do that, of course, but if it is not necessary to use that software, PTLens adds to the adjustments available in Aperture.

Andy Mumford (link given above) explains the pros and cons of Capture NX2 well. I have used it in both Windows and Mac. It is not so slow as it was but the user interface and method of working on an image are not intuitive. The controls — through control points and U-point technology — are highly impressive. It really does need a major upgrade though. Either that or Nikon should enable Apple and Adobe access to its Raw handling data while selling the advanced features through the Nik effects plug-ins.

If you are thinking of using Nikon Capture NX2 the User's Manual is essential and the book by Mike Hagen, Nikon Capture NX2 After the Shoot (Wiley, Indianapolis, 2009. ISBN 978-0-470-40926-8) is also very useful.

Aperture 3, along with a lot of the Apple software for the iMac, is a bargain and I can do more than 90% of what I need to do using it alone. I wonder if Aperture 4, on which the usual Apple rumours are rife, will have better initial handling of Nikon Raw files.

Finally, apart from occasional comparisons of software in some of the magazines (Advanced Photographer, for example), the whole emphasis in video editing is given to the full and highly expensive version of Photoshop and, sometimes, Lightroom. One imagines that magazines do not have to pay for their software and that the marketing department of Adobe is not backward in promoting its wares. Far better information is available from websites.