18 Replies Latest reply on Aug 29, 2009 4:55 PM by Bill_Janes

    Nef Quality Issue

    species8514

      (moved from Photoshop forum)

       

      I really want to use Photoshop ACR to import my Nef files, but I seem to be running in to a quality issue.

       

      When I look at the photo i've imported in to Photoshop CS4 with the version of ACR (5.3) against Capture NX 2, it doesnt look anywhere near as sharp.

       

      If you look at the attached file you can see what I mean - on the left is the preview in photoshop CS4 (ACR Window) & on the right is NX 2.

       

      I would add that NX 2 isnt doing any sharpening or amending - i've turned it all off.  In addition I also add that when I look at the file using View NX it looks as sharp as it does in NX 2, & that doesnt do any sharpening either.

       

       

      I would say that even at the highest level of Sharpening in ACR, it doesnt look as good as NX 2.  I did try the demo of Bibble & that was better - but I find it hard to believe that ACR is worse than either of these two & I'm sure I must be doing something wrong.

       

      In ACR I have it set to as shot in basic (and it doesnt alter if I take the Preview off), so it doesnt look like it's a setting that's degrading the quality.

       

      This means i'm forced to use NX 2 to export to Tiff, & then open in Photoshop, which is a pain.

       

      btw - I have to say the NX 2 interface sucks! Hence my reasoning to use ACR, which I am so used to.

       

      Any help would be appreciated.

       

        • 1. Re: Nef Quality Issue
          rasworth Level 1

          The NX2 image is definitely sharpened - NX2 honors the sharpening parameters in the camera, and my guess is even though you added none in NX2 you have some sharpening set in the camera.  BTW, you can easily sharpen much more heavily in ACR, just move the pixel and detail sliders to the right.

           

          Richard Southworth

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Nef Quality Issue
            Jeff Schewe Level 5

            As indicated in the previous post, the version of the image from Camera Raw is hardly optimized...what EXACTLY are the settings you've used in the Detail panel? It's also pretty clear that the NX version has had a stronger tone curve applied and the deep shadows are being set pretty low. As a result, the NX image seems to look the best at what is perhaps considered "default". If you haven't tuned the Camera Raw version beyond the defaults, the comparison is not an apples/orange comparison.

             

            While it can be argued that by "default" (meaning with no additional user intervention) Capture NX will look more closely matched to the camera JPEG (and the LCD display) than Camera Raw, the reason is that the camera makers "tune" their results while Camera Raw tends to "normalize" it's results. Camera Raw supports over 200 raw file formats so by default Camera Raw attempts to create the Camera Raw "default" to be an honest interpretation of the raw image data, not an idealized result.

             

            With a bit of experience and practice, Camera Raw can meet or exceed the results of pretty much any other 3rd party raw processor. Some might do color a bit easier/better, others might deal with noise a bit better and some might extract a bit more detail. But we are talking hair splitting, not massive differences...the example you've posted is typical of a camera maker's software doing better at default than Camera Raw at default. All it proves is that by default, the camera makers' can match the LCD and camera JPEG more accurately. But with a bit of adjustment, the Camera Raw version can be brought very close to the camera made version.

             

            I suggest you go back to the settings you've used and do some work in the image. Note you will need to x=zoom to 100% when doing the settings in the detail panel. If you want to post the original raw for others to tack a whack at, that can give you the chance to see what others can do.

            • 3. Re: Nef Quality Issue
              John Joslin Level 6

              Great explanation Jeff!


              Maybe you should write a book about it. 

              • 4. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                Bill_Janes Level 2

                Jeff Schewe wrote:

                 

                As indicated in the previous post, the version of the image from Camera Raw is hardly optimized...what EXACTLY are the settings you've used in the Detail panel? It's also pretty clear that the NX version has had a stronger tone curve applied and the deep shadows are being set pretty low. As a result, the NX image seems to look the best at what is perhaps considered "default". If you haven't tuned the Camera Raw version beyond the defaults, the comparison is not an apples/orange comparison.

                 

                While it can be argued that by "default" (meaning with no additional user intervention) Capture NX will look more closely matched to the camera JPEG (and the LCD display) than Camera Raw, the reason is that the camera makers "tune" their results while Camera Raw tends to "normalize" it's results. Camera Raw supports over 200 raw file formats so by default Camera Raw attempts to create the Camera Raw "default" to be an honest interpretation of the raw image data, not an idealized result.

                 

                My own tests with the Nikon D3 may clarify what Jeff has noted. The Adobe Standard profile for this camera has a black point of 5, rolling off the deep shadows. Midtone contrast is less than that of the Nikon tone curve as produced by NX with the Standard Picture Control.  If you want the ACR results to look more like the Nikon results, you should use the Camera Standard profile with ACR. With this profile and the default black point of 5, the shadows are rolled off and the midtone contrast is rather high, as indicated by the slope of the curve. Using a black point of 3 produces results very similar to the Nikon Standard picture control. In my experience, the colors produced by NX and ACR with the Camera Standard profile are similar. For punched up saturation with landscapes, you could try the Camera Landscape profile. I have no trouble getting results with ACR very similar to those produced by NX.

                 

                The user interface and speed of NX suck, and I have not bothered to update to NX2 and find ACR and Bridge far more to my liking.

                NikonACR_TRCs.png

                • 5. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                  Harrythephot

                  I have to agree with the original poster.

                   

                  Neither ACR nor Lightroom can properly decode a NEF file. Just opening one in either View NX or Capture NX presents a sharper and more detailed image with "truer colour and no matter how long I have worked on an image in ACR or Lightroom I cannot achieve the level of detail that View or Capture gives me.

                   

                  Phase one's capture One also displays a NEF file properly with all of it's fine detail intact, so it is possible from a third party program.

                   

                  When I used Canon, I saw no conversion quality issues, but on adopting Nikon I saw a very noticeable quality drop, untill I tried NX and Capture one.

                   

                  I really do wish Adobe could see their way to use the Nikon algorithms or whatever is needed, as Lightroom / ACR are a pleasure to use, but the disapointing conversion of NEF files, means that I have to use Nikons own quirky software to process anything I want to print bigger than 8x6 and phase one just do not have the user friendly workflow or flexibility.

                   

                  This issue has been raised in a great many forums, so I am surprised that Adobe haven't rectified the problem.

                   

                  It's not all bad news, as Lightroom/ACR have just about everything else in their favour over the other available programmes, it's just such a shame that image quality isn't up to scratch for NEF's.

                  • 6. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                    Bill_Janes Level 2

                    Harrythephot wrote:

                     

                    I have to agree with the original poster.

                     

                    Neither ACR nor Lightroom can properly decode a NEF file. Just opening one in either View NX or Capture NX presents a sharper and more detailed image with "truer colour and no matter how long I have worked on an image in ACR or Lightroom I cannot achieve the level of detail that View or Capture gives me.

                        

                     

                    Why don't you present some pictures to back up your assertions? As a challenge, here is a screen shot of the same NEF rendered by ACR and Nikon Capture NX. Sharpening was disabled for both converters. I used the Landscape Picture Control in NX and the Camera Landscape profile for ACR. Your comparison is invited. Which is the NX rendering, left or right?

                     

                    http://bjanes.smugmug.com/photos/632526074_sHQKZ-O.jpg

                    • 7. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                      ssprengel Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                      The righthand image is somewhat sharper, although the whole thing is rather unsharp.

                       

                      Based on the comments, here, the righthand image would likley be NX (using the default camera-sharpening settings, perhaps) and the left is ACR with no sharpening.

                       

                      The original RAW for the original-poster's side-by-side would be nice to play with.

                      • 8. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                        Harrythephot Level 1

                        Bill I see no obvious difference between the two images you posted, but if I had to make a guess then I would say that the rightmost image may be the Nikon processed one. Too close to call though. If mine were that close I couldn't possibly have an issue.

                         

                        However, mine aren't anywhere near that close. Hopefully you will see why I consider this to be an issue.

                        The colour differences I am not concerened about, but the difference in the level of detail, I am.

                         

                        Have a look at the examples at these links.

                         

                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/30207556@N03/3865233390/


                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/30207556@N03/3864450905/


                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/30207556@N03/3865233750/

                         

                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/30207556@N03/3865374872/

                         

                         

                        All are 100% crops of the same image.

                         

                        The first in each sequence I imported into lightroom with my standard settings.

                        The second with the D3 Camera Standard profile

                        The third is exported directly from View NX with no.

                        All sharpening turned set to 0 in both programmes.

                        All images increased in exposure by 0.3

                        None are colour corrected after import or altered in any other way, so there will be differences in colour which I am not concerned with.

                         

                        The first sequence (Unsharpened) shows a portion of an image, showing the Grooms father during a church reading.

                        Notice the texture of the jacket.

                         

                        The second sequence (Unsharpened-2) is a different view of the same image and shows the carved eagle.

                        Notice the increased detail in the carving.

                         

                        The third sequence (Basic-Sharpened) is a sharpened version of the same shot.

                        View NX set to 2 sharpen out of 10.

                        LR set to 50 0.8 35.

                        I have tried it with the sharpening in LR at various settings and cannot equal the sharpness of the NEF files processed through either Nikon software or through Capture One.

                        Yes, all of the View or capture images have more pronounced grain than the Lightroom ACR images, but that can be reduced without losing the detail advantage.

                        For the sake of completeness I have downloaded ACR 5.4 and re-done the test using camera raw instead ( ACR v VNX).

                         

                        I haven't included any Capture One samples, but to all intents they are the same as the View NX samples.

                         

                        I am open to the idea that there is something I am or am not doing, as I love the workflow through Lightroom and if I can match the detail levels I get via the other programmes then all will be well with the world.

                         

                        Your thoughts?

                         

                        All the best.

                        • 9. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                          MadManChan2000 Adobe Employee

                          Harry, thank you for the examples. To take our troubleshooting to the next step, however, it would be helpful if you could post an example NEF or two (doesn't have to be these specific images, but certainly should be ones that have been giving you grief). That would give us an opportunity to see if we can apply the LR sharpening ourselves to get equivalent results. Sort of like having a group workshop here via the forums ... I imagine it would likely be educational for other forum readers who have had questions and concerns similar to yours.

                           

                          Eric

                          • 10. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                            Bill_Janes Level 2

                            ssprengel wrote:

                             

                            The righthand image is somewhat sharper, although the whole thing is rather unsharp.

                             

                            Based on the comments, here, the righthand image would likley be NX (using the default camera-sharpening settings, perhaps) and the left is ACR with no sharpening.

                             

                            The original RAW for the original-poster's side-by-side would be nice to play with.

                             

                            As per my original post, both images are unsharpened. The NX image is on the left and the ACR image on the right.

                             

                            Here is a link to the raw file:

                             

                            https://www.yousendit.com/download/YkxMK0d0NmM5eFZjR0E9PQ

                            • 11. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                              Bill_Janes Level 2

                              Harrythephot wrote:

                               

                              Bill I see no obvious difference between the two images you posted, but if I had to make a guess then I would say that the rightmost image may be the Nikon processed one. Too close to call though. If mine were that close I couldn't possibly have an issue.

                               

                              However, mine aren't anywhere near that close. Hopefully you will see why I consider this to be an issue.

                              The colour differences I am not concerened about, but the difference in the level of detail, I am.

                               

                              The second sequence (Unsharpened-2) is a different view of the same image and shows the carved eagle.

                              Notice the increased detail in the carving.


                               

                              Harry,

                               

                              I do see the increased detail in the carving of the eagle, but I don't know what accounts for the difference. Contrast can affect apparent sharpness. I would suggest repeating the experiment using the Camera Standard picture control in NX and the Camera Standard profile in ACR. That should help eliminate differences in tonality.

                               

                              Bill

                              • 12. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                                Harrythephot Level 1

                                I will find a suitable image and upload the NEF file to play with. I will also try as Bill said and use the same camera profile in ACR and Nx for an image to compare.

                                 

                                The main thing for me is illustrated by the suit where fine detail is blurred by the Adobe conversion and I am afraid it does notice in prints bigger than 8x6, where the NX image is usually "crisp" in any direct comparison.

                                 

                                I may have to take an image specifically to upload as I don't like to put any clients stuff up for play.

                                 

                                Like I say, I love the workflow and usability of Lightroom, except for this one flaw.

                                 

                                All the best.

                                • 13. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                                  Harrythephot Level 1

                                  Hi All. Batch 2 for your pleasure. Using the same camera profiles in NX and ACR.

                                   

                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/30207556@N03/3866209714/ Details in stonework


                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/30207556@N03/3866210114/ Detailing on dress


                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/30207556@N03/3865426143/ Weird colour shift. I have noticed this in slight shadow areas in lightroom


                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/30207556@N03/3866209322/ Details and catchlights. This was the first image I noticed the big difference between the image processed in LR and the same in CNX2.

                                   

                                  Where and how can I upload the NEF file for comparison. It is a 17Mb NEF.

                                   

                                  It's late here so that's all for now.

                                  Cheers.

                                  • 14. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                                    ssprengel Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                    The "Detail" in the original four examples appears to be high-ISO noise that has been erroreously sharpened instead of smoothed. It is a common Photoshop technique to add a little artificial noise to an overly smooth image to bring some life to it and reduce smooth-gradient banding but you can't really blame ACR for not sharpening detail only attributable to noise, can you?

                                     

                                    For example, in the area under and to the right of the man's chin in the fourth link (of the original 4-link batch), the background is entirely out of focus, so it should be smooth if the sharpening and noise-reduction settings are done correctly.  I would submit that NX is doing a really poor job with this image.

                                     

                                    Without having the actual RAW it is hard to know if ACR would do any better.

                                     

                                    ACR and Lightroom have a Masking slider in that sharpening panel that reduces or turns off sharpening of areas below the selected amount of "apparent detail" that you can preview with the Alt key, which is a crude instrument at separating areas of an image with mostly noise (which should not be sharpened) from the real object detail (which should be sharpened) and does a reasonable job sometimes, but you really need something like NoiseNinja or NoiseWare, which have plugins for Photoshop as well as standalone versions, to do the analysis of image detail by lightness and color and spatial frequency to have a better shot at guessing what areas need to be sharpenend and what areas need to be smoothed.

                                    • 15. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                                      Bill_Janes Level 2

                                      Rather than subjectively comparing images, one can use a tool such as Imatest to analyze the images and derive numerical data. I selected a raw image of a slanted test target from my files and rendered into aRGB TIFFs with NX and ACR using the standard picture control in NX and the camera standard profile in ACR. Sharpening was disabled in both programs. In ACR I used the default NR of 0 luminance and 25 color. For NX, NR was left at default also. NR in the camera was turned off and NX reads and uses this setting. The lens was the 60 mm AFS MicroNikkor G and the camera was the D3 set to ISO 800.

                                       

                                      The graphs presented below demonstrate edge rise distance from 10-90% contrast and MTF 50. The dotted red lines show the same data with what Imatest regards as idealized sharpening. NX has a slightly better edge rise response and MTF50.

                                       

                                      http://bjanes.smugmug.com/photos/633370134_Q9b8q-O.png

                                       

                                      The graphs below demonstrate chromatic aberration, noise spectrum, and the Shannon information capacity. NX automatically applies chromatic aberration correction automatically, while this must be done manually in ACR and I did not apply CA correction in ACR since it was relatively small with this lens. The noise spectrum is slightly better with ACR and the Shannon information figure (which takes MTF and noise into account) is slightly better for ACR.

                                       

                                      http://bjanes.smugmug.com/photos/633370131_h69u9-O.png

                                       

                                      In summary, this objective test does not show significant differences between the two raw converters with this camera and under these test conditons. The graphs also show the importance of sharpening. The D3 uses a medium intensity blur filter and sharpening is mandatory to counteract this blur.

                                      • 16. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                                        Harrythephot Level 1

                                        Hi Bill. I certainly cannot argue with the science, but in a few of the examples posted I honestly cannot get the ACR conversion to match the NX conversion for detail. The shot with the Catchlight was the one that alerted me to this difference as I thought my flash was playing up when I processed the image in LR, but a quick check in NX showed what I expected. No matter how much sharpening or detail or any other combination I tried in LR or ACR, they would not give me the crispness of the default NX image.

                                         

                                        If the D3 has a "medium blur filter" (Antialias?), then maybe the NX software and also Phase one Capture are automatically correcting for this, whereas the Adobe rendering does not, or not to the same degree.

                                        I have found a work around for the moment in that I process all of the NEF files to Jpeg through ViewNX and then import the jpegs into lightroom for any subsequent work, or just for the organisation that LR offers. Even thought they are in effect processed twice, it gives me a crisper final image.

                                         

                                        Bit of a pain though.

                                        • 17. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                                          ssprengel Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                          ACR needs a higher maximum sharpening level:  Sharpening amount, radius-range, and detail-amount.

                                           

                                          Increasing sensor resolutions allow the camera being able to see beyond the resolution of the lens and images start out being less sharp at the pixel level than they used to be.  Perhaps ACR has not kept up with this decreasing pixel-level sharpness?

                                           

                                          I would suspect that NX is using a different RAW-conversion algorithm than ACR, and perhaps ACR's is superior in separating real detail from noise, but the base-level of sharpening in NX is much higher and some people want higher sharpening than what maxing out the Sharpness and Detail sliders in ACR allow.

                                           

                                          I would like to see ACR have a smaller radius and at least double the maximum amount of sharpening, as well as a higher maximum value for the Detail slider

                                          • 18. Re: Nef Quality Issue
                                            Bill_Janes Level 2

                                            ssprengel wrote:

                                             

                                            ACR needs a higher maximum sharpening level:  Sharpening amount, radius-range, and detail-amount..

                                            Increasing sensor resolutions allow the camera being able to see beyond the resolution of the lens and images start out being less sharp at the pixel level than they used to be.  Perhaps ACR has not kept up with this decreasing pixel-level sharpness?

                                            Actually, the pixel density of the D3 is not that high, since it is a 12 MP full frame camera. It is less demanding of lens resolution than most APS dSLRs. The full frame sensor does require more coverage.

                                            I would suspect that NX is using a different RAW-conversion algorithm than ACR, and perhaps ACR's is superior in separating real detail from noise, but the base-level of sharpening in NX is much higher and some people want higher sharpening than what maxing out the Sharpness and Detail sliders in ACR allow.

                                             

                                            I would like to see ACR have a smaller radius and at least double the maximum amount of sharpening, as well as a higher maximum value for the Detail slider

                                             

                                            Sharpening was turned off in my tests and in some of the OP's tests. The lack of significant sharpening is comfirmed by my Imitest analysis. Sharpening causes "ears" to appear at each end of the Imatest edge plot, and none was present and the degree of undersharpening as estimated by Imatest was similar for both converters. The detail slider is similar in concept to the threshold of the unsharp mask. Moving the detail slider to the left damps the sharpening halos at high frequencies, and a valaue of 100 eliminates this effect and produces results similar to the unsharp mask. It would not make sense to have a detail value over 100 because the dampening effect at 100 is already zero.

                                             

                                            The ACR sharpening is more sophisticated than that of NX, which I think merely uses an unsharp mask. To test the raw conversion process itself, it would be perferable to turn off sharpening in the converter and then sharpen the resulting TIFF in Photoshop or some other program.