5 Replies Latest reply on Oct 29, 2009 3:41 AM by dlscape

    ACR vs Capture 2?: Which is better?

    Scott Citron Adobe Community Professional

      Recently I spoke at a photography workshop sponsored by Nikon. My job was to show a typical workflow that began by processing raw Nikon images in Lightroom or ACR. During my demo, a spokesman from Nikon broke in, claiming that their Capture NX 2 software does a better job converting Nikon NEF files than ACR. He went on to further suggest that all proprietary raw convertors tend to produce better results than ACR.

       

      As an owner of Capture NX 2 I did a little experiment today to test the man's theory. I opened the same NEF file in Capture and ACR. Although the results differed, I can't say that one was necessarily better than the other. Was the Nikon rep simply defending his employer, or do Nikon/Canon/etc convertors produce better results than ACR?

       

      Scott

        • 1. Re: ACR vs Capture 2?: Which is better?
          Jeff Schewe Level 5

          Scott Citron wrote:

           

          During my demo, a spokesman from Nikon broke in, claiming that their Capture NX 2 software does a better job converting Nikon NEF files than ACR. He went on to further suggest that all proprietary raw convertors tend to produce better results than ACR.

           

          And this alters your perception of the universe how?

           

          What did you possibly expect from a representative from Nikon to say..."yeah, ya know, our software sucks rocks so use Camera Raw"?

           

          Seriously? You find this in the least bit unexpected?

           

          The fact is, at "default" all the camera makers will do a better job of matching the LCD/JPEG image produced by the cameras. Well, DOH, Camera Raw supports over 230 camera raw files...one would expect that the camera makers' software would do a pretty good job of matching the camera JPEG output pretty good (heads would roll if that wasn't the case).

           

          But as to what produces the most "accurate" (in terms of scene referred color) from cameras' raw files, I doubt the camera makers' software would rank very high. They like to apply "looks" to make the images "look" better, not more accurate.

           

          Seriously, raw is raw...what the output is "supposed" to look like is up for determination. If you want "accurate" vs "pleasing" or other "looks" then you really don't want to be using the camera makers' software as Adobe rendering of raw files tends to be far more "accurate" when one tests the results vs accurate color measurement. But Nikon and Canon don't want you to want "accurate", they want you to want their "look" (which tends towards darker shadows and more contrast/saturated color).

          • 2. Re: ACR vs Capture 2?: Which is better?
            Scott Citron Adobe Community Professional

            Yes, it's no surprise that the Coke distributor likes Coke best and the Pepsi guy likes Pepsi best. My reason for asking the question was to try to get beyond the expected Nikon bias to the truth.  Your answer is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks, Jeff.

            • 3. Re: ACR vs Capture 2?: Which is better?
              joshcali

              Jeff,

              There's a few things that may help understand why the Nikon employee mentioned their software was more accurate for the color representation off of Nikon cameras.

               

              First, DPP (canon's software) is known for getting color that matches what you see on your camera far more accurately than any software from Adobe. I'm sure nikon is the same. In addition, Lightroom adds FAR darker shadows, and contrast than the default image from canon.

               

              The looks in lightroom also far exceed the adjustments in the manufacturers software.

               

              In addition, each camera puts out different raw data. Nikon and Canon invest tons of research into accurate color reproduction. The jump in color when running items through lightroom can be disturbing. at best.

               

              And saying that camera manufacturers are just better at matching their jpgs is not really a complete answer.

               

              The manufacturers write their own custom data, and know the ins and outs of their chips output, so they know how to best interpret it for accurate color reproduciton. The jpg is not something they are trying to match, the jpg is the result of using their custom algorithms based on their chips output.The same algorithms are used to complete the conversions later in their custom software.

               

               

               

              If Nikon's results are anything like Canon's, then yes, the colors are often vastly more accurate inside the manufacturers software.

               

              And many professional photographers know this (there are many posts in the lightroom forum around this issue).

              • 4. Re: ACR vs Capture 2?: Which is better?
                Jeff Schewe Level 5

                joshcali wrote:

                 

                If Nikon's results are anything like Canon's, then yes, the colors are often vastly more accurate inside the manufacturers software.

                 

                 

                Accurate?

                 

                You sure?

                 

                I think not...if you have solid evidence from something like Imatest  that shows the camera makers' software MORE accurately renders the original scene compared to Adobe Standard, the default DNG Profile for Camera Raw 5.x., then bring it on. All of the tests I'm familiar with indicates that for most cameras, Adobe Standard is more accurate than the camera makers' software.

                 

                That's not to say that Adobe Standard matches the camera LCD or the camera JPEG...but the moment you decide to talk about "accurate" you pretty need to totally ignore the camera LCD and JEPG cause those aren't really accurate at all.

                 

                No, really, there's the camera "look" and then there's an accurate rendering of the original scene. By and large, Adobe wins in the accuracy department.

                 

                Now, if you want to talk about "looks"...both Nikn and Canon are duking it out in that department. But accurate color rendering of the original scene ain't rocket science, now that we have the DNG Profiles.

                 

                What is still a struggle is maximizing the image quality for noise suppression and detail enhancement. In that regard I suggest you check out Lightroom 3 Beta's IQ (even though the luminance noise slider isn't hooked up yet).

                 

                No, I don't think you really want to hold up either Nikon nor Canon as the ultimate arbitrator of accuracy...

                • 5. Re: ACR vs Capture 2?: Which is better?
                  dlscape

                  FWIW I have to go with what the Nikon man said. I was an avid fan of LR 1 and 2 but was blown away by the improvement I got processing my D700 files in C2NX. The big things that stood out were the auto chromatic aberration and lens distortion correction (assuming you're using a Nikkor lens). That alone can save you a few hours on a big shoot. Then there was the increase in detail, improved colour rendering and better noise reduction.

                   

                  Believe me, I almost cried when I swapped to C2NX for all my processing as it's a dog to use compared to the LR. However, if you want the best out of your Nikon camera, use C2NX.

                   

                  Mind you, I've not had chance to test LR3 beta (23MB through the 120MB download). I'm not a religious man, but I'm praying that LR3 can do what I need it to in terms of IQ. Even after spending $500NZ on C2NX, I'd swap back to LR in a flash if it could process NEF files properly.

                   

                  James Ball

                  www.dlscape.com