Have you tried resetting defaults? It sounds like either your Camera Raw default settings have been changed, or sharpening has been set to Previews only.
1. Open an image in Camera Raw, select the Details tab, and check that setting are like defaults: Amount 25, Radius 1.0, Details 25, Masking 0. You can always reset defaults from the little menu icon on the right of the panel title.
2. Check Camera Raw preferences, looking for the item: 'Apply Sharpening to:' and make sure it says 'All images'.
You might want to check other preferences too, especially the 'make defaults specific' settings, which, when used, create multiple default settings depending on camera and ISO.
I tried resetting the defaults, and i changed the RAW preferences so that it wouldnt sharpen the image. For supply to photo libraries, images must be unsharpened. The issue seems to be when the image is opened; that is when it appears soft, and this is carried forward when opened into CS3. comparing ACR and Nikon capture sideby side the results on an unedtied RAW file are leagues apart.
I will try the make defaults specific settings later. Sharpening doesnt seem to be the problem; it is as if some form of nosie reduction is being added when the image opens?
thanks for your help.
Could it be the clarity slider set at some negative value?
(IF ACR 4.x had that; can't remember)
I supply to image libraries who require unsharpened images too, however, I have not disabled sharpening. Camera Raw's sharpening is "capture sharpening" or "pre-sharpening" (whatever you want to call it), not "output sharpening" which is what the image libraries mean. Indeed, my sharpening defaults are Amount 30, Radius 0.9, & Detail 18, which is slightly higher than factory default.
You say the image opens fine in Lightroom, but not ACR. Have you tried using an XMP file generated by Lightroom when opening the image in ACR? You could also try opening the image in Lightroom using an XMP file generated by ACR to see if Lightroom then behaves like ACR.
It seems that lightroom 4 beta gives me the same results, images that are soft, despite input sharpening being set to the same amount in all programs. Could it be therefore that I am being hypercritical in terms of expecting ACR to be as good as Capture NX, as NX is the software designed for the camera? or could it be that ACR does not have the correct profiles for my Nikon D3? If the latter is the case then presumably I will have to try CS5?
Im keen to get this sorted, as the workflow is so much easier with lightroom and ACR; batch work with NX is simply awful. Do I have to make a compromise on speed over quality?
What sharpening do you use with Capture NX?
Can you please post an image (or a small part of one) here so we can see the results? Perhaps someone will recognize what's up.