Was unsure of where to post but this forum seemed to be the most appropriate. I have been trialing NIK HDR Efex as a standalone application similar to how I use Photomatix. Because HDR Efex needs a tiff file (no raw) I must first generate batch them before opening HDR Efex. I can do this in a batch in NX2 but Photo Mechanic also will generate tiffs and more easily than from NX2. However, not knowing how these tiffs are generated I am unsure if I am sacrificing some quality by using Photo Mechanic. I did a set yesterday using Photo Mechanic and was pleased with the result. Any comments about tiffs from NX2 versus Photo Mechanic?
I'm not a Photo Mechanics user but I would imagine that if you get it right in-camera just about ANY software package that is capable of handling Nikon NEF files will do a good job.
However, what would concern me is that any software package OTHER than NX2 will NOT recognise any sharpening and/or A-DL (???) set in camera. Neither will they recognise which Picture Control has been used.
Photo Mechanic is a browser, not an editor. I don't know how the quality of the TIFs generated by "save as" compare when done from NX2 vs PM, but if you require any adjustments at all, you will have to make them in NX2 or some other editor.
I understand that Photo Mechanic is not an editor, although describing it as "browser" greatly under estimates what can be with Photo Mechanic. I also understand that if I want to do any post processing before generating tiffs, I would need to use NX2 (or some other editor). However, I rarely modify my images before going into HDR processing, which up until now has been Photomatix. So my basic question is if I am only generating tiffs from my raw files before going into an HDR processor, is there a difference between a tiff generated from PM versus NX2 from unmodified raw files? I have tried this comparison and I don't really detect a difference on my laptop monitor.
I use PM to generate JPG's from NEFs all the time and am happy with the results. I haven't tried it with TIFs, since I rarely use that format.
If you're not noticing any difference, and are happy with the end result of your HDR process, then stick with it. I think too often we photographers second guess ourselves about our processess rather than just analyze the result.
Mick, thanks for the response. Like you I have PM for jpegs and have been pleased with the quality. I also agree that we can obsess a little. For me it is always a trade off between noticeable quality and time. Dave
TIFFs generated from PM originate from the embedded basic quality jpegs in the NEF. They won't be of as high of quality as 16-bit TIFFs originating from NX2. You can always try it and see what you think. My preference would be to generate 16-bit TIFFs from something other than PM.
Just to add a twist to this... if you edit a raw file in CaptureNX, saving the raw file, the embedded JPG by default will be something approximating a 95% quality JPG saved from Capture. Typically, for example, an out of camera D300 or D700 NEF with my settings is about 16MB and will deliver about a 500KB JPG using PM's extract routine. After editing it the file will grow to about 19-20MB due to the higher quality embedded JPG and PM will extract a 3-5MB JPG file.
Saving to TIF via NX will always result in a better image but I find that larger JPG from edited NEFs to be useful for many purposes.
What seems clear is if you extensively post process a NEF in NX2 such as local sharpening of a subjects eyes (the fastest way to do something like this) the NX2 saved Tiff contains the edits. When you open an edited NEF in NX2 it takes extra time as it starts with the RAW capture and processes each edit. When I open an NX2 edited NEF in the few other programs I use it opens much quicker - without the NX2 edits. The implication is saving to TIFF in other programs may not save NX2 edits, and as already mentioned, some camera settings. A quick way to check is save an unedited NEF and a heavily edited copy NEF to Tiff via NX2 and via any other software you wish. Then carefully compare the images at 100% to see what you do or do not get.
Photography is a bit like archery. A technically better camera, lens or arrow may not hit the target as often as it could if the photographer or archer does not practice enough.
Sat 20-Nov-10 03:20 PM | edited Sat 20-Nov-10 03:24 PM by walkerr
I'll try to make it extra clear since it doesn't sound like it's coming across:
- PM uses the embedded 8-bit jpeg within a NEF to create a TIFF. Using it is faster and more convenient than NX2, but there is a quality loss.
- If the NEF hasn't been edited by one of Nikon's programs before, the embedded jpeg will be a full-sized, basic quality image. If it's been edited, it's a full-size, high quality jpeg. Either way, you're creating a TIFF file from PM that originates from an 8-bit file.
- The information I received from Nik's product manager is that you should not use 8-bit files with HDR Efex Pro due to potential posterization concerns (especially true from a basic quality jpeg). It doesn't matter if the TIFFs coming from PM are 8-bit or 16-bit - they originate from 8-bit files, so the problem remains. This is especially true with wider color spaces such as Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB.
- I suspect that with many images, you'll probably be fine with the PM-originating files, but then you'll wonder the quality of some just isn't that good. You're better off saving TIFFs from NX2, even though it's on the slow side if you want good quality HDR images that don't have banding and posterization.
Incidentally, the embedded jpegs contain all edits applied via your Nikon camera or NX2, including sharpening settings, color preferences, contrast, etc. That's because they are created with either the camera or NX2. If you do use PM-created TIFFs, be sure not to mix them with NX2-generated TIFFs that have things like distortion correction enabled. That'll mess up the image alignment.
Rick thank you for that very clear and concise explanation. I have always used CNX2 generated 16 bit TIFF's for any processing in Adobe or Photomatrix SW. I try to stay at the highest bit level I can until I need a JPEG for the Web, then I will create a final 8 bit file.
Just to add a little to this discussion I am posting a comparison of images with Tiffs generated from NX2 and PM which illustrates Rick's point. Both HDR images were generated with NIK HDR Efex using the default setting. No other processing was done. The images were resized for web display but no sharpening applied. The 16 bit Tiffs do give a higher quality HDR image when viewed at 100% as seen in the 100% crop images. The original 5 images were taken with a D300, Nikkor 17-55/2.8. Some of the differences may be lost in the web sizing.
Very informative thread! What about using View NX to create the TIFs? I usually use this method for import into Photomatix because I find the resulting HDR image far sharper (due I assume to application of in camera set sharpening). Photomatix can ingest my NEFs directly but I can never get the end result as sharp even afterwards in Capture NX2. I.e. I find my images going into Photomatix must be sharpened for best effect.
Any downside using View NX rather than Capture NX to create the TIFs?
I guess someone mentioned distortion correction, I would be missing that?
Is there anyway to tell Capture NX2 to always do distortion correction by default?