Why use Photo Mechanic?
I struggle with CNX2 vs. Aperture vs. Lightroom etc. I see many Capture NX users seem to use Photo Mechanic and I'm wondering what are some of the specific benefits?
Can Photo Mechanic see changes made with Capture NX2 ?
Thanks and have a very happy, successful Nw Years
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#1. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 0Fri 31-Dec-10 02:29 PM
Hi Alan and Happy New Year. Yes, there are many happy PM users here. I suggest looking at previous posts as there is a lot of useful information that has been shared about the merits of PM versus other options. Cheers, Peter
#2. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 0Fri 31-Dec-10 03:17 PM | edited Fri 31-Dec-10 03:17 PM by mklass
It is the fastest, simplest, most reliable way to get images on your computer, manage them, tag them and open any one of several image editors to work on them.
For quick crops, color space conversion and conversion to jpg, tif and psd
converts raw images to dng
creates slideshows and galleries for the web and will do a slide show on your computer
will E-mail your images working with your e-mail client
and more with much able to be automated
Try the 30-day free trial. It is worth the $150 for the full version.
Oh, it also plays very nice with CNX.
#3. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 0Fri 31-Dec-10 06:49 PM | edited Fri 31-Dec-10 06:56 PM by nrothschild
PhotoMechanic (PM) sees the Capture NX changes because it works only with the embedded JPG in the NEF files. PM never renders the image, which could be good or bad but it is certainly good from a performance point of view. Everything PM does is fast.
PM will extract that embedded JPG exactly as is, or it will "save as" a JPG, TIF or Photoshop PSD file. It manages "soft crops" where you draw a rectangle boundary that is stored in the XMP data without changing the actual image. It will re-size images and save them in different JPG qualities than the original.
The embedded JPG starts out life in camera (for modern cameras, not the D1 or early D2 series)as a full resolution JPG basic, of about 500KB size for a typical 12mpx file. Capture NX2 will update that JPG as a very high quality JPG fine, approximately equal to a 95% JPG quality level. That is why it can take some time to save a raw file in Capture- it is re-rendering that specific preview image. The embedded JPGs created by Capture NX2 are essentially as good as you can get from any JPG rendering program.
PM also rates, color classes and manages keywords and other IPTC/XMP data and has a very sophisticated ingest routine. It will inter-operate with Capture too, displaying the star ratings and color classes in both although it takes a very specific configuration to make that trick work.
PM also watermarks images during the Save AS... operation. That makes the Save as operation a complete one click solution for web images.
PM opens thumbnail displays in "Contact Sheets". Multiple sheets can be opened at one time, and a single sheet can contain images from multiple folders or an entire child folder structure. I've had dozens open at once. This feature alone can make PM worth the price of admission.
Because of all the above, you can shoot RAW only, but get the advantages of Raw+JPG without the problems of managing redundant files. Here is a sample workflow to demonstrate...
1. Shoot images
2. Ingest via PM, which may rename the files in very smart ways, substituting any IPTC/EXIF data in the file name, for example.
3. Rate class and keyword if desired.
4. Prepare soft crops for basic web output and preliminary analysis of the images.
5. For quick output, and probably suitable for 800-900 pixel web display for many uses, save as JPGs for web display, resizing and setting quality levels accordingly.
6. Edit selected images in capture, opening Capture from PM's contact sheet.
7. Save the updated images, in PM, for highest quality JPG and extremely good web images. Or TIF or PS files, although I'm not sure why one would want to create big fat lossless files from even high quality lossy embedded JPGs. That is better done in Capture to get all the quality you can. The web images are re-sized, cropped and watermarked, ready for web use or other distribution.
PM remembers settings and maintains lists of multiple settings so you can have one standard setting for web output, another for printer output, etc.
I did all that without rendering images from Capture unnecessarily. I often batch out large numbers of JPG extracts and saves, saving many hours of machine time.
ViewNX is very good, and ViewNX2 is even better if it works for you (I have driver problems and cannot use it yet). Although the gap between ViewNX2 and PM is narrowing, there is still a substantial gap. I bought PM back in the View V6 days, I think. ViewNX2 does do a few things that PM does not, such as display active focus points on the image, and do some basic editing in a manner now similar to Lightroom, which may be a good work flow for some uses.
PM does so much it is hard to list all the unique features. I would suggest downloading a trial and giving it a good try, reading the manual so you understand all the features, many of which are not obvious at first.
If or when CameraBits gets a cataloging program on the market then we will have the option of an integrated browser and cataloging app designed to work well with NX. I use PM, Capture, and iMatch for my cataloging. Getting 3 completely disparate apps all talking to each other is a daunting task. Two apps (PM and Capture) would be far easier. I never actually got PM, Capture and iMatch all talking to each other, to the extent that as I understand it, PM can talk to iMatch or it can talk to Capture (sharing ratings and color classes, for example) but not both at once. At least I never figured out the magic configurations for all 3 apps to do so.
my Nikonians gallery.
#4. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 3jrp Charter MemberSat 01-Jan-11 10:49 AM | edited Sat 01-Jan-11 10:56 AM by jrp
For all the reasons stated by Neil, all of the AP and Reuters photogs we have met use PhotoMechanic to quickly process their news images and send them over to their editors over a fast link, just minutes after shot.
Have a great time :-)
JRP (Founder & Administrator. Mainly at the north-eastern Mexican desert) Gallery, Brief Love Story
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#5. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 4cchoc Charter MemberSat 01-Jan-11 12:31 PM | edited Sat 01-Jan-11 12:32 PM by cchoc
"all of the AP and Reuters photogs we have met use PhotoMechanic to quickly process their news images and send them over to their editors over a fast link, just minutes after shot"
It's my understanding that news photogs shoot jpeg and aren't allowed any PP, so that makes sense.
Nikonians Team Member
#7. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 6
#8. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 7Sat 01-Jan-11 05:56 PM
Those apps could display the embedded jpg (using WIC codecs, among other methods) but then it would very arguably lead to user confusion. Those 3 apps all render NEFs, but they do not read Nikon's shooting settings. The image they would display based on that jpg would not be the image you would see when processing the NEF using their rendering routines.
Not being a user of those apps, it's not clear to me that they don't ever use the various embedded jpgs- there is more than one. There is a small thumbnail, for example, intended for use on contact sheet displays of multiple images, or, for example, windows explorer uses that thumbnail for it's icon and thumbnail displays. That small thumbnail is also updated by CNX when it's edited. Those apps would work better, though, if they use their own rendered versions of the image whenever possible and they do have mechanisms to do so.
In a very recent thread, CNS and Lightrrom/Aperture were compared based on the subject of interest in that thread, and it was mentioned that Lightroom, I think, briefly displays the embedded JPG when it ingests images into it's catalog. That is an indication that technically it can and is being done.
There is a new standard called "WIC Codecs". Each raw file vendor makes their own codecs to perform in a standard way that can be universally read. For example, Windows Explorer uses these Codecs. When you do a fresh install of Win7 it can't display thumbnails for NEF files. If you download and install Nikon's WIC codecs it will then display that small thumbnail on the appropriate Explorer displays. The intent of the WIC codec is to make it easy for application developers to read the embedded JPG images. It's up to the developer to decide when and if they want to use them and in many cases it may not make sense, such as in Lightroom.
my Nikonians gallery.
#9. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 7Mon 03-Jan-11 03:22 AM
>How can PM read those embedded high quality JPEG's - including
>all the changes done by NX2 - yet Lightroom, Aperture,
Hi Alan. Just FYI, ACDSee Pro Beta 4 does make use of the embedded JPEG in a NEF. It does not do it as well. For example, if you want to email a NEF to someone, ACDSee Pro invokes its own raw converter to create the JPG. I understand PM extracts it from the NEF and even performs a color profile conversion if necessary.
#10. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 3
I too have struggled with whether to use LR vs PM & CNX2, and I've recently come back to PM & CNX2. I would like a knowledge check on what I think I know about PM in its current state.
My folder structure for storing images on my hard drive starts with a top-level folder for the year, then 12 sub-folders under each year for each month, and then subfolders under each month, one folder for a specific shoot. As I understand it, right now I can only view images in PM's current thumbnail view if I highlight the lowest level folder, i.e., the folder that contains images from a specific shoot. I cannot, for example, select the December 2010 folder and view all images from all of that month's shoots in a single thumbnail view, as I can do in LR. Furthermore, PM can filter images based on keyword selection only on those images that are in the current thumbnail view. I believe that PM software developers are working feverishly to develop a cataloging functionality (so says the CameraBits forum), which should, I assume, address this issue. Do I have this right?
#11. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 10Wed 05-Jan-11 06:11 PM
You can open thumbnails from one folder into the current contact sheet view of another folder. Check the context menu or file menu of PM to see the options.
So you can have images from multiple folders viewable in the same contact sheet.
#12. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 11Kirk Baker Nikonian since 01st Mar 2009Wed 05-Jan-11 06:19 PM
You can also use the contextual menu to open a folder and all of its folders into a single contact sheet. So for instance you could choose your December folder and open it and all of its subfolders into a single contact sheet tab.
As for filtering by Keywords, you could do a Find for a specific keyword which will select the ones that match, and then filter the view to only show selected items. Not as nice as a catalog search/filter, but we're working on it.
Kirk A. Baker
Senior Software Engineer
Camera Bits, Inc.
#13. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 12Wed 05-Jan-11 08:27 PM
Mick, Kirk, thank you. I didn't know PM could do that. I'll certainly try it out tonight.
BTW, I want to stress to the OP what one poster already pointed out: one of the advantages of PM is their superb support--as illustrated by Kirk's response.
#14. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 13Wed 05-Jan-11 08:48 PM
In my personal experience, among commercially available software targeted at end users and consumers they are unique in terms of the level and quality of support they give and the speed that they deal with problems. I've reported bugs and had a beta release fix issued within days. That's pretty unusual for consumer software.
PM is very expensive for a "browser app", considering many/most are free, and the maintenance is not cheap either but it is a good example of you get what you pay for, I guess.
I am a software developer myself, and try to take care of my clients the same way. But I am in the B2B market where there are fewer customers but they pay far more for that level of service.
Kirk does not pay me to say this- I'm not sure he even remembers me because it's been awhile since I've needed support
my Nikonians gallery.
#15. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 14TiggerGTO Nikonian since 22nd Feb 2006Thu 06-Jan-11 07:45 PM
I agree with Neil. PM is a fairly pricey piece of software, especially for hobbyists like many of us. However, you definitely get what you pay for and the customer support from Camera Bits is amazing. I am also a software developer, and in my environment, there is no way I could turn around customer problems as quickly or efficiently as Camera Bits does.
Kirk, if you're still reading this thread, thank you and the rest of the crew at Camera Bits for an excellent product with excellent support.
A Nikonian in North Carolina
#16. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 13robcran Nikonian since 22nd Mar 2007Fri 07-Jan-11 01:06 AM
I've come to this thread late, but I was interested in your situation. I am down to a PM plus CNX2 workflow. I use Photoshop Elements for cataloguing jpegs and the occasional bit of pixel editing. I keep my NEFS on a separate portable hard drive which is backed up onto a second portable hard drive but I don't catalogue my NEFs. I don't shoot so much that I can't find something via a folder search.
My folder structure is exactly the same as yours: year>month>shoot. (I put 01, 02... etc in front of the month name to make the folders sort in correct month order).
As I mentioned in another thread on this forum I think PM is fantastic for its rendering of the embedded jpegs and dispays a full screen image more crisply than CNX2 or PSE. I also value PM's ability to extract the embedded jpeg and resize and rework it on the fly through the "Save As" command.
Thanks to Kirk too for the advice on rendering multiple subfolders into one contact sheet. I'd never figured that out.
#17. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 16Fri 07-Jan-11 01:31 AM
>Thanks to Kirk too for the advice on rendering multiple
>subfolders into one contact sheet. I'd never figured that out.
I don't use PM but did trial it for a fun couple of weeks. Didn't know you could do that. Can you save such a collection so you could view it again some other day?
#20. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 17
#19. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 16Fri 07-Jan-11 02:11 AM | edited Fri 07-Jan-11 02:29 AM by JerryLoSardo
As I had stated in another thread, I converted over to LR for the last 2 or 2 1/2 years. Nothing wrong with LR, but 3 factors made me come back. First, as everyone knows, CNX2 retains your in-camera settings, LR does not. Let's face it, our cameras are pretty expensive toys, and the more I thought about it, it simply made no sense to not take advantage of that capability by not using CNX2. Second, U-point technology is fantastic to use. Third, the initial images rendered just just look better in NX2 than they do in LR (most likely because the in-camera settings are reflected in the image!). So, I've "rediscovered" the NX2 and PM combination and am having fun learning it all over again. I'm almost done re-reading Jason Odell's book cover to cover, and just received Mike Hagan's CNX2 book today from Amazon.
My apologies, I don't mean to hijack the thread. This is, after all, about PM.
#21. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 19Fri 07-Jan-11 03:09 AM | edited Fri 07-Jan-11 10:26 AM by mklass
Jason is going to be conducting an On-line seminar on the 29th of January specifically on this topic. You can get more information here: http://www.meetup.com/jason-odell-photo/calendar/15845660/
#22. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 19robcran Nikonian since 22nd Mar 2007Fri 07-Jan-11 05:53 AM
All your comments make perfect sense. I have never used Lightroom in any version because I was content with PM and CNX2. I toyed with the idea of getting Lightroom when CNX2 was giving me a lot of memory/freezing problems (as been discussed on this forum ad infinitum), but of late it seems to have quit that bad behaviour. I haven't changed my computer set up either so its present good behaviour is a bit of a mystery. Maybe I'm not flogging it hard enough of late to precipitate the freezing!
I've read Jason's book cover to cover. I should read it again because there is so much to take in. I would also love to participate in one of Jason's on-line CNX2 seminars but the speeds are too slow to make it a tolerable proposition from here. (Must look at that option again).
#18. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 3
Excellent summary Neil! Perhaps PM would like to use it on their web site!
>The embedded JPG starts out life in camera (for modern
>cameras, not the D1 or early D2 series)as a full resolution
>JPG basic, of about 500KB size for a typical 12mpx file.
>Capture NX2 will update that JPG as a very high quality JPG
>fine, approximately equal to a 95% JPG quality level. That is
>why it can take some time to save a raw file in Capture- it is
>re-rendering that specific preview image. The embedded JPGs
>created by Capture NX2 are essentially as good as you can get
>from any JPG rendering program.
OK, now this statement has got me curious. This suggests that it is advisable to process all NEFs with CNX2 (even if no adjustments are required) as this will make the embedded JPEGs go from a JPG basic quality to a JPG fine quality?!
#23. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 18Fri 07-Jan-11 10:29 AM | edited Fri 07-Jan-11 10:52 AM by nrothschild
>OK, now this statement has got me curious. This suggests
>that it is advisable to process all NEFs with CNX2 (even if no
>adjustments are required) as this will make the embedded JPEGs
>go from a JPG basic quality to a JPG fine quality?!
Good question, Peter, and it is fundamental to the practical utility of PM. It depends on how you define "advisable" .
I think PM rendered images straight out of the original NEF are pretty good, and are probably sufficient for a lot of web use, and probably even 4x6 prints. If I were printing 8x10 or larger I would certainly want the highest quality possible but it is unlikely I would use an unprocessed image to begin with.
I took what I thought was a decent candidate image for out of camera display and rendered 4 JPGS to illustrate two extremes. These are in my gallery here so you can download and pixel peep them .
The image was shot with a D700 and 70-200 VR (V1) using Standard Picture control with sharpening set to 5, which is my generic shooting setup.
Image #1 (DSCN_219082-OrigA). This is straight out of camera (JPG Basic), Saved As by PM to 1200 pixels, uncropped, resharpened and watermarked. This is the largest size we allow in an embedded web post and generally larger than I personally put in my web galleries.
Image #2 (DSCN_219082-NXA). Same as above, but PM saved as from a NEF that was opened in CNX2 and saved (now JPG Fine).
Image #3 (DSCN_219082-OrigB). This is straight out of camera (JPG Basic), Saved As by PM as original pixels (no resizing), well cropped, NOT resharpened, and watermarked. I wanted to illustrate the effect of fairly severe cropping. If I were going to crop much deeper than this (maybe a birding image) I would be doing a lot of work in CNX anyway and this would be irrelevant.
Image #4 (DSCN_219082-NXB). Same as above #3, cropped without resizing, but from a NEF saved As from CNX2.
The only obvious difference to me is that the images from CNX2 are a bit sharper but that is a function of CNX2, not the quality of the embedded images per se. The NEFS I saved from CNX2 had no additional processing- they should be the same as selecting a bunch of NEFs in the CNX2 contact sheet and doing a mass Save as without applying any batch processed settings. But CNX2 does tend to sharpen a bit differently even when using the stock out of camera picture control settings.
Edit: A JPG extracted from this straight out of camera image file is 1.1MB, a bit larger than I might have suggested previously. A PM Extract does just that- it extracts the embedded JPG without any other processing such as sharpening or changing the quality level.
That extracted image is far larger than the 300KB we can post here and far larger than most people would want to put in their web galleries even without any size restrictions (if they pay for their gallery space as I do in my Pbase gallery, for example). I think there are very diminishing returns from doing the resizing from a larger (JPG Fine) image even though in principle it could result in a slightly better final web image.
my Nikonians gallery.
#25. "RE: Why use Photo Mechanic?" | In response to Reply # 23Sat 08-Jan-11 03:02 AM
>Good question, Peter, and it is fundamental to the practical
>utility of PM.
Yes, this is exactly what I am thinking!
>I took what I thought was a decent candidate image for out of
It is a pleasant, colourful, sharp image.
>These are in my gallery here so you can download and pixel
>peep them .
I downloaded them and viewed them carefully with ViewNX2. I compared them before reading which was which to avoid introducing a bias.
>Image #1 (DSCN_219082-OrigA). This is straight out of camera
>Image #2 (DSCN_219082-NXA). Same as above, but PM saved as
I can not see any image quality differences in between these two images. I do see a slight difference in colour but it is not significant to our discussion: take a look at the subject's red, left sleeve (camera right) or his red-ish right cheek. These areas in NXA are slighly deeper/darker/higher-contrast. Again, not relevant to our discussion I think.
>Image #3 (DSCN_219082-OrigB). This is straight out of camera
>Image #4 (DSCN_219082-NXB). Same as above #3, cropped without
I agree with you. NXB looks slightly sharper than OrigB. You can see it in the stubble on the gentleman's face. It is subtle.
>But CNX2 does tend to sharpen a bit differently even when
>using the stock out of camera picture control settings.
Yes, I imagine an CNX2 Save As... invokes rendering algorithms which is unlike a simple extraction of the preview JPG.
>I think there are very diminishing returns from
>doing the resizing from a larger (JPG Fine) image even though
>in principle it could result in a slightly better final web
Thanks for the opportunity to examine this in detail. This type of analysis is interesting and informative.