- JPEG Standard: I don't know what that means, but let's assume it means what a JPEG straight out of the camera looks like when opened as a JPEG in Nikon's Picture Perfect, or whatever came with your camera.
- RAW (meaning NEF) opened in Nikon's View NX;
- RAW opened in Capture NX;
- RAW opened in Adobe Camera Raw; and
- RAW opened in Bibble.
I'll let you do this hands-on interactive experiment yourself. Whatever you conclude, I hope it is that you're never going to get the "Nikon Look" by importing a Nikon RAW file into an Adobe product, not in a year of Sundays. I certainly do not know which combination of settings will do THAT to "fix" the blues and simultaneously "fix" the yellows (or even subsequently "fix" the yellows, with the caveat that it can't "un-fix" the reds!!! Somewhat like thinking your way through a Rubik's cube), not to mention to get that particular "fix" on the purples. You might get close, but then again, don't you have a life you need to get on with?
And then there are the so-called "plug-ins" and other settings patches that people will concoct in order to "solve" this problem. How well they succeed, in my opinion, depends on your answer to the above question, and how likely you are to decide that "Box of Chocolates" is fine by you, just as long as the photograph ends up looking nice in the end.
I don't say this just based on discovering this little color chart test, by the way. I only discovered this color chart a couple weeks ago, but have been trying to "fix" certain photographs in various programs for months now (long story; but suffice it to say that regardless of which program you use, if the pic you start with is junk you're gonna have a lot of work on your hands). The worst, I've found, is reds of any kind. Forget about getting them "right." Just try to get them to "look nice." The second worse, but far more fatal, problem is people. One set of adjustments will make one of your graduation shots look fabulous! And when you try to copy the adjustments, the readjustment on the other graduates look truly awful. If you aren't starting from some kind of predictable "neutral," you can forget trying to "fix" one graduate so that she doesn't look like a red-faced drunk, "fix" another one so that she doesn't look like a ghost, and "fix" the third so that she doesn't look green and her hair doesn't look like a lemon being electrified. Heaven help you if all three girls are in the same shot. Then, you're on your own.
No, for me it's a Nikon camera, shoot RAW, use custom white balance and (from now on!!!) a grey card, and edit in Capture NX2. Each of those steps is an investment in itself; last thing I need is a war with ACR to try to preserve as much as I can of the color etc. that I worked so hard to get "right" in the first place.
So, in terms of editing, I've covered the Adobe's. Now on to Capture NX.
Capture NX is an editing program. It isn't a media management program!!! And unlike Photoshop, it doesn't even have a "sister" library program (along the lines of Adobe Bridge). No, it isn't nearly as good at the whole label/rate/group/create-subsets/mass-meta-data-manipulation/recall thing as Lightroom, on account of it's an EDITING PROGRAM!!!!
In my opinion, Capture NX was a HECK of a lot better at the little bit of media management it did on the side than Lightroom was (particularly for a Nikon user) at its little bit of correcting and optimizing photographs, particularly for those shooting in RAW. Meanwhile, both NX and Lightroom have been updated. As far as I can tell so far, Lightroom's editing qualities have been vastly improved, while NX's media management powers haven't been. So Lightroom2 is less inferior to NX2 as an editing program than NX2 is inferior to a media management program.
Which is by now (the extent to which Lightroom surpasses NX2 in media management tasks) can't be measured in common units of measurement. Lightroom is simply THAT GOOD at media management. NX has never measured up to that standard, and still doesn't. And so far it seems, Nikon doesn't care. Because Nikon concentrated on building an editing program, which IMHO, for a Nikon user, is second to absolutely NONE.
And IMHO, if you're shooting JPEG's NX2 is still superior to Lightroom for editing purposes even for a non-Nikon user(!). It's truly an amazing photo editing program, the kind of program I think Adobe would have created if they had created the original Photoshop AFTER dSLR's started at $500 rather than after.
In comparing NX2 to Lightroom, IMHO, you're comparing apples and oranges. The real comparison would be to compare NX2 to Photoshop. In that case, I believe NX2 would win hands down. I mean there's a reason Adobe came up with Elements and later came up with Lightroom: for a photographer, Photoshop really is like having only one car, a 52-passenger long-distance luxury bus. That's how much it costs, that's how it handles, and my goodness, if it were the only thing in your garage it would drive you crazy. If your neighbor showed up with a little Corvette or an SUV you'd go bonkers. Sure you could (eventually) learn how to operate it so well that you could even "just" take it out for a spin to the local shop, but is it really worth all that (expense, learning curve, mammoth workflow) just so that you have access to a vehicle when it's time to pile all the relatives in for the cross-country trip to the family reunion?
The answer is one only you can discover. Finding the answer begins, of course, with (a) how much you can afford to spend, including (b) whether you can afford to have, and take time to learn, Photoshop as an additional program on your computer; and (c) just how often you'd like to be able to drive the entire clan to the family reunion.
For most photographers, once they think it through, they realize that Photoshop just isn't worth it, particularly now that there are such awesome alternatives (which didn't exist a short few years ago).
But then if don't need Photoshop you have to realize that no one program can replace it. If you choose for the easier and more color-faithful NX2 you give up a lot on the media management side. And if you choose Elements or Lightroom, you lose on the Nikon-color-fidelity side.
That's why, in my opinion, people end up keeping more than one program on their computers: one as their primary editor and another as their primary media manager. The better the two can take over each others task for the little stuff, the better. The better they can take over each other's tasks for the little stuff, and then READ, RESPECT, PRESERVE, and BUILD UPON EACH OTHER'S WORK, so much better still.
I wouldn't recommend ANY newbie starting any of these programs at the same time as starting another one. I'm not the type to suggest downloading all the trial versions, trying them all, and deciding based on your experience. A newbie isn't just learning how to operate the program but at the same time learning the skill which the program enables you to do. I wouldn't try to learn how to manage my pix in two different programs at the same time, and I CERTAINLY wouldn't try to learn image editing in two different programs at the same time. But once you have a pretty good basic grasp of either skill, it's great to get the one you don't have and start to learn that one, bringing your skills with you.
[An analogy: I'd never give my math students a Casio and a TI calculator on the first day of class and have them use both for a month and decide which they like better. Firstly I think they'd spend too much time trying to remember how to do a particular skill on one calculator vs the other when what I really need is for the "how" of that skill NOT to be a thinking-level decision after day two. What I really need is for the "how-to" bit to be in muscle memory at least by the end of day five, so that their brain power can be used to learn math.
In addition, at the end of the month they'd most likely choose the one which was easier to come to terms with first, regardless of how much "better" that one was for what they needed in the long run, and certainly regardless of the fact that it would only have taken an extra two weeks of practice with the purportedly "less user friendly" one to come to the same level of proficiency. Not to mention that the piece that is "more user friendly" to a beginner is not necessarily "more user friendly" after you've got a couple months of experience under your belt ... c.f. the "D40 vs D80 for a beginner" question.]
My conclusion? You'll need a media manager in the long run, no doubt about it. You may or may not want "Nikon-look" fidelity from your photographs. If the "Nikon-look" is important to you then I'd start with Capture NX2, Ben Long's book, and get going. When you'd like a little more help with media management than NX2 provides (if you're truly a newbie you'd be suprised how soon that moment won’t come), at that point decide whether you want Lightroom or some simpler (like Photo Mechanic, not the powerhouse that Lightroom is but nonetheless far more faithful with your Nikon files, and in addition, it's s-u-p-e-r-f-a-s-t!!!).
If, on the other hand, you don't care too much about punctilious color fidelity, but really really DO care about the ease at which you can label, tag, keyword, categorize, organize, and later FIND your pix, then I'd highly recommend starting with Lightroom, together with whichever book Lightroom fans tell you is the Go-To book for people starting out with Lightroom for the first time.
(I learned Lightroom using Scott Kelby's book, but I tell you from the bottom of my heart if I didn't already know what I was doing!!!! I wouldn't have understood a thing. I've found that books which claim to be accessible to genuine beginners are a dime a dozen. Books which actually are accessible, not to mention useful, for genuine beginners, are almost non-existent. But at some point surely there will be one for Lightroom as well! Whatever you do, in my opinion, don't try to learn a powerful program without a book; you'll spin your wheels for months, sometimes without even knowing it. That's a real shame.)
And then, if you start with Lightroom but have progressed to the point where you want "more," decide whether you want to add Elements to your arsenal (particularly for those moments when you do want to combine text with photography in creative ways for example, or remove things from your pix; check out this thread to see just how powerful that feature can be!), or perhaps NX2 (because you really would like to be able, on occasion, to get the photograph you thought you took, and not merely something in the neighborhood after funneling it through who knows how many "adjustments"). In the even longer run, you might just end up with all three! because sometimes, with enough money, RAM, and hard disk space, you really can have it all.
Hope this helps!
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing