I use my d100 only in uncompressed RAW mode. I've tried the same photo printed directly from nef with Nikon capture, and then JPEG with Photoshop. The difference is important. Mostly in the medium tones. Lost of sharpness is also detected. Always using the full image size coming fron the camera.
I would like to increase the capacity of the buffer by going into JPEG, but having a look at the results, I'm not convinced. Why spending so much money in excellent lenses to throw it away by loosing quality processing the images?
I'm hardly planning to get a second body in order to not miss any shot.
sharpening, specifically unsharp mask, is what you need. it's at least as much art as it is science, but it's the key. there are many posts on it scattered in the forums, but if you look in the photoshop and capture forums you should find a wealth of information.
for technical reasons there is an antialiasing filter in all digital cameras. this filter allows you to capture fine detail such as individual hairs, but has the disadvantage of making the overall image somewhat soft or out of focus. sharpening fixes this. taken too far, however, it will introduce a black or white halo around objects in the picture.
generally, sharpening should be the last thing you do to an image.
There are a lot of good reasons for shootin in NEF, but if you don't mind the process required--including setting the right wb--for jpegs, there doesn't have to be a drop-off in quality.
I shoot jpeg-fine images all the time, along with NEF images. I've spent a lot of time practicing and refining my post-processing skills and the end result is that there is no difference in my printed enlargements between the two formats. Perhaps Bob T. (drjimbob) can add an opinion being that he has seen my printed work firsthand.
Besides, that increased buffer performance comes in handy sometimes.
Dan, Would you care to share your workflow for each form, RAW and JPEG? I really need the buffer that jpeg offers, but I feel that I have to shoot RAW. It has to do with the type of shooting I do, I never know when I might need that extra large print.....
I've seen Dan's prints, and I've seen him win prizes in club compeition. I think if you are careful with post processing you can get a more than decent print from a jpeg rine file. Sometimes I shoot jpeg fine, and sometimes RAW (with the Fuji S2). I generally shoot RAW if lighting is tricky, or if I know that I might be doing some extensive manipulations.
An aside - the advice to sharpen should be paid attention to.
A BAD DAY BEHIND A NIKON (OR NIKON-HYBRID DSLR) BEATS A GOOD DAY BEHIND A DESK - Bob Tomerlin My Nikonians Gallery
Don't forget about compressed RAW mode, too. It slows everything down, so it's not much use if you have to squeeze off several shots in a row. But I sometimes resort to it for landscape shots if I think I may run out of space on the card eventually and I'm not in any hurry.
If you are printing from Photoshop, why do you feel the need to convert to JPEG before you do it?
The most obvious difference between the NEF and JPG is the 12bit (seen as 16 in PS CS) vs. the 8 bit. Why lose the data? You can print save the file in PSD format to preserve everything you edit including layers.
The only reason I convert to JPG is to give the files to others (mostly family) or if I post the files on the internet (usually for sale).
I shoot exclusively in RAW as I rarely have a problem with the cache. I not saying I don't have it in mind, but usually it is not an issue.