How come I'm getting different color saturation and contrast amongst these 3 different jpeg source when compared to the original raw file. The programs are all set at default. I'd like to have some consistency with my post-processing.
1) direct jpeg from the camera 2) jpeg conversion by nikon viewnx 3) jpeg conversion by lightroom 4
Raw files have to be interpreted. There isn't one way of doing that and there isn't one method that represents truth. I would set your goal at getting the image you want as opposed to aligning results between different products. BTW, if you try processing your raw files in other tools (Capture One, DxO, etc.), you'll see additional permutations on those images.
Your out-of-camera jpegs should look like jpegs that ViewNX converted from RAW as Nikon's software can "read" all the camera settings such as saturation, contrast, etc. Lightroom cannot, so it converts RAW images using its own default settings. Use the camera profiles in the Camera Calibration menu to get you close to what you want or set up Presets.
A RAW image has to be converted by something to be viewable. How it looks depends upon what you open it with.
ProPhotoRGB is a bigger color gamut than sRGB or Adobe RGB and should be used if you are trying to optimize output for printing. Just prior to printing you should convert to the color space of the printer. The camera should be set to the biggest color space available,-Adobe RGB on my D7100.
All JPEGs produced from RAW files are simply a set of interpretations applied by a device or a program. The reason you take RAW files is to make those decisions yourself - otherwise you should shoot in JPEG mode from the start.
Each device or program makes determinations based on general preferences programmed into it. It's a starting point from which you tweak the image to what you want to see.
I would be more concerned if multiple devices/programs were NOT giving you different results.
Don't let it worry you and don't spend time concerned about it ... just make the final results from your RAW files be what you want them to be.
------------------ Mark 50 years of amateur photography Currently using Nikon D7100 My walk around lens is a Sigma 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro Nikkor Tokina AT-X116PRDXN AT-X PRO DX 11-16mm f/2.8 Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR Sigma 70-300 F4-5.6 APO DG Macro Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens Spiratone 500mm mirror Vivitar DF-383 DEDICATED ETTL LCD Flash Still - and always - learning photography