(news & commentary) Updated
Well, I managed to crash it in less than five minutes, so it’s definitely a beta ;~):
Judging from a core dump analysis, the program crashed in the cache queue creation on a folder of a couple of thousand images. Worse still, I suspect that it was another camera maker’s images in that folder that caused the problem. Oops.
Everyone is asking me what to make of this surprise announcement.
Actually, it wasn’t much of a surprise. At least not the announcement. I thought we were going to see this in the second half of last year, but things don’t seem to be progressing all that fast.
My initial take is this: Capture NX2 and all the Nik control points are gone. What we have in their place is ViewNX2 simplified and changed to include much more in the raw capability area:
Here’s the same thing in ViewNX2:
So Nikon has basically gone to an all-dark UI, minimized the tool bar icons, streamlined the folder and image selection, moved the histogram to its own window, and added all the raw adjustment tools in the right bar.
As it turns out, the new UI isn’t ViewNX2 at all, but the Silkypix OEM version, though with a few tweaks. Silkypix comes in two versions, DeveloperStudio (US$155) and DeveloperStudio Pro (US$265), plus several Japanese camera companies supply a cut down version dedicated to their cameras. As best I can tell from a quick examination of the code, it appears that Nikon has put their old NEF development module in place of the Silkypix one, then implemented the necessary changes in the Silkypix UI (Silkypix doesn’t support Picture Control editing, for example). In addition, Capture NX-D also seems to have ViewNX2’s rating properties, not Silkypix’s.
Nikon has moved to a sidecar file with NX-D, which is interesting and problematic. Curiously, Nikon seems to be saying that the move to sidecars was due to changing how batch processing works (from a sidecar of changes you point to as opposed to applying the current image’s embedded changes), but I suspect it was because of the use of Silkypix structure. The problem is this: if you’ve invested time and effort in Capture NX to modify your conversions, those are no longer recognized by Nikon’s new software. Worse still, under certain circumstances—convert to TIFF then save back to NEF—you can’t even open the file in Capture NX-D. That’s bad news for dedicated Capture NX2 fans: NX2 will be the last product that recognizes all their investment of time in tuning their conversions.
In essence, Nikon has taken a step backward from Capture NX2 and a step forward from View NX2. The problem I see is that, as it stands right now, NX-D is basically no more than a straight-forward, simplistic converter. It’s essentially the things you can set in the camera for JPEG implemented in a post processing program for raw. Gone are any ability to do graduated or localized effects or filters, so in essence we’ve taken a step backwards, as anything other than pure conversion will have to be done via another program via a 16-bit TIFF transfer. Moreover, we’re still stuck with Nikon’s few Picture Control bases to work from.
Nikon’s FAQ for NX-D is probably the most customer unfriendly and patronizing one I’ve ever encountered ("Q: I would like support. A: We are not providing support for the beta version of the application” and “Q: Is the sidecar file format supported by other Nikon software applications? A: No.” and “Q: I posted comments, will I receive a response? A: No.” Basically: here it is, use it if you wish, but you’re on your own. It’s the digital version of the we’ll get back to you brushoff.
Right now Nikon is projecting a summer release of NX-D, at which time Capture NX2 goes away. Indeed, after NX-D is released, Nikon won’t update Capture NX2 for any new cameras. That’s Adobe-like in its misunderstanding of what users need from their software provider, and it simply sends a huge warning bell: Nikon will continue to discontinue software in the future and legacy gear owners are either going to have to change their software or live with the version they have for as long as it runs on existing OS versions (which historically, isn’t very long).
Frankly, I don’t get it. Unless Nikon has something up their sleeve that isn’t reflected in the current version and any of the supporting documents and comments, I’m not sure how this new product solves any user problem that isn’t already solved better by existing products from others. Moreover, initial performance isn’t as good as many other products already available, either. Even Lightroom built an image preview cache faster than NX-D.
Bottom line: Nikon is still lost in the software world. Pity. We were all hoping for more.