Adobe Lightroom2 and DNG camera profiles

DSC_9396_NX2_PC_vivid.jpgLet me start out by stating that I am an Aperture zealot. I jumped on board Aperture from day one and believe that the product's introduction was revolutionary. Heck it kicked Adobe in the head and woke the digital media giant into understanding what photographers really need, hence Photoshop Lightroom and now the (if I must say so) excellent Lightroom2. I can forgive Apple for the lame plugin implementation of dodge and burn, I can forgive no multi-adjustment presets, even if they do seem idiotically easy to implement. What I am starting to question is the Aperture development team's commitment to a professional product. Maybe I will rant about that later, for now I just wanted to cover a new development that has been a minor annoyance for myself and other RAW shooters for a long time.

I will speak only from a Nikon shooter's perspective but if you change the names the same kind of thing is true no matter what you happen to shoot. Once upon a time if you wanted your RAW processing to look like the JPGs produced by your camera with various in camera settings you really needed to use Nikon Capture, not a pretty piece of software but getting much better over the years. Still it is backwards and cumbersome compared to Aperture or Lightroom. With Adobe's release of Lightroom2 in combination with ACR 4.5 and the beta of DNG camera profiles plus profiling software this is not true anymore.

I just got done downloading and doing a quick compare of Lightroom2 RAW conversions using the new DNG camera profiles versus Nikon Capture NX2 RAW conversions with “picture control” settings with the same names and could not believe my eyes with respect to how close the conversions are. This is friggin' great if you happen to like the RAW conversions and in camera produced JPGs that your camera happens to make and want to use them as a starting point. Huge time saver compared to starting with the same old flat RAW conversion that Aperture makes and then tweaking it from there. This tweaking usually takes multiple adjustment blocks and is not quite the same for every single image (probably due to white balance). What's more is that Adobe has a free DNG camera profile editor and instructions on how to make your own camera profiles. This is totally great if you like to do that sort of thing or happen to shoot RAW with a camera that happens not to be a Nikon or Canon, you are now not out in the cold anymore. I can imagine that some dedicated non Canon/Nikon shooters out there will produce a bunch of profiles for their companions, if not do it yourself.

You can find the new tools here <——. I did a really quick comparison on the Nikon profiles for a D200 verses NX2. Check it out here <—–. The captions under the images represent the software and profile or Nikon “picture control” name for the conversion. For beta software I really think that it's amazing. If you are a RAW shooter and are still using the clunky camera manufacturer's software because of the RAW tone curve and color characteristics you may want to rethink that or at least try it out for yourself. I know what you are thinking - 'DNG conversions and all are a pain' but guess what, you don't have to do anything, the camera profiles work without converting your native NEF's or CR2's or whatever, they just work.

There are plenty of things I really love about Aperture compared to other products but the brilliant implementation of local adjustments, keyword synonyms, truly useful output sharpening, and now camera RAW profiles are starting to make the grass look greener and much more saturated over there on the Lightroom2 side of the fence.

RB

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