While there are many photo editors on the market that can develop images in RAW… I capture photographs with Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses.
In order to save yourself time in developing photographs from these cameras
RAW data and Picture Control Settings in Nikon Cameras
When you capture photographs in RAW and JPEG simultaneously you will have two files for every image you snap: RAW (Nikon Exif Format) and JPEG (RGB).
The NEF file is raw data. The JPEG applies settings from your Nikon’s Picture Control settings.
These settings can be imported and exported to Capture NX-D from the memory card on the camera or the JPEG file (when it is placed in the same folder as the RAW version).
This feature allows you to start editing an image (non-destructively) from the starting point of your Picture Control settings instead of the RAW data.
Commercial RAW editors (like Lightroom, Aurora, CaptureOne, DxO Photolab) interpret Nikon Exif Format (NEF) as best they can, but cannot actually reproduce the Picture Control settings in a Nikon camera.
Inside Capture NX-D you can apply Picture Control settings from your camera or settings that have already been imported from the Picture Control Utility into Capture NX-D.
Capture NX-D is a Photo Editor
NX-D is also a photo editor. It enables you to make basic adjustments for exposure, color balance, noise reduction, curves, etc. and label photos like you would find in almost any photo editor.
Labels and metadata export to software like Lightroom, DxO Photolab, and Adobe Bridge.
However, it also lets you register changes as adjustments that you can share between NX-D installations on other computers.
Exporting from Capture NX-D: 16-bit vs 8-bit TIFF
Of the options available for exporting from Capture NX-D, 16-bit TIFF is what you want to export to.
TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) is a very basic file format that was created to get desktop scanners in the mid 1980s to agree on a common scanned image file format. It is still widely used to print photography and is easily opened in any digital photography software.
16-bit contains trillions of colors.
8-bit contains millions of colors.
Consider what happens when you shift the color balance, or dodge and burn an image in Photoshop- you are changing the values of clusters of pixels.
This can cause what is known as “banding”. When values are changed too much you will create destructive noise in your image. Having more pixels (16-bit) gives you more space to work with making changes to the color and noise values of the pixels in your image.
To see banding for yourself inside of Photoshop,create or save a file as 8-bit.
Image > Mode > 8bits/channel
Then create and apply a gradient to the image using the Gradient Tool.
Next, apply a Levels adjustment layer to that gradient.
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels
Inside this adjustment layer, slide the blacks and the whites together. You can see how the gradient begins to “band” across an 8-bit image.
Whether you choose to use Photoshop or another editor after exporting to 16-bit TIFF is up to you.