Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seeing CLS flash metadata with ViewNX

Reviewing the metadata of a picture (e.g. EXIF info on exposure details, focal length, etc.) is one way I improve my skills by learning what settings worked and what didn't. One of the settings that I have been looking for is the flash metadata. And I've found it in View NX.
With Picasa, all I had been seeing is whether flash was used or not, and sometimes it was even inaccurate (although I wasn't sure why). With Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, I got a little bit of additional info: whether flash was used and whether the camera detected the reflection of the flash. The latter gave me the idea that perhaps when there was no flash reflection detected (e.g., I used a modifier to soften the flash, and decreased flash exposure compensation), perhaps Picasa would show it as having not used flash. I would still have to guess what flash exposure compensation setting I used, and whether I used the pop-up flash to contribute light or not.
After surfing around Nikon's site, I came across ViewNX 1.4, Nikon's NEF and JPEG viewer. For something described as a mere viewer, it's quite powerful. First, it shows extensive metadata, including full CLS wireless lighting info (which groups were active, what mode they were on (TTL, AA, manual), what the individual flash exposure comps were). Second, View NX allows you to do some postprocessing on the pictures. Notable postprocessing features include:
- simulating a variety of color reproduction modes, just like the D3, D700 and D300
- applying D-Lighting (none, low, medium, high)
- highlight protection to recover highlights, shadow protection to recover shadows.
- chromatic aberration correction.
I've read a few comments criticizing ViewNX as a resource hog and as an inferior RAW processor, but so far I haven't noticed anything that would convince me not to use it.
Bottom line - this is a valuable learning tool. And it's free! http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/Product/Imaging-Software/NVNX/ViewNX.html