Friday, September 28, 2012

Nikon D600 DNG raw files show ridiculous Lightroom recovery

We're all still waiting for Adobe's raw support for the Nikon D600.  To be fair, Nikon should have allowed DNG support either in-camera like Pentax or at least as a conversion option in View NX2, so that we wouldn't have to wait like this no matter how new the camera is.

Meanwhile I found out that you can trick Lightroom into reading Nikon D600 raw files by altering the EXIF data to specify that the camera model is a model that is already supported by Adobe.  The downside is that the image will be cropped, and there is no guarantee that it will behave exactly the way it should.

To change the EXIF data, I used ExifTool by Phil Harvey.  For Windows, just download the zipfile, and extract it to a temporary folder.  Rename the executable file to exiftool (so that it doesn't say "(-k)" at the end of it).  Copy (not move) the D600 raw files that you want to convert into the temporary folder.  Launch the windows command prompt (cmd.exe) then change directories into the temporary folder*.

[*If you don't know how to use a command prompt then for simplicity put the temporary folder into your top user folder.  In the C: drive there is a directory called Users.  In that directory there is a subdirectory for your user name.  That is the top folder for you.  Create the temporary folder in that folder user name folder (just to be safe, use a name without spaces or punctuation and limit it to 8 characters).  When you launch the command prompt, you will be in the user name folder by default.  Change to the temporary folder by typing "cd xxxxxxx" where xxxxxx is the folder name.]

Once you are in the temporary folder, type the command: exiftool –MODEL=”yyyyyyy” –ext NEF *.NEF

Replace yyyyyy with the model name such as Nikon D800.  Be sure to include the quotation marks around the model name.  See the screenshot for some examples.

Once the exif has been modified, you can import it into Lightroom as usual (I converted mine to DNG).  As noted above there will be quirks.  These were the camera models I tried and the results:

  • Nikon D3200: the image was cropped (not resized) to a resolution of 6016x4000 - almost the native resolution of the D600 (6016 x 4016).  However, the image was very overexposed and the image did not seem to have nearly as much recoverable highlights as the other images.
  • Nikon D3x: image not readable by Lightroom.  Doesn't work.
  • Nikon D800: the image was cropped to 4800 x 3200.  The area outside it was lost.  However, the file seems to work fine.  Note: the crop size above assumes an FX image. For a DX cropped image, the resolution is proportionately less.
  • Nikon D7000: same as D800 except the resolution is 4928 x 3264
  • Nikon D4: same as D800 except the resolution is 4928 x 3280.

Using the Nikon D4 model, I did some experiments with the raw files, starting with the infamous black Ferrari shot.  You recall that in View NX2, the first shot had a huge swath of clipped highlights:

The DNG of that same file without adjustments showed far fewer clipped highlights (shown in red) even with no adjustments:

When highlight recovery is set to maximum, there are no clipped highlights .... !

Here's another sample.  Remember the shot of the Kettle restaurant in Part 2 of the review?  I mentioned that the scene was very backlit.  Here is the ViewNX2 version, which lost almost half of the sky:

Here is the same image in Lightroom with highlight recovery at 100 and shadow recovery at 100 (just for demo purposes):

....Not a single pixel was clipped. :-O

Here is another shot I took.  This one was intensely backlit.  I was experimenting with Center-Weighted Average metering.  Anyway here's the shot from ViewNX2:

It looked pretty hopeless.  Here's what Lightroom was able to do to that file (full resolution for the cropped DNG file, published at quality of 92 via Lightroom):

In case you are wondering, after adjustments, there are no clipped highlights or shadows in this scene with extreme dynamic range.

Now maybe you're thinking with that much recovery from the shadows, surely there has to be a lot of noise...
1:1 view after shadow recovery with no noise reduction
nope.  The shot above just had a noise reduction of 20 applied, and it was enough to wipe out luminance noise at the 1:1 level.

Nikon is not going to support DNG anytime soon, so Adobe please please PLEASE get us the D600 raw support as soon as possible.  Give raw support and see this camera set to f____ purpose! (Spartacus joke... lol.)