Lightroom 3 Beta – Improved Camera Profiles, Highlight Rendering

Hot on the heels of the Beta 2 release, Adobe Labs has released new and improved camera profiles for the Nikon D3 and D700. Considering that those are the two cameras I shoot day in and day out, Adobe had my keen attention. So, how do these new profiles stack up to the gold standard for NEFs, Nikon Capture NX 2? Let’s have a look.

As I noted in my comparison between Nikon Capture NX 2 and Lightroom 3 Beta, I found the LR3 had many advantages, but a few quirks as well.

Among the concerning aspects of Lightroom 3′s RAW conversion of Nikon NEFs was the rendition of artifacts in areas of highlight and saturated gradients. For concert photography, this is of prime concern due to the fact that stage lights and haze very easily produce the conditions of affected gradations.

With this new v2 camera profiles for the Nikon D3 and D700, Adobe Labs describes the improvements:

These updated Camera v2 beta profiles for the Nikon D3 and Nikon D700
are designed to reduce banding and highlight color artifacts. Note
that highlight areas may appear a little brighter compared to the
earlier profiles.

In other words, the new profiles seem to address the very issues of banded gradations and awkward color shifts that we saw with the first camera profiles with Lightroom 3 Beta.

Let’s see how the new D3 and D700 camera profiles stack up.

Test Image: Brett Michaels, Poison

Nikon D3 – ISO 1600

In the above image, we see a stock conversion from Nikon Capture NX 2 – no WB adjustments, no cropping, no exposure compensation.

In this image, we see a few areas that might produce the artifacts that we saw with Lightroom 3′s v1 camera profiles. Let’s look at the 100% crops of the stage light in the upper left of the frame.

In this first crop, we have what’s generally accepted as the gold standard for Nikon users – Nikon Capture NX 2. In this crop, NX 2 is handling the highlight and gradations pretty much as we’d expect – pretty well defined clipped whites and a pretty smooth gradation around the light source.

Here’s the same 100% crop using the “Camera Standard” profile from Lightroom 3 Beta 2. Just as I noted in the original comparison, Lightroom’s camera standard profile is doing some very unnatural things in the rendering of the highlight gradations, with unexpected color banding and posterization in the gradation.

With the latest release of revised camera profiles for the Nikon D3 and D700, what we have is a distinct change in the way Lightroom 3 Beta 2 is handling these same gradations. To my eye, aside from the rendition of noise and increased saturation, this looks basically identical to the Nikon Capture NX 2 conversion.

Test Image: Papa Roach

The above two images are two conversions from the same RAW file; one processed with Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta 2, one with Nikon Capture NX 2. Can you tell which is which?

In a thread on the discussion forums of DPReview.com, one poster posted an email from Adobe Camera RAW’s Eric Chan:

“The goal of these profiles is not to produce natural colors. The goal is simply to produce the same rendition that NX produces (whether good or bad, natural or not) — and hopefully artifact-free. To be clear: The original feature request was, “Please give us colors similar to the camera maker’s colors.”

Get The New Profiles:

You can download the new camera profiles for the Nikon D3 and D700 here:

http://blogs.adobe.com/lightroomjournal/2010/03/new_nikon_d3_and_d700_camera_v.html

End Notes:

With this latest release of camera profiles for the Nikon D3 and D700, I think it’s very clear that Adobe is listening to its users and committed to making an extremely competitive in Lightroom 3.

Personally, I’m excited to see Adobe Labs continue to refine and improve Lightroom 3 Beta through it’s launch. While Nikon Capture has long been the gold standard for Nikon NEFs, I think that Lightroom 3 presents a very real alternative for even the most demanding photographers.

For more info, read my initial comparison of Nikon Capture NX 2 vs Lightroom 3 Beta and my initial thoughts about Lightroom 3 Beta 2.

Comments or thoughts? Let ‘em rip.

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There are 21 comments

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  1. David Spickett

    I’m quite surprised at the difference between profiles, I’ve never looked at them in depth myself but I’m definitely going to investigate now.

    I’ve linked to this on my own blog (davidspickett.co.uk/post/479465285/lightroom-3-beta), hope you don’t mind.

    • Todd

      Hey David,

      Play around with the different camera profiles, I think you’ll find that there’s a huge difference in the way the files look, even between ACR and Adobe Standard, for example.

      Don’t mind at all about the link back, thanks.

    • Todd

      Hey Jason,

      I’m just going to assume that it’s a coincidence that Adobe Labs has decided to tweak the camera profiles for the very cameras that I use and tested. But it does make one wonder, doesn’t it?

  2. Jeff Smith

    Interesting exploration here. To my eyes, there is still quite a difference between the two photos posted above. Granted, the gradations appear to have been fixed, however, the saturation difference would still send me to Capture NX. Compare the blacks in the jeans and on the grill of the speaker that the singer is standing on, and the level of reds surrounding the pars…perhaps this is a color space gamma issue?

    • Todd

      Hey Jeff,

      There is a difference in saturation and contrast, but having seen how far behind Adobe used to be, I’m considering all these advances a boon for Nikon users.

      The two are so close that the margin is very close to my eyes, and a small tweak to the black level for the develop preset would bring the two profiles even closer.

  3. Jason Sheesley

    Every one in a while when I have a set of particularly difficult images I bail on LR and go to NX2. Seems to happen less and less these days though. I love to see improvements that go right to the heart of image quality.

  4. jedrysik

    Hi Todd.
    Nice works man!
    Little question. I still work on LR2 with different profiles. Do You hear something about 5DmkII and new LR in case of highligths and gradients? That’s a pain in the…emm…dust in the lens ;) in concert photography. I’m changing my gear right now and that thing is really interesting.

      • jedrysik

        Hi Todd, thanx for reply.
        I have beta 2 profiles with LR2. I thought that LR3 have some improvements for highlight/gradients too. I’ll check that next week when I’ll get MKII and new cpu. Cause that one I got now is not too fast with 12mpx files from 5D :)

  5. Jason

    I’ve downloaded the D700 settings for the new Lightroom 3. I’m confused on which of these I should be using. Camera Standard v2? Camera Neutral v2? or something different?. Is it strictly personal preference? Or is there one that is considered a best starting place?

    I’ve seen mention of Neutral v2 and others say Standard v2. It really seems to vary by image and I’m trying to have a consistent look to my work and I was thinking of using one and sticking to it at least for different shoots.

    Thanks in advance for any guidance.

  6. Sibylle Malinke

    Hi Todd,
    thanks for this report. Just a few days ago a had to deal with exactly the same issues regarding artifacts and lights. So far I’m working with the DXM mode 1 with concert pics, but I’ll try out the new camera standard v2, not sure if the results will be the same as I have a D80 (waiting for the new D700whateverNikon’llcallit). I’m curious about the results.

    Sibylle

    • Todd

      Hey Sibylle,

      Are there new camera profiles for the D80, too? Hopefully you’ll find a solution that works for you. I’m curious about the D700 replacement, too – that camera has been out for a full two years now.

  7. Forrest Mellott

    Does the latest version of Lightroom 3.2 contain these updated camera profiles, or do I need to download the beta to get the latest?

    Also, what about D3s users? Have those issues been addressed in the profiles provided for for this camera?

    Thanks…


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