Getting to the bottom of the problems with Nikon Capture 4.2

Discussion in 'Nikon DX DSLR' started by andreasb, Mar 6, 2005.

  1. I have spent a little bit of time analyzing why NC 4.2 and 10-20 MB NEF files are such a horribly slow combination. And I have come to some conclusions why that is the case.

    First the caveat: I don't pretend to be a developer or expert on these matter but have spent quite a long time in the "industry", and some things look pretty obvious when you do some simple analysis. But if anyone is more competent on this matter then I am please correct me and let me know where my errors are

    But first to my findings:
    I have three machines here that I try to run NC 4.2 on:
    1. A Dell 8100 1.7 GHZ, 512 MB with a 64 MB ATI Graphics adapter, 120 GB IDE drive, my old machine
    2. A Dell D800 Laptop with a UXGA screen (1900x1200), 1.7 GHZ Centrino, 1 GB Ram, with a 64 MB Graphics adapter, and kind of slow notebook 60 GB hard drive
    3. A no name homebuilt machine with a Pentium Prescott 2.8 Pentium, with a matched pair of memory SIMM’s totaling 1 GB, at first it had a simple 64 MB graphics adapter (AGP 8x) then I added a 256 MB reasonably fast graphics adapter (ATI Radeon 9600 pro)

    Like pretty much everyone else, I have been pretty much been very frustrated with the horrible performance of NC4.2, so I set to try to figure out what the problem is.

    1. I wondered if a faster graphics card would help, so I bought an ATI 9600 Pro based 256 MB card and put it in the no name 2.8 GHZ machine, but first I did a simple timing test. With the old card after a fresh boot I opened NC 4.2, opened a compressed NEF and zoomed in 3 times to 100% and timed it. On this machine it took 35 seconds exactly. I then added the new graphics card and after a fresh boot tried the same thing: time exactly the same 35 seconds. This simple test alone tells me that Nikon has not developed the NC 4.2 application to make ANY special use of the graphics adapter for faster rendering of the images. For instance Photoshop clearly does this. (Try to load a NEF file in Photoshop, and you will see that after the long load time into PS the zoom and redraw time on even the Dell 8100 with 512 MB is superfast.) I’m speculating that to solve this problem (and since I’m not a developer I’m on a bit of shaky ground here) Nikon needs to REWRITE their flagship application maybe to use Microsoft Directx 9 to be able to offload the graphics image drawing and redrawing tasks to the graphics card processor, instead of the main CPU. Pretty much everyone in the industry knows this, the fact that Nikon might not have developed their applications this way might have something to do with wanting to have one source code tree for both their PC and Mac applications (I’m speculating, and trying to be nice to Nikon)
    2. What happens when you load NC 4.2 & NEF files to memory and CPU resources? To figure this out I loaded (on the no name 2.8 machine) the performance part of the Windows task manager in Windows XP (Just press Control, ALT, Delete and click on the performance tab). This what it looked like before the loading of the files:
    Note the available free memory 715 MB and Page file size is 220 MB

    Then see what happens when you load NC 4.2 and the compressed NEF file
    (note that free memory goes from 715 MB to pretty much nothing (4.8 MB, I suspect Windows XP refuses to let it go lower) and the page file is HUGE ( x MB). So the regular primary and pagefile memory for this operation is 715 MB (initial mode before loading NC +NEF) – 4.9 MB (with NC and NEF loaded) +
    (896 MB-220 MB, the increase in page file from initial mode) = 1386 MB!!! So If I understand this correctly in order to have 1 (ONE) NEF file loaded without swapping constantly to the hard drive you need in excess of 1.5 GB RAM probably around 2 GB, I don’t have RAM enough to test this… This is insane! Nikon Capture is massively inefficient!
    3. If one compare the same scenarios with Photoshop (loading the NEF using Nikons converter to PS),
    the first thing one notes is that the load time into PS is very, very long, using the Nikon Plugin. Once it has loaded though it works really well and is very swift when zooming (tested on the 512 GB Dell 8100 and the Laptop D800 with 1 GB. If I check the performance monitor after loading the NEF and zooming into PS CS it looks like this:
    What a difference! Photoshop seems to be much better in handling large files like these. (And by the way try loading a 35 MB Tiff file made from a D2X, it loads pretty much immediately!)
    4. Another area of interest is the time it takes to save a JPG. It is very clear the Adobe Photoshop save for web is WAY faster then Nikon Capture.

    My conclusions (and once again I’m not a developer please let me know where my thinking or methodology goes wrong here!)

    1. Compared to Adobe Photoshop CS, Nikon Capture 4.2 uses way too much memory to handle these types of files, which leads me to conclude that it is very inefficiently developed by Nikon. Maybe Nikon should go and ask Microsoft for help in one of their performance laboratories and rewrite it to be more efficient, and to be able to offload graphics to the graphics processor
    2. The swap of graphics board to a newer and faster one did not change the zoom time at all. This leads me to think that Nikon Capture doesn’t use the onboard Graphics card processor but uses the main CPU for this task. If this is correct Nikon has a lot of work to do.
    3. Saving of JPG’s takes a lot longer then Adobe Photoshop, another bottle neck

    The implication for me and the reason why I wanted to do this test was to see if I should stop using NC for all of my workflow and start using Photoshop CS for some of the heavy work. Although this is inherently a much more complex question to answer with many more issues to understand for me, it seems that having to buy from 2 to 4 GB for each of my existing computers to handle it, is a bit to much, Hard drive space is not a problem with the 10-20 MB NEF files but having to spend $800 per machine to get up to enough RAM is (at least for me).

    Comment? Thoughts?
  2. brente

    brente Guest

    Andreas - I will say that on my Dual Xeon PC with 3GB of RAM, NC 4.2 runs reasonably well... :) not as well as 4.1.3 did, but I can at least load multiple D2X NEFs to process at one time (then the other NC bugs get in the way).

    I definitely see a slowdown when it comes to NC 4.2 repainting the individual image windows (after loading multiple NEFs, it takes a while before all the image windows are drawn). it's also slow after making changes to the image settings (e.g., histogram changes), but I'm not sure if this is due to processing to apply the change, or slow memory management on the image itself.

    As Ron pointed out, it looks like Nikon just rushed this release out (although, that would be the excuse for just about every other NC release too... :) ). still, very sloppy on Nikon's part. the other bugs I've run into should have been easily caught if they spent any time testing.

    A message from Nikon to me said the update will be in the "very near future", so hopefully a matter of weeks.
  3. I just tried to batch 135 images

    NC 4 choked when there where 35 pictures left, claimed out of diskspace, there was about 25 GB left on the drive after i exited NC 4.2..
  4. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    I think that your analysis is pretty accurate. NC is a great program from a features standpoint, but is a total pig from a memory management perspective. I'm about to change over to PS CS (from PSP 9.01), primarily so that I can run all of the excellent available plug-ins.

    While I hate to go away from Capture, because I understand how to use it, I may be forced to just because of the performance issues.

    BTW, as much as you and I and many others might wish for it, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Nikon to improve NC. This app has been a pig for as long as I have used it. I just don't think that Nikon cares, or if they do, they don't know how to fix the problem.... :cry:



    PS - Maybe RawMagic will be the answer. We can always hope.... :wink:
  5. I think you are right Flew...

    They don't know how to fix it, when they don't even use the Graphics CPU....

    I have to learn using PS instead, not althogether happy about it...

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