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, 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:

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.