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Troubleshooting Nikon Capture Problems

Nikon knows how to make great cameras, but they are not nearly as expert at writing software. I can't recall who came up with it, but there is a quote about computers to the effect that any program that can be proven to be correct is trivial enough not to do anything useful. Computer programs are complex things, and the more complex they become, the harder it gets to avoid them having at least a few bugs. So it's no wonder that Nikon Capture isn't perfect. What is frustrating though is just how many bugs Capture continues to be plagued with. Hopefully, the following overview of some of the more "popular" Capture bugs will help those who suffer from them to find relief.

Windows Service Pack 2
Service Pack 2 for Windows XP featured a great many security enhancements. Some of these affected utilities and other programs that required close access to hardware and other system resources. Most application programs though were unaffected.

To prevent an exploit known as a "buffer overflow" common to many worms and viruses, Service Pack 2 enables a hardware feature called Data Execution Prevention (DEP) available on newer processors. This prevents programs from attempting to execute memory locations that are supposed to be data, not code. Doing so on purpose is generally considered a bad programming technique, and most programmers avoid it. But not Nikon programmers it would seem. Many users with American Micro Devices (AMD) 64-bit processors and some with Intel Xenon based systems have had difficulty getting Nikon Capture to run at all, receiving instead the dreaded "blue screen of death" or other major program crashes.

In most cases, the problem can be circumvented by disabling DEP, either for Capture specifically, or for the entire system.

Nikon has stated that their Quality Assurance (QA) team requires a minimum of sixty days after the release of a new operating system to verify compatibility of Nikon software. This seems odd to me since even public betas are available long before release and registered developers can access technical preview builds even earlier. If this is to remain their policy, it would seem users will need to be cautious in their adoption of new operating system upgrades or avoid reliance on Nikon software.

I have also heard sporadic reports of extremely slow performance on some Windows configurations. While not particularly speedy, it seems to run acceptably on most systems.

OS X Tiger
Just as Microsoft does, Apple too periodically releases new versions of their operating system, OS X. The new "Tiger" release (OS X version 10.4) seems to have thrown Nikon for a loop. Odd, since early builds for developers were available more than six months before the product actually shipped. On April 28 of this year Nikon announced that they were in the process of verifying compatibility with OS X 10.4. Tiger was officially released the next day so it would seem Nikon didn't quite wait until the last minute to start this necessary step.

Those trying to run Capture on 10.4 found numerous problems, some of which were fixed by Apple in OS X 10.4.1 and others by Nikon with the Capture 4.3 updater. Others remain as yet unsolved.

Nikon has stated that older versions of Capture simply aren't compatible with Tiger.

Many users still report extremely slow performance, even on high end G5 systems. While perhaps not a bug per se, this lack of code optimization can be quite frustrating for those in the Mac camp.

"Member Not Found"
Some users have reported problems transferring images from Nikon Capture into Photoshop via the "Open in Photoshop" menu option, receiving instead a "Member Not Found" error. I'm not sure that anyone has determined precisely what "member" refers to and where it might be hiding if it is, in fact, missing. Nikon is still working on finding an answer at least, and if they don't know, I certainly don't. Even reinstalling the program often doesn't seem to fix this.

If you experience this problem, the workaround Nikon suggests is to save your images as tiff, then open the saved files into Photoshop.

Serial Number Format Change
Nikon changed the format of serial numbers they use for installing Capture between version 4.x and 4.2. If you bought a version prior to 4.2 and need to reinstall it for any reason, you will need to install your old version, enter the serial number for it, and then install the updaters on top of it.

If you have a 64-bit system that won't run your old version at all, you will be forced to contact Nikon to get a new serial number. Others have had success by taking this route, so while it may be inconvenient, it apparently can be done.

Versions older than 4.0 are not eligible for free upgrade to current versions.

"RegSweeper" and the Windows Registry
Problems have also been reported upgrading versions of some Nikon software including Capture on Windows. Microsoft keeps user preferences and settings in a database known as the registry and it seems Nikon sometimes has difficulty removing old entries when uninstalling their programs. The distribution of some Nikon software therefore includes a program called "RegSweeper" that can be used to clean out anything that was missed so the new version can be installed without conflict.

And if that doesn't do it, they actually give directions for manually editing the registry, something Microsoft discourages due to the possibility of severe problems if mistakes are made in doing so.

... And Then There's That Pesky Nikon Plug-in
Nikon insists on installing their Photoshop plug-in, overriding Adobe's own Camera Raw. While I can see this being an optional component, I find it hard to believe that, on Windows at least, Nikon still installs this without either asking or telling the user some two years after Camera Raw started coming standard with Photoshop. Mac OS users do get a choice, but the default installation still includes the plug-in. While not technically a bug, it's hard to understand why Nikon is still doing this.

Thankfully, Capture runs well on both my desktop and laptop systems. But I know several people that have not been so lucky.

There are certainly other quirks and idiosyncrasies in Nikon Capture. Each new release typically lists "correction of other known issues" among its features. And as they add new features, they undoubtedly add new bugs as well.

Nikon clearly has the inside track on access to the NEF format, and the results possible from Capture bear that out. I just wish they would invest more in testing and QA before they released new software versions.

Update 8/22/2005 - Nikon must be listening. Today they released the Nikon Capture 4.3.1 Updater for both Windows and Mac. Mac users in particular seem pleased since the new release greatly improves performance on OS X. Be forewarned though that it will re-install the Nikon plug-in, so you'll have to delete it all over again.

Update 7/15/2006 - Nikon Capture NX is out now and seems to have a whole new crop both of features and bugs to go with them.

Date posted: August 21, 2005 (updated July 15, 2006)


Copyright © 2005, 2006 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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