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Index Why is NX sometimes so slow?

UPDATE/TIP: If you spend any amount of time using NX, save yourself a lot of time (which for some, equals money) and upgrade to 64-bit NX2 2.3.0 (or later) and purchase a fast 64-bit system with the latest processor (eg: i7 with 4 cores and 8 threads) with tons of memory (16GB min). The speed improvement the multiple processor cores provide is nothing short of dramatic.
Problem: Why is Capture NX sometimes so incredibly slow? Sometimes NEF editing was really fast for me, but other times, incredibly slow.
Noise Reduction

1) Noise Reduction: The problem (for me) was Noise Reduction. For one NEF, each edit was hanging my computer for 20 seconds. After turning Noise Reduction off in NX, my computer was once again responsive.

To speed up NX during your edits for a particular photo, in the Edit List, under 'Develop' / 'Camera Settings', you will find 'Noise Reduction'. Uncheck to turn off noise reduction for the photo you are editing. Then, if you really still want Noise Reduction applied to your photo, after you have completed all of your edits to the photo, go ahead and turn NR back on.
To turn NR off for multiple NEF, edit one NEF and set NR intensity to 0% (keeping NR checked), and then save that step (right click in Edit List; Save Settings; select Noise Reduction adjustment) as 'NR off' -- then run a batch process to apply 'NR off' to multiple NEF files.

Active D-Lighting on, but not checked
2) Active D-Lighting: If you are using 'Active D-Lighting', and have noise reduction enabled, that is a killer slow combination. Greatly complicating finding this out is that when you use Active D-Lighting and open the NEF in Capture NX, Active D-Lighting is on, but it is not checked. Since Active D-Lighting can not be turned on after the fact, if you see that the option in the list, you are using Active D-Lighting (it is not in the list if you are not using it). To turn off (after the fact), just select 'off' from the Active D-Lighting properties dialog.

3) Memory: If you are going to actively use NX2, you really need a minimum of 4GB of memory installed in your computer (and 8GB would likely be best). On a test 1GB system, NX1 always uses around 650MB of memory, so the 'minimum' memory of 256MB published in the NX1 manual was nowhere close to reality.
Some people report that moving the Windows swap file to a spare drive makes NX run faster. If this works for you, great, BUT... A swap file is used to implement 'virtual memory' -- which clearly means that if moving the swap file is helping, that there is not enough 'real' memory in your computer in the first place!
4) Windows Tune-up: If you are running Windows, perform a system tune-up. First, close all running programs. Then under 'System Tools', run 'Disk Cleanup', and delete 'Temporary files' (and possibly all 'Temporary Internet Files'). Next, run the 'Disk Defragmenter' system tool on your hard drive.
My background is as a computer programmer. It amazes me how many programs leave 'trash' in the Windows temp folder. Over time, that slows down other programs that also use the temp folder (like NX). So cleaning up the temp folder can help.
5) Microsoft .NET: Some people report that installing the latest Microsoft '.NET' framework improves NX performance (NX1 requires .NET 1.1; NX2 requires .NET 4.0). I have not been able to confirm these reports, but it may be worth a try. Under Windows, go to 'Start / All Programs / Microsoft Update' and use the Microsoft update mechanism to install the latest .NET.

While there are certainly other reasons for NX slowness, hopefully these tips will allow you to play around and learn NX quickly, without having to spend a lot of time waiting for the GUI to respond.

Noise Reduction reduces sharpness: Also, note that many people actually prefer NR to be turned OFF because NR blurs your photo slightly, reducing sharpness, and at the print size that most people use, the noise is barely seen, if at all. And even if seen a little, it adds a little 'grain'.
I think that most people have been totally spoiled by the high quality offered by digital cameras today. When I look at photos taken with a film camera (that at the time I considered excellent), I now clearly see a little grain. For most situations, having a little 'grain' in your photograph is not going to make any difference to anyone. At the typical (small) print sizes that most people use, the grain will just be 'averaged' away anyway.
I personally have turned "Noise Reduction" OFF in my D300. I prefer to see a 'sharp' photo, with some grain/noise, instead of a slight blur caused by NR. Besides, if I really want to, I can apply some NR later, after the fact.

Updating Image Icon: Please note the 'updating image' and the exclamation mark in the title bar of photos. Capture NX may still be responsive and allow you to adjust steps, but it is working in the background to update the photo. So the photo that you see may change later (and sometimes a lot later), and sometimes change dramatically.

Warning: When you play around in NX, it usually provides immediate feedback to you in the display. But NX may still, in the background, be updating your image. I once was performing some tests (many steps), which resulted in a black screen, walked away from my computer for several minutes, and came back to a white screen! A visual clue that this is happening is if the histogram shows vertical bars instead of a smooth curve. You don't have to wait for the smooth histogram curve before working on your photo some more, but just be aware that the photo you are editing is an estimate, and not your 'final' photo.

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