The US$99 FotoStation 4.5 image browser for Mac and Windows adds several new features first seen in its workgroup-savvy sibling, FotoStation Pro 4.5, earlier this year. Changes include a complete rewrite of the image-handling engine, such that any format supported by Apple's QuickTime technology is now browsable in both the Mac and Windows versions of FotoStation, an increase, to 10,000, in the limit of files per folder that the program can handle, and a function for transferring photos from card to computer that includes renaming and image processing options.
One of the most intriguing changes of all, however, isn't described in the program's documentation: support for Nikon D1/X/H RAW .NEF files. Specifically, FotoStation 4.5 Build 112 can browse NEF thumbnails as well as display decent-size previews, batch convert RAW .NEF files into finished files (ie. JPEGs), and process single images through to its Photoshop-like Edit mode.
All but the display of thumbnails is super slow, at least with the D1X uncompressed files I've used in testing, which means the one-at-a-time handling of D1X NEFs will not be terribly practical. And unlike Nikon Capture 2, Bibble 2.99f or QImage Pro 2.5, FotoStation 4.5 offers no control over how the NEFs are converted; whatever settings for Tone Compensation, White Balance, Sharpening and more that were dialed in on the camera will be applied during the conversion.
While all this may sound limiting, FotoStation's NEF support actually provides for one significant and powerful function: the program has the ability to batch convert NEFs into finished JPEGs (complete with IPTC caption information), whether the original NEFs reside on a CompactFlash card or on the computer's own drive, and optionally also copy the original NEFs from the card simultaneously to second location for safekeeping. This feature has already proven itself indispensable here.
FotoStation's File Acquire wizard walks users through the selection of a
source card or folder and offers image processing options.
Destination files may be renamed, converted to, for example, JPEGs, IPTC
captioned and more. The original NEFs may also be moved to a secondary
location for safe keeping if the appropriate option is checked.
At a glance, Nikon View 4 might appear to offer similar functionality, but it can't batch convert without also downsampling the resulting JPEGs, it can only apply keyword info, not the full IPTC data set (in other words, all the fields in Photoshop's File Info), and it can't convert NEFs that have been previously moved off a CompactFlash card to the computer. Same goes for Nikon Capture 2; while it has a solid batch-conversion function, but it can't attach IPTC text data to the resulting file.
In other words, FotoStation 4.5 can perform one NEF trick that no other cross-platform program can: convert D1X/H RAW images to finished, IPTC-captioned JPEGs, while simultaneously copying the original NEFs from the card, in one step. If you see a benefit to being able to do just this, FotoStation 4.5 is definitely worth a look.
Alas, there is a glitch that will make this workflow a near-impossibility for some D-series camera owners, at least until an updater from Nikon is made available. FotoStation knows how to process D-series NEF files courtesy of a file library installed into the system of the computer by the Nikon View 4 or NEF Photoshop plug-in installer. The Mac version of the NkBrowseLib file library that ships with the D1X currently, the one found on v4.01 of the Nikon View CD, causes three Macs here, running two different operating systems, to crash hard when FotoStation attempts to process a D1X NEF. The version of the file library that ships on Nikon View CD v4.1.0, however, eliminates the aforementioned crash.
This newer version of the NkBrowseLib file library is currently shipping only with the Nikon D1H, though it should soon make it into new D1X boxes too. In the meantime, the only guaranteed way for D1X owners to obtain the newer version of the file library is by purchasing v4.1.0 of the Nikon View 4 CD. In the US, that's done by calling Nikon tech support at 1-800-NikonUX and requesting this specific CD version. Other regions may make the CD available through different means, including Japan, where Nikon View 4 is not bundled with the camera by Nikon.
A downloadable updater from Nikon is planned that should bring with it a FotoStation-friendly file library, but no release date has been announced. In the meantime, it would appear that the only legitimate way for users with an older file library to obtain the newer one is by purchasing the latest Nikon View 4 CD. In addition, if you own a D1X, but expect to be handing the D1H NEFs of others, you'll also need a newer file library, since the original file library does not support the D1H.
Other third-party programs that utilize the Mac file library to provide support for Nikon D-series NEF files, including iView MediaPro 1.1 and Canto Cumulus 5 LE, seem to operate just fine with the older file library. The table below provides additional information for Mac users (all info is from my own testing, and is not verified by Nikon):
Mac NkBrowseLib extension version
Compatible with FotoStation 4.5 Build 112 for Mac
Compatible with MediaPro 1.1
Compatible with Cumulus 5 Single User LE
|18.104.22.16809 (on v4.01 of Nikon View 4 CD)
Yes (D1H NEF support not in this library)
Yes (D1H NEF support not in this library)
|22.214.171.12420 (on v4.1.0 of Nikon View 4 CD)
Yes (D1/X/H support)
Yes (D1/X/H support)|
Note: I've not had an opportunity to examine similar configurations on the PC, so I can't say if similar problems between FotoStation 4.5 and the original file library exist on that platform as well.
FotoStation 4.5 Build 112 is US$99, or US$24.95 to upgrade from v4.0. A 15-day, fully-functional trial version is also available. QuickTime 4 or 5 (standard or Pro) must be installed for either the Mac or Windows version of the program to operate. Note that both Mac and Windows readers are reporting difficulties firing up the trial version on machines that previously had a registered or unregistered copy of v4.0 installed. This problem may be solved by downloading Build 116, released shortly after this article was originally published. See FotoStation 4.5 updated to Build 116 for more on that.
FotoStation Pro 4.5 was updated last month to Build 115. Fotoware has also posted a feature comparison of the three versions of FotoStation now available.