Creating and installing custom curves...lotsa gotchas..

Before you use the utility, you have to know the rules and gotchas.

Rule 1 Each new picture control must be based on a copy of the original controls in the camera. You may not delete any of the original controls. You may make copies of the D2Xx Controls which are suplied for D300 downloads but the D90 will not recognize them if you try to load them into a D90. There are a few controls in my download library that may be loadable into a D300, but not a D90. Custom controls may be made using the D2X curves, but are only usable in NikonView when unpacking a NEF file.

The first six are the standard controls.
Anything starting with a C-x is a Custom Control copied from a standard control.
You may rename a Picture control immediately so you don't lose track of how it is to be used.

Rule 2 The contrast thingie will be supplied by one of three mutually exclusive sources:

a)      Any D-Lighting control set in the camera will over ride contrast in the current PC (picture control).

b)      Any standard PC or copy of a PC with a limited range of changes in contrast and brightness trim as set up by the user.

c)      A curve designed in the PC Utility and exported as a PICCONxx.NCP file. This file may be internally named in the utility and that name will be carried into the Camera PC bank and appear on the camera menu under Set Picture Control.

The curve itself may be saved using a descriptive external name having the extension of ".ntc". The picture at the right shows both curve files and Picture Control files in the directory structure required for transport. You can tell by the size of a Picture Control file whether it has a curve embedded or not.

The picture control containing the curve or digital settings will will have the name PICCONxx.NCP and has no descriptive information in the name other than the two digits. The name can only be seen when importing to the camera or the PC utility. If you have a hex editor you could see the name imbedded in the file along with an encrypted hex digit indicating the  source curve for the camera. When the file is on the Secure Digital chip, you have no idea what is is other than the two digit number. This is one of the gotcha points of confusion. You EXPORT, not download or save to the Compact Flash or secure Digital Card. You can supply your own name either in the utility or after you get it into your PC bank in the camera. Google hexedit to find a free hex editor if that interests you.

When writing to the CF card the utility will create a nested folder of NIKON/CUSTOMPC/ which contains the NCP files. Even after loading the PC to your camera you can fine tune the sharpening, saturation and hue settings.

CAUTION! Use a dedicated memory card, usually discarded from another camera purchase and too small for practical use. Format it first in the camera and never format it again unless you have back up files stored on your computer. You will lose your Picture Controls if you format this card again in the camera.

You may have hundreds of variations and can see by looking at your PC settings which of the above contrast options are in effect. You will either see:

   Contrast and Brightness values as a bar chart or,

   The words USER grayed out for the values if you have a custom curve or,

   The words ACT.D-LIGHT grayed out.

Note the asterisk after Faces. It says that some variable has been changed. The contrast was originally auto (A)
USER means that a custom curve will be used for the contrast and brightness. There is no way to actually see the curve in the camera.
The asterisk again, the easy way to see what was changed is to use the Reset to see what changes.

In order to get to picture controls rapidly, make SET PICTURE CONTROLS the first item in you’re MY MENU selection and program your assign function button to “Access top item in MY MENU”.

The programable button on the front of the D90 brings up this menu which is used to manage all the exposure values.
I only use Active D-Lighting in Auto whenever there is a very high contrast scene involving sunlight and heavy shade.
Custom Picture Controls can be written to a memory card and transferred to the PC Utility to add custom curves.

I set the second item in MY MENU to “Active D-Lighting”

The third item is Set ISO (auto – on or off)

With that setup I can do all my exposure setups with one hand and very few button presses.

The next chapter will help  you design your Custom Curves.

In another chapter I will explain how Active D-Lighting works and show how it differs from contrast in Picture Controls.

Continue to Chapter 4

White Balance
Focus Your Camera
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Back Home to Exposed

1  History of curves and programmable contrast and gamma

2  Picture Control and Picture Control Utility

3  Creating and installing Custom curves in the camera

4  How to design a curve for your needs

5  Active D-Lighting

6  D-Lighting applied after the shot

7  Where to go for more information

8  The DOWNLOAD page


© Leon Goodman 2009

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