Very easy way to sharpen with some Nikon cameras

You can sharpen the focus on most Nikon DSLRs and compact cameras in just 2 steps.

The photograph shows the Holy Trinity: Nikon 14-24 / 2.8, 24-70 / 2.8VR, 70-200 / 2.8VRII

The photograph shows the Holy Trinity: Nikon 14-24 / 2.8, Nikon 24-70 / 2.8VR, Nikon 70-200 / 2.8VRII. But for sharp shots, you can cheat and not spend thousands of dollars on the purchase of expensive equipment.

The trick with sharpening is very, very simple. To sharpen, you should do just a couple of points:

  1. On the camera in 'Shooting Mode Menu' to find 'Picture Control'(on some Nikon cameras it may also be called'Control mode snapshots'), choose any you like (for example, PT - PorTrait, for shooting portraits), push the joystick button right and ask sharpness level '9'.
  2. In the Image Quality menu set RAW shooting format. After shooting, show the captured photos using the original free RAW converters: Nikon ViewNX-i, Nikon CaptureNX 2 or Nikon CaptureNX-D.
  3. Share a link to this article.

What is the point?

The bottom line is that Nikon ViewNX-i, Nikon CaptureNX-D and Nikon CaptureNX 2 during the conversion of the original RAW files sharpen much strongerthan the processor of the camera while shooting in JPEG format. We can say that this is such a bug (software error) that has become a feature (useful function).

Camera setup

The following is an example setup for the camera. Nikon D3200. On the rest of the cameras, everything happens by analogy.

First of all, you should configure 'Picture Control'. On some Nikon cameras it may be called 'Control mode snapshots'). Very old cameras may not have this mode at all. As far as I know, Picture Control appeared in second-generation CZK Nikon.

Picture Control Settings

Picture Control Settings

Select the desired Picture Control. An asterisk next to a mode name means that it was manually changed. In the picture below, the 'MC' mode is unchanged with factory settings, and therefore does not have a '*' next to its name. Picture Control settings can be easily reset to factory defaults.

Select the desired Picture Control

Select the desired Picture Control

Pressing joystick right, you can access the manual adjustment of the selected Picture Control. In this case, we are interested in sharpness. It needs to be set to maximum - this is position '9'. By default, the camera uses a sharpness level of '3'. Simply put - with one setting 'Increase. sharpness' can sharpen 3 times.

Manual Picture Control

Manual Picture Control

Next, you need to set the image quality by setting the value to 'RAW'.

Image quality

Image quality

Just choose 'NEF' (RAW):

RAW image quality

RAW image quality

Important: on Nikon amateur cameras, Picture Control is available only in exposure control modes P, A, S, M. For such cameras as for Nikon D3200 from the example, one of these modes should be set.

P, A, S, M mode

P, A, S, M mode

If someone does not know how to shoot in modes M, A, S, Pthen this is not a problem. For such people I recommend setting the P mode, it will be 80% similar to the 'Auto' mode.

Converter setting

  • Nikon CaptureNX-D can be officially downloaded here.
  • Nikon ViewNX-i can be officially downloaded here. I recommend this particular program.
  • Nikon CaptureNX 2 can be officially downloaded here.

In ViewNX-i, just select the desired folder where the RAW files are stored, select all (CTRL + A key combination), and convert them (CTRL + E key combination).

ViewNX-i program window

ViewNX-i program window. In the left pane, the active folder is selected.

Conversion can be performed with the right mouse button:

Thus, the conversion (export) of photos in the program ViewNX-i

Thus, the conversion (export) of photos in the program ViewNX-i

Converting files can take a huge amount of time, especially on a weak computer. Sometimes you can display just a few photos and it will take very little time.

In my opinion, the advantage of this method is that you can use a free original program that understands very well the source RAW files.

You can read about the difficulty of choosing a RAW converter here.


Shown below is the original shot taken directly with the camera. Such images are commonly referred to as 'on-camera JPEG' or 'in-camera JPEG'.

Original (small picture) received immediately from the camera

Original (small picture) received immediately from the camera

The image below was taken by converting the original RAW file using Nikon ViewNX-i. At the same time, there were no additional settings in ViewNX-i.

Image obtained by converting the source RAW file

Image obtained by converting the source RAW file

The crop of the previous shots is shown below:

On-camera JPEG crop

Crop 1: 1 from on-camera JPEG

Convert RAW crop

Crop 1: 1 from converted RAW

The difference is clearly visible in the GIF animation:

Visual demonstration (due to the GIF animation format, colors are changed)

Visual demonstration (due to the GIF animation format, the colors are not the same as in the original)

The "Sharpness" slider itself, both in the camera settings and in the settings of the native converter programs, has a strong effect on the sharpness. Below is a visual animation of the development of a RAW file with different sharpness level settings:

Visual animation of the sharpness level depending on the sharpness settings

Visual animation of the sharpness level depending on the sharpness settings

True, this method has one unpleasant nuance. If you convert photos taken at high ISO values, the level of graininess and noise will be very strong and can only degrade the picture. In this case, on-camera JPEG can look much better.

All files used for this article can be download from this link.


Sharpening with some Nikon cameras is easy. The algorithm, in short, is this: set the maximum sharpness in the Picture Control settings, remove it in RAW format and use the native converter. No complicated manipulations, no training in working with obscure programs, just a few mouse clicks, all programs are free, and the result is on the face.

Comments on this post do not require registration. Anyone can leave a comment. Many different photographic equipment can be found on AliExpress.

Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Training/Consultations | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Telegram

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Comments: 213, on the topic: A very simple way to sharpen with some Nikon cameras

  • Alexey

    For "developing" RAW on Nikon D600, which of these programs is better? Nikon ViewNX-i, Nikon CaptureNX-D and Nikon CaptureNX 2
    Have a good profile for Lightroom for Nikon CZK?

  • Leonid

    Arkady, hello.
    Please clarify:
    1. If, as an aspiring amateur, I photograph only in jpag and do not convert the photo, will a simple sharpening in the camera settings always bring a positive result or is there a flip side to the coin?
    2. If this method is so convenient, then why initially in all non-customization pikcher control the sharpness is from 0 to 2 ??? Why did the manufacturer pre-configure the camera? Maybe this makes sense?
    3. Did I understand correctly that sharpening always makes sense (in the camera settings or during subsequent processing in the program)?
    Thank you!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      1. Depending on the scene being shot, this is partly art.
      2. Not at all, usually it still happens 4 and 5. Ask your Nikon official why their cameras are just like that and not others.
      3. Depending on the method of your work. It makes sense only for shooting in JPEG, TIFF, for RAW with subsequent processing it is not critical, this can be done after.
      In general, with “weak lenses,” sharpening works very well for the final picture, especially at low ISOs.

      • Leonid

        Thanks for the answer!
        Also tell me, for photo landscapes when shooting in jpag, sharpening will give a positive result? Or is sharpening the lot of macro and portrait shooting?
        For a negative result for high isl already understood.

        • Arkady Shapoval

          I would increase it, the result will be in any photographs, the camera does not know what it is taking, the landscape or the portrait, for her it is a set of bits and bytes, she even does not see the color initially (details here).

        • US6IBD

          Very correct question. Increasing sharpness in landscape photos, I noticed that the volume of the scene is lost. For a female portrait, too, high sharpness is not always desirable. Detecting the smallest skin defects, such a photo without processing terrifies the photographed.

          • Michael

            Volume will be lost because all plans are sharp. The main thing here is not to overdo it, in general to raise a bit of sharpness in the landscape usually affects positively

    • Onotole

      1. The flip side of the coin is that on some subjects it will be too harsh, unpleasant. Moire may still come out. Therefore -
      2. for reinsurance, the manufacturer sets up less. And yet - the sharpness in the camera settings and the sharpness from various programs are two big differences. It's hard to explain on the fingers what it consists of, but in short - with a camera you just need to overdo it a little and the result will be sharply unpleasant (at least in my opinion), somewhat reminiscent of a picture from old cheap phones.
      3. Depends on your own taste. Very often it doesn't matter. That is, it can be good either way, you need to focus on your feelings, what you like best. In any case, you should not get too carried away with the sharp - this is bad manners.

      • Onotole

        Yes, I forgot to add, I consider 7, and sometimes 6, to be a reasonable maximum for the values ​​of this slider.
        Values ​​of 8 and 9 almost always lead to an unpleasant result for viewing.

        • Leonid

          Arkady, onotole, thanks for the answers and clarifications !!!

          • Stas

            At 9-ke, when the frame is enlarged, there will be a noticeable light outline around the contrasting object, as if it were specially circled with a white marker. On 6-ke such an effect is not noticed

  • Alexander

    Dear Colleagues. Faced with an incomprehensible phenomenon on Nikon D7200 nikkor 18-105 af-s 3.5-5.6 vr - the image doubles (about one photo out of twenty). I have been photographing for over 50 years :) and have already learned how to press the button without jerking. But I admit that with the new camera I could have moved the lens, since the barrel is quite large. But it is not the blurring of the image that confuses, but DOUBLE. Moreover, with stabilization on and off. I attach a sample (note the hair).

    • Jury

      typical blur, at 105 mm focal - exposure 1/80 sec, vr may sometimes glitch or was turned off.

  • Alexander

    The same is true for 1/200, and why does the hair double? With the rim of the glasses - everything is clear - the bottom and top of the translucent contour due to the movement of the device. But why does the hair double? It is clearly visible against a dark background.

  • Alexander

    It seems that the frame is twice exposed at a small interval. Could this be?

    • Michael

      Maybe if there was a flash. The first time exposure due to flash light, the second due to ambient light

      • JJ Tesla

        Maybe HDR is on, it clicks twice.

  • Alexander

    No flash

  • Rr

    Do you need to install RAW or Raw + jpeg will also work?

  • Leonid

    Arkady, and if you need to process RAW files.

  • Galina

    Hello. Tell me please. there is a viewnx program 2. I can not convert nef files. a sign pops up “these images cannot be displayed as raw images or changed because the lens distortion control profiles used on them were not found”. how to fix?

    • Eugene

      Galina, did not find a solution to the problem? I wrote the same thing today.

  • Boris

    I will not discover anything new, but you can control the sharpness of Nikon pictures not only from 0 to 9 on the camera. If you just set the sharpness to 9 in the camera or do the same in the Picture Control section of the Capture NX-D program, then sharping happens roughly, with the grain being selected even at low ISO, and the contrasting, dark contours will have a light border.

    I like the result further, when in the camera settings the sharpness is at zero, and in the converter it is increased not in Picture Control, but with the Unsharp Mask tool (two triangles icon) If you set the radius there to 1 or 2, and the intensity is from 50 to 90, then light there will be no edging, higher detail and much less grain. After this procedure, you can see the advantage of the processed ditch against chamber jpeg.

    • Novel

      Lightroom has a very convenient tool for sharping with the ability to sharpen on the mask and at the same time crush noise. Well, then the selective hand-sharpening of a portrait in areas of greatest interest. Textiles, denim, hair, eyes, accessories.

    • Madina

      Hello, please tell me how to reduce the sharpness to 6, does not allow postpvit

    • Maria

      Thanks for the interesting tip. Let me notice it later in the branch)

  • anonym


  • Madina

    Hello! I sharpened it to 9, now I can’t lower it to 6, it doesn’t work out in any way. I bet on 6 and ok, he does not. What to do?

    • Valery A.

      Hello. Some kind of glitch, it seems. Can you reset to factory settings?

    • Gennady

      After setting the desired level of sharpness, try first to lower the cursor to any point below (contrast, brightness, saturation, hue) and then press “ok”. I just tried it.

  • anonym

    People, tell me please. Nikon 3200, just starting to take pictures, i.e. I'm learning more.
    when setting the image quality to RAW + JPEG, when viewing, it simply saves two identical files and both in (NEF File) jpeg is not displayed anywhere at all. just absolutely two identical files. this is normal? Thanks)

  • Alexander Mikhailovich

    Hello! I would like to see (what you did) the sharpness settings in nikon d200.

  • Maria

    It seems to me that raising the Sharp in the converter is not quite the right step. Works with other things being equal - when the background is sufficiently blurred, focus on the main subject. Or when everything is in focus.
    It is more correct to do this in Lightroom or in Photoshop by mask. Because any algorithm has its limitations.

    Arkady, it seems to me that something else needs to be mentioned. If this algorithm is applied to the same landscape (by the way, not only), the volume of objects may decrease. The picture of the stent is simply flat. And even then in fsh it will be necessary to look for a way to separate plans a little.

    In principle, adding sharpness to the mask is not such a difficult method, the main thing is to develop your own technology everywhere else.

    Although, in general, it’s great that there is this article and Arkady remembered this function.

    For example, some lenses often have a low-contrast picture, and adding sharpness practically does not spoil it, even if the ISO is not low. This feature was very helpful when processing a child's portrait. Children's faces do not "suffer" too much from sharpening, for obvious reasons. But the eyelashes and eyes are perfect.

    • BB

      Eyes and eyelashes can be sharpened and pass with a brush locally.

      • Maria

        Thank you)

        By the way.
        I downloaded Raw coverter from Canon, there, too, the sharpness rises significantly.

  • Paul

    Thank you for the article. The question is - Nikon d3500 camera, I photograph only in jpeg (I haven't used RAW yet), I haven't used converters. Picture controls - are they only for RAW files, or do they also have an effect on jpeg files?
    Thank you.

    • Jury

      Picture control modes are needed to get different results in finished jpeg-files. Each jpeg output from the camera is made according to the selected Picture control. If you have the camera in your hands, do not be lazy, take several shots with different modes, or in one mode change the settings from frame to frame - and you will understand everything. In RAW files, Picture control can only be used when working with Nikon's native programs.

  • Glory

    Is there any point in changing the sharpness settings from 3 to 9 if I process all the pictures in Photoshop? Will there be a resharp for 9?

  • Ilya

    This is Hiralom. Artificial sharpening with the UnsharpMask filter, extra contours appear, which you take for sharpness. This spoils the photos, sometimes you don’t have to interfere with your own hands, but just buy a normal lens. In order not to get a photo taken as if on an inexpensive phone.

  • Novel

    After all, you can still buy a camera model without the debanding function, right? For those who don't have it yet.

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