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How Long to Convert 500 Nikon D800 14-bit NEF to JPEG?

Part of portrait photographer John K’s concern of using RAW (NEF) is the time to convert to JPEG for 1000 files or so from a wedding or similar.

Surely one can waste a great deal of time doing RAW-file Import into Lightroom or Aperture, and that might be a necessary workflow requirement step for some photographers, but it is also possible to convert RAW to JPEG, and go from there, perhaps saving off the RAW files for the 5 or 10 key images for which one needs the top quality (careful reconversion later).

RAW to JPEG speed

I timed how long it took to convert five hundred (500) Lossless Compressed 14-bit Nikon D800 NEF files into high quality full-resolution JPEGs, using the ACR batch convert function in Adobe Photoshop CS6.

The relatively similar results might seem surprising, until one understands that Photoshop (and Lightroom) make only marginal use of more than four CPU cores.

Times might be slower with a conventional hard drive. Solid state drives (SSD) used for these tests in my MPG Pro Workstation and MPG Pro Laptop.

While having 6 CPU cores is worthwhile, it’s good for only a 10-15% gain in many cases (with Photoshop and Lightroom, some other programs do better). The behavior is pretty much the same from Photoshop CS5 to CS6 and with Lightroom 3 vs Lightroom 4.

The 12-core results are from my upgraded Mac Pro, it is 3.33 GHz (not a typo). Results would be nearly identical to the 6-core if one were running a 2.93GHz Mac Pro, which is the fastest Apple sells.

Time to convert 500 Nikon D800 14-bit NEF files to high quality full-res JPEG files
Time to convert 500 Nikon D800 14-bit NEF files to high quality full-res JPEG files

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