CNX2 was also important because it honored the in-camera Picture Controls. Photoshop and other RAW processors cannot utilize Picture Control information and the out-of-camera images you see in Adobe Camera Raw can be quite different from what you saw on the back of the camera.
So the burning question is, “Can NX-D replace CNX2?” As a RAW processor, the answer is a qualified yes. Yes, it honors Nikon Picture Controls. Yes, it can be used to create a channel swap and the blue-sky effect in color infrared photos. The qualification comes when we talk about setting white balances.
In CNX2, the White Balance software had a marquee function that allowed photographers to draw marquee lines around the entire image thereby creating a white balance in much the same way a camera does for visible light. NX-D also has a white balance marquee function, but the selected area (using left-click and drag) is quite small. This works well if you have something gray in the image or have a photo of gray card under the same lighting conditions. If you don’t have these things, setting the white balance can be hit or miss. Yes, you can use the levels and curves function to establish black, neutral, and white points, but I would rather use these function to fine-tune the White Balance established by the software (e.g., removing blue or cyan from clouds).
As an image-editing program, NX-D is a pale specter of CNX2. The basic editing functions are there, but the overall utility of NX-D reflects its freeware status. I would hate to use NX-D as my primary photo editing program. The real value of NX-D is its ability to process RAW images. I plan to use CNX2 as long as possible because of the white balance limitations. However, the clock is ticking. Without support, CNX2 will become useless when I upgrade my computer operating system or decide to convert a newer camera.