NIKON RELEASED a new version of their free photo editing software: you can get it here: View NX 2.
In my opinion, this software produces better RAW conversions than does my version of Adobe Camera RAW with Photoshop CS3. I've noticed that it has much better color consistency between differently exposed images of the same subject, which is important for exposure blending — and it produces fewer noisy color artifacts along high-contrast edges. The colors also look much better, and the automatic color aberration removal is a time-saving feature.
But I can't wait to try ACR on Photoshop CS5 — when I can afford it.
A huge problem is that the old View NX is very slow, primarily because it uses lots of memory. The new NX 2 looks much better and has excellent performance. Now I can have all my applications open at one time without my computer grinding to a halt.
I use the D-Lighting feature all the time to boost shadows, but the old version just had a few settings — and the low setting often didn't work at all, or made things worse. The new version has a very smooth slider for continuous adjustment.
UPDATE: There appears to be a bug in the software. When I make edits to a RAW file and save them, I do an output to TIFF, which then I pull into Photoshop for further editing. THIS DOES NOT WORK. The TIFF file has the original RAW image, without the edits. Not good.
CORRECTION: The bug I saw is due to me previously editing the image in Adobe Camera RAW. This creates a sidecar file, which apparently confuses ViewNX. If I delete that sidecar file — it has the file extension .xmp — ViewNX works properly.