Are the settings "Active D-Lighting, NR" in Nikon DSLR necessary evil or should this be turned off (managed through image editor)? What is the effect of this setting on processing time and battery life?
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Active D-Lighting isn't necessary at all. It works by doing two things: slightly underexposing (by 1/3 to 2/3 stop) and applying some adjustments to raise the shadows back up
You can achieve the same thing by underexposing high-dynamic range scenes by 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop, then in post-processing, lift the shadows a bit.
You also mention NR. There are two settings on most Nikon cameras. One for High ISO noise reduction and the other for Long Exposure noise reduction.
Long exposure noise reduction
High ISO noise reduction
For a discussion about whether it's better to do in-camera or post: Is in-camera high-ISO noise reduction worthwhile?
I have turned my D-lighting and NR off because:
I shoot raw. And with raw I mean "the most raw I can get", without additional processing by camera. All these processings will be always better on PC, you have the option to not to do such processing and finaly you save battery.
Active D lighting and NR are both not evil and not necessary, they are tools, they are pretty good at solving the problems they are designed to solve and useless if you don't have those problems, also, like almost everything in life, those features involves tradeoffs.
Both should have negligible effect of battery life and processing speed, after all the camera has a specially designed processor for doing those thing.