The paper describes results from investigating Common Rail (CR) injection in a dedicated optical engine with optimum access to the whole cross section of the engine cylinder through piston. This engine maintains all production-type details of the combustion chamber geometry being crucial to the flow fields required for optimum engine performance. This optical engine is used along with 2D optical diagnostics for temperature, soot and OH as well as spray shadowgraphy to analyze all phases of injection and combustion under virtually real engine conditions. By using special prototype CR injectors, the effects of engine design and operation strategies on ignition, combustion and pollutant formation are studied and controlling parameters are isolated. Special emphasis is devoted to the effects of injector stability, spray symmetry, nozzle geometry, injection rate, pilot injection and swirl effects.The experimental approaches and diagnostic tools are presented as well as the results obtained on injector design effects. The results are discussed in detail and conclusions are drawn on how nozzle design and operating features affect injection characteristics and hence ignition, combustion and emission properties.