Camera RAW Image Formats

When using a modern camera, especially a DSLR camera, there are a few image sizes and qualities you can choose from. Most store images in quite good quality and resolution by using the JPG format. However, every good camera also has the option to store images in a so-called raw format which allows for even better quality, a very high solution, and no compression of the original shot.

Camera Raw Files
Image by 55Laney69 http://bit.ly/1G1tfJv

However, if you try to open such files in your computer’s native image viewing program, it is highly likely that you get an error message. Let alone trying to open those raw image files on a mobile device. Hence why there is always the option to convert camera raw image files to JPG or any other picture format. This is especially handy if a friend sent you a raw image file.

If you want to work more professionally it’s advised to take your photos using the raw format. Programs like Photoshop and other photo manipulating software are able to open the most common formats provided by modern cameras, giving you many options to edit, improve, and re-size your pictures for personal or professional use.

With that being said, let us give you some information about the most common camera raw image file formats.

Nikon – NEF

Digital photos taken with a Nikon camera – in fine and large settings – are stored on the SD card with the NEF file extension. Camera settings like lens, ISO, and color information are stored within the NEF file as well. Those so called “digital negative” files are either stored uncompressed or using lossless compression.

In contrast to JPG or TIFF images, NEF files retain 12- and 14-bit data which allows for a much bigger variety of colors being captured by the raw image format. Quick viewing of the images is possible as well since they save a JPG version (if selected) of the image on the SD card as well. Thumbnails are also created for a small preview of the shot.

Furthermore, edited and adjusted NEF’s can be stored as raw files again, leaving the actual shot untouched while saving the changes in a separate file.

Canon – CR2 & CRW

Canon cameras save their raw image files as CR2 or CRW. They contain all information captured by the camera’s sensor, including ISO, saturation, and other information. They are regarded as “digital negatives” as well, being stored without any loss of quality.

Much like NEF, those formats are recorded in 12- or 14-bit, resulting in better colors than other raster images. Files are saved using lossless compression.

CRW files may still be around and produced with older Canon camera models, however it has been replaced by the newer and more versatile and reliable CR2 extension.

Sony – ARW

ARW is the raw and uncompressed file extensions of photos taken using a Sony camera. They are created using the TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) specifications. All kinds of data captured by the camera’s CCD is contained within the file as well; like ISO settings, contrast, and other.

Instead of installing Photoshop or another program like that, ARW files can also be opened in programs that have the sole purpose of displaying (not altering) Sony camera’s raw image files. Unfortunately, ARW files can store different kinds of data which may cause problems with Sony related image viewing and editing software. Thus, it’s highly advised to consult manuals and papers on the perfect settings for Sony cameras and ARW files to ensure that the settings do not collide with the programs offered by Sony.

Olympus – ORF

Developed by Olympus, ORF files are the raw image files for said company’s digital cameras. Just like other camera raw files, information like hue, color, ISO, and others are contained in the file, using the camera sensor as a source.

Similar to ARW, ORF files are captured differently depending on the camera model and settings used, resulting in files with different formatting. Due to this, it may be possible, that some applications (even those of Olympus themselves) can not open, display, or allow you to alter ORF files.

Adobe’s DNG

What all of the previously mentioned formats have in common is that they are produced using a camera of the respective manufacturer. The DNG format, however, was developed by Adobe, becoming a universal raw image format that can be used to save high quality digital photos.

DNG files contain various meta data and use the TIFF standard. Pictures that have initially not been stored in a raw format can thus be saved as so called “linear DNGs”, which enables the user to handle changes made to the file in the same way as if they would have been applied to a raw image file. Programs that support raw DNGs always support the linear DNG format as well, yet it doesn’t always work the other way round.

Best free Picture Viewers for Windows

Picture Viewer
Image by sean hobson http://bit.ly/1EsooOv

More often than not, there are better open source and otherwise free software alternatives to native Windows or Apple products. In this article, we want to have a look at the Windows picture viewers and the alternatives that offer you more and better features.

When browsing the help forums on the internet, you quickly come across some problems with the native Windows 7 and Windows 8 image viewing options. Windows Image (or Photo) Viewer from Windows 7 and 8 is unable to display animated GIFs, for example, only showing the first frame. The modern ‘Photos‘ app of Windows 8 does show animation in most cases, yet the app is set to full screen by default, overlapping all other programs in the background.

Thankfully, many free alternatives allow animation as well as the bypassing of full screen mode.

IrfanView

IrfanView is a free image viewer that works on all Windows platforms. Under certain cirumstances, the program runs on Linux and Next to displaying images, videos and audio files can be opened as well. The possibility of editing and converting pictures is given in some extend as well.

The following files can be viewed. For an exhaustive list, have a look at this list.

  • BMP
  • GIF (also animated)
  • ICO
  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • PSD (Photoshop file)
  • TIFF
  • WEBP
  • RAW camera files
  • PDF
  • TXT
  • FLASH
  • OGG
  • MIDI
  • MOV
  • MPEG
  • MP3
  • MP4
  • WAV

Other interesting features involve:

  • Scaling
  • Slideshow
  • Creation of screensavers
  • Creating icons
  • Communicate with scanners
  • Screenshot options
  • Cropping
  • Resizing
  • Rotating
  • Brightness & contrast
  • Tint
  • Gamma level
  • Batch processing
  • Image conversion

Furthermore, IrfanView is available in over 20 languages. It allows for several plugins to be installed to advance the features even more, and has a thumbnail function for better picture organization. The most striking feature, however, is the compactness of the program, with the basic version occupying about 1.6 MB only.

Picasa

Picasa is an image viewing and organizing software owned by Google. It’s available for Windows from XP up to Windows 7, Mac OS X, and Linux via Wine.

Edit: However, depending on the color profile of your image, Picasa can hit it’s limitations. CMYK pictures are not always supported (errors regarding PSD files saved in CMYK are common).

The following file formats are supported by Picasa. For an exhaustive list click here.

  • BMP
  • GIF (not animated)
  • JPG
  • PNG
  • PSD (Photoshop files)
  • some RAW camera files
  • TGA
  • TIFF
  • WEBP
  • 3GP
  • AVI
  • MKV
  • MOV
  • MPG
  • MP4
  • WMV
  • MP3
  • WMA

Other features provided are:

  • File import
  • Tracking
  • Tagging on Google+
  • Keywords
  • Facial recognition
  • Collections
  • Slide shows
  • Timelines
  • Page Layouts
  • Size reduction
  • Color enhancement
  • Red eye reduction
  • Cropping
  • Adding Text

Imagine

The image viewer Imagine was developed mainly for Windows platforms (up to Windows 8). While the program features some useful features, it’s last update unfortunately came out in November 2012.

Files supported include:

  • BMP
  • GIF (also animated)
  • ICO
  • JPG/JPEG
  • PCD
  • PSD (Photoshop files)
  • RAW camera files
  • TGA
  • TIFF
  • XCF (Gimp files)
  • 7z
  • RAR
  • TAR
  • ZIP

Imagine has very strong support for different kinds of animations. The features provided include the following. An exhaustive list can be seen here.

  • Extracting frames from animations
  • Transparency
  • Thumbnail browser
  • Batch processing
  • Slide shows
  • Screenshots
  • Exif/IPTC information
  • Creation of animations
  • Rotating
  • Flipping
  • Greyscale
  • Negative
  • Color depth
  • Swap colors
  • Effect filters

XnView

The XnView software is a file manager with support of image viewing. It’s available for Windows and it’s mobile versions, as well as OS X and Linux.

Numerous image, audio, and video formats are supported by XnView, including:

  • BMP
  • EPS
  • GIF
  • ICO
  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • PSD
  • RAW camera files
  • TIFF
  • PDF
  • MID
  • MP3
  • WAV

Some of the most common features of XnView are:

  • Screnshots
  • Slide shows
  • Thumbnails
  • Search for similar graphics
  • Exif/IPTC information
  • Rotating
  • Flipping
  • Cropping
  • Color manipulation
  • Filters & effects
  • Batch processing

FastStone Image Viewer

FastStone Image Viewer is available for Windows platforms from Windows 98 up to Windows 8. It’s an image viewing and organization software with stable releases.

The most common file formats are supported by FastStone Image Viewer, including:

  • BMP
  • GIF (also animated)
  • ICO
  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • RAW camera files
  • TGA
  • TIFF

Among others, the program offers the following features:

  • Thumbnails
  • Slide shows (including music and effects)
  • Exif information
  • Side-by-side image comparison
  • Rotation
  • Cropping
  • Color correction
  • Red eye removal
  • Clone Brush
  • Curves
  • Masks

A more exhaustive list of supported file types and features can be seen on the FastStone Homepage.


Sometimes, however, you may encounter an image file none of these free alternatives are able to open. In such cases, you can still convert the file in question quickly and easily with an online image file converter.

 

More Popular Image Extensions

In a previous article, we image extensionsdiscussed several of the most popular image file extensions. This included the raster image extensions of JPG, GIF and PNG as well as the vector format of SVG. While those are the image extensions most people are familiar with, it is not a comprehensive list, by far. There are hundreds of other file extensions used for image files, and that is what we’re focused on in this article. Each of the image extension types we discuss below are raster images.

Since these file formats are less common than the original four we discussed, you are more likely to have problems when you try to open them because your device may not be set up to handle them. If that is the case, a simple image file conversion program can help.

EXIF

The Exchangeable image is similar to the JFIF format that uses the TIFF extension. This image extension is most frequently used as part of the JPEG writing software that is part of many types of digital cameras. The EXIF handles the exchange of images from the digital camera to the software you use to edit and view the image. Some of the information contained in the file is from the camera like shutter speed, exposure level, date and time the picture was taken, etc.

TIFF

The Tagged Image File Format typically uses 8 or 16 bits per color (using red, green and blue), which gives combined totals of 24 or 48 bits. The structure of the TIFF file was created with flexibility in mind and it is easily extendible. This has caused many vendors to extend the file using proprietary tools and methods. While that makes the TIFF file very flexible, it also means that all TIFF files are not created equal. You may be able to view and edit some types of TIFF files, but not others.

RAW

The RAW file extension refers to “raw image formats”. These types of image extensions are used on some digital cameras instead of using a specific type of file extension. These types of files typically use lossless compression and the size of the file is typically smaller than TIFF formats.

BMP

Files that use BMP image extensions are created from a Windows bitmap file. This file image extension is used in (Microsoft) Windows to manage many graphic files. BMP files are typically very large because they are not compressed. However, since they can be used in any Windows program, they are very popular. However, because of their size, in many cases if you want to save them or send them to someone, you will need to convert them to a different type of image file first.

WEBP

This is a new type of image extension that was designed by Google. These files can be either lossless or lossy.    The format was designed to automatically reduce the size of the image so the web page could be loaded much more quickly. The WEBP format was also created with the goal of replacing the JPEG file as the standard for photos posted on the internet.

As mentioned above, there are literally hundreds of different image extensions. We discussed the most popular file types in a previous post and discussed the next tier of raster image extensions here. In future articles, we will discuss vector file types.

Image File Extensions – What Are the Differences?

The use of images has become very common in the online world. People see them, send them and post them. Most of the time, this is an easy process, and people can open and view any image file that they want to. However, because of the many different kinds of image file extensions, occasionally you run into trouble.

In some cases, you may need to convert an image file to a different type to view it. In other cases, you will need to convert your own images before you send them, save them or post them. If this is the case, you need to be careful which of the image types you use, because the quality and functionality can be impacted.

We’re going to review some of the more popular image file extensions to help you make the best choice.

Popular Image File Extensions

JPG

image file extensions
Image by Dyrk Wyst http://bit.ly/1qqh3EW

This is one of the most popular image extensions and it stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.

The compression process for a JPG file removes some of the colors from the image that are not visible to the human eye. Because of this, you have to be careful. If you reduce the quality of the JPG image to much, you may not be able to recover some of that lost color information.

People typically use JPGS for pictures of people and photos of products. This is because the color variance is very important in those photos. However, JPGS cannot handle transparency, so you shouldn’t use them if you want people to be able to view the background through the image.

GIF

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. In this type of an image extension, there are a limited number of colors that are used when the image is shown. For example, a digital camera may use thousands of different colors in a picture. But if that picture is converted to a GIF image, there are only 256 colors that can be used.

You shouldn’t use GIF’s for pictures that contain a great deal of color detail, but they work well for items like logos or graphs. They also work well when you need to include transparency components in your image.

PNG

Another of the more popular image file extensions are PNG files. This is a Portable Network Graphic and it was created as a bigger, better version of a GIF file extension. A PNG file does support transparency, has many more colors available and it compresses the size of the file up to 25% better than GIF files. One problem with PNG files is that older browsers sometimes don’t handle some of the more advanced transparency issues very well.

SVG

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) image file extensions have been around for nearly a dozen years, but these image types weren’t used very often. However, with the increased usage of HTML5, SVG files are becoming much more popular. This is because of their ability to create images that are very high in quality and their ability to include animation. SVG files also maintain their level of quality as the size of the image decreases or increases.


 

While these are some of the more popular image file extensions, it is definitely not an exhaustive list. When you are making the decision to convert your image file, it is important to learn about the options so that your converted image has the ability to do everything you need it to do!