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Books by Katrin Eismann

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« Martin Evening comments on a RAW standard | Main | Another reason to use Adobe Camera Raw: It has features "regular" Photoshop lacks »

Comments

Eugene

Well, here's a free opensource program
that can read all current raw formats. So
oem support is not an issue.
http://www.cybercom.net/~dcoffin/dcraw/

However, I'd prefer my digital photo
files in jpeg2000 (lossless or moderately
compressed).

watts

Regarding:
Bogdan Urma comments: "I also thought about long term archivalness of RAW files, but realized that is a crap shoot. RAW files are not like negatives, in the sense that negs were/are a standard format. Will my CRW be around for me to re-touch in 5 years? Or will CRW.10 be the one? RAW is not a standard, so I cannot count on it for archival reasons.

Well, the source code to decode EVERY current raw format is freely available on the internet. (see below)

http://www.cybercom.net/~dcoffin/dcraw/

So the chance of your photos becoming unreadable is pretty small. The old "will it still be a viable format" argument is growing tired. Believe me, there are enough programmers who own digital cameras to keep your raw format viable for your lifetime.

I cannot think of a better archival format than the raw data from your camera's ccd, except, perhaps, a print.

This question of what medium to STORE that raw file on is another issue.

Ethan Hansen

I'll agree with Bogdan about the danger of support for non-standard raw formats. Yes, I presume I could use Dave Coffin's code to extract the data. Then what? I have no interest in being a software monkey to write a program to translate the grayscale image into something visually pleasing. Take the Nikon D1 as an example. Some converters support it, others do not, none are investing much time in optimizing the algorithms for this particular camera. As a more extreme example, take the Kodak DCS450. Nine years ago, this baby would have set you back $12K. I'm not aware of many options for working with the raw files from this camera.

This raises the question of what incentive camera manufacturers have to support a universal raw format. A Nikon F from 1959 will take just as good pictures as an F5 made 40 years later, and they both support the same film. The urge to upgrade is driven by bells and whistles rather than capture technology.

Contrast this with digital cameras. A digital body costs 2-4x what a similarly capable film body did before the film market crashed. Now, the difference is 5-8x. There is still room for improvement in basic image quality - the Phase One P25 shows just how much - but this is going to hit a point of diminishing returns. Going back to the D1, it still produces acceptable albeit limited images.

If I process a old D1 image through Nikon Capture 2 and NC 4, there is not much difference. Do the same with a D1X raw file, and there is a huge difference. Hmm.... seems as though Nikon is more inclined to optimize the software for the current camera than older ones. As for 3rd party software, ACR does a serviceable job with D1 images, although the color is weird to a point that no fiddling with calibration sliders helps. Capture One.. oh yes, they do not support the D1.

From a manufacturer's perspective, digital is a bonanza. They have expensive bodies that many consumers are willing to replace at frequent intervals. Incompatible raw formats aid the sales pitch. New software development will naturally concentrate on the latest models. A universal format might prolong the life of a legacy body - perish the thought!

The only thing I see changing this situation is if raw shooting gets to be so common that consumers demand conformity. In the software world, Microsoft and Autodesk serve as examples. Microsoft used to change the format of their office documents with each new version. This drove upgrade sales until there was a sufficiently large installed base that compatibility was more important. Each version of AutoCAD is similarly backwards incompatible. Each version reads files from a few years back, but that's it. Lack of competition leaves Autodesk able to force upgrades through even if the added features are not essential.

Phillip Miller

While a universally adopted RAW standard would certainly be nice, it's not going to happen as long as each new camera generation needs to place data in it that did not exist before. Until there's convergence, each camera evolution will require unique RAW flavors to store their new information.

It then becomes an issue of what can read the resulting files. The biggest danger is when the software supplied by the camera company is the only option for its reading because such programs are typically weak "version 1" applications with questionable life expectancies. The best protection is by third party programs (Abobe, etc.) supporting the formats because then continual support is nearly guaranteed. Such programs supporting the format’s full, nondestructive editing capabilities is another matter – what we’re talking about here is ensuring there’s at least one route to get the file into an editor.

it seems the best thing we can do is tell Camera companies to publish their format specifications openly and early to permit 3rd party support, and then tell our favorite photo editing tool maker we need support for it. The biggest red flag (and risk) appears if a Camera company ever declares their format to be proprietary and only their software will read it. This will most likely be at an additional cost (i.e., software margins may be an appealing to supplement to otherwise declining hardware margins) and then you’re at the mercy of the Camera company caring about building good software tools.

I'm afraid the AutoCAD comment is incorrect. Autodesk, along with most software companies, go to great pains to ensure complete *forward* compatibility. The latest AutoCAD can most certainly read a .dwg from version 1 (as can Photoshop, Word, etc.). There's just no business reason for not loading older file formats. Backwards compatibility (having files from new programs load in older versions) is quite another matter, as this is rarely supported for both technical and business reasons. Tool evolution should not be a risk in file format support.

The primary risk with a RAW flavor is in its parent application going away or not evolving to be useable (e.g., DOS and Win16 applications that never updated to Win32) and no third party program ever supporting the format. THAT is what will strands RAW data like old 8-tracks.

Michael D. Rubin

To Ethan Hansen's comments:

If I process a old D1 image through Nikon Capture 2 and NC 4, there is not much difference. Do the same with a D1X raw file, and there is a huge difference. Hmm.... seems as though Nikon is more inclined to optimize the software for the current camera than older ones. As for 3rd party software, ACR does a serviceable job with D1 images, although the color is weird to a point that no fiddling with calibration sliders helps.

-------------------------
My comments:

Ethan, if you process a D1 raw image in the Capture 4.1 you can change the color space from NTSC1953 to Adobe RGB as well as other color spaces. The D1X raw file simply has more information and more latitude for adjustment than the original D1. But that is not to say that you don't gain benefits from using Nikon Capture 4.x over 2.x; in fact you gain many benefits:

You can use the new 10.5mm DX Nikkor Fisheye lens and take advantage of the new Fisheye transform function.

You can use the upcoming D-Lighting in Capture 4.2.

Additionally, we always are updating the algorithms between releases so the D1 image you produce today will be optimized. And the D1 image you produced in 1999 will be optimized. You may not detect it in your images but there can be changes.

You can batch process multiple images-you can even use the multi-image window and pick and choose which images you'd like processed.

Unlike ACR, you can add nik Filters, unsharp masking, curves and levels as well as a myriad of other settings, save them in the NEF format and open them with Capture 4.x. Even if you open with an earlier version, you will still have 99% of the same function as Capture 4.x.

If you want to send that file to PhotoShop, by all means, press one button and you are there. If you want to use the Nikon Plug-in, then all of your changes can be processed and opened and shown with the changes in PhotoShop.

Also, the accuracy of the file produced by Nikon Capture will be better than through ACR simply because the algorithms are not reversed engineered.

Additionally we have 24/7/365 Support, toll-free in the U.S. We don't charge for support as some software companies do.

We've been working with RAW files since 1999 with the D-series and have a lot of experience under our belt.

You cannot separate the hardware from the software as some would like to do.

The NEF file can be saved and resaved as a NEF. The original image data is unharmed.

As for support in the future, we still support the F mount from 1959 and a majority of lenses. We still support D1 users and Coolpix users on our toll-free lines, regardless of whether they are the first or 50th owner, and on our web forums. I don't think you have to worry about our being around or dropping support for NEF. We are committed to NEF and will continue to be committed to NEF. After 87 years as the current Nikon, I can state we will be around. (Nikon actually dates back to the 1800's but was formally formed as Nippon Kogaku (lit. Japan Optical) and later abbreviated to Nikon, by the merger of 3 optical companies in 1917).

Best,

Michael

Walter George

The more you think about it, the raw converter for camera that shoot raw is awfully important in producing the best image from a raw file. The question keeps coming up- who makes the best raw converter?, and each converter may be best for certain things, further complicating the issue.To my eye and some others, Canon's DPP 1.5 looks better than PCR 2.4b for 20D raw files. Nikon Capture 4.1 has also been getting very good reviews and one person said he has used it with good results for his 20D .cr2 files. Is it true Capture 4.1 can handle 20d .cr2 files? I tried downloading a trial version of Capture 4.1 to test it out myself, but I didn't have a Nukon SN to plug in. Thank you. WG

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