Thursday, March 17, 2005

 

RAW image formats, and programs that support them

For the best possible output from a digital camera, most people capture the data in the camera's RAW format, then process it later. This has the advantage of
The range of RAW formats is large - even within a camera manufacturer, different models produce different formats of data, and support within image viewing and photo applications is patchy.

I'm pleased to report that IrfanView, one of my favourite image viewers, has just released version 3.97 of formats.dll, which is the plugin for RAW image support. There is no readme to accompany the update, but it does now allow IrfanView to display Minolta RAW files, as produced by the Dynax 7d (aka Maxxum 7d or Alpha 7d). Previously these just caused the program to enter an infinite loop, taking up 100% of the CPU. The bad news is that the support is attrocious! A single preview view of a RAW image takes 8 seconds on my powerful desktop PC, and this is the same time to load the full image - whereupon it is displayed with a horrendous colour cast.

My best recommendation for viewing RAW format files is RawShooter Essentials from Pixmantec. The program has a very strange UI which takes a bit of getting used to (for example it gets rid of the menu bar), but does do the job more than adequately. The unusable 1.0 release was fortunately followed up with a 1.1 release very quickly, which fixed a lot of bugs, and added support for many RAW formats that were claimed for the 1.0 version, but which failed to work reliably.

It's worth noting that Picasa 2 from Google also claims to support RAW images, but it also simply hangs when presented with any examples I've come up with.

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