RAW File Compatibility

For those of you wondering why you’re looking at a pageful of
“file not recognised”

If your digital SLR camera is relatively new on the market, you will find that older versions of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom. Photoshop Elements, Capture One etc. won’t recognise your RAW files. Although Nikon RAW files are all NEF and Canon’s are CR2 - they aren’t all exactly the same. If you have the latest version of whatever package you’re using, a simple update may be all that’s required, but if you are using an older version, particularly an older version of an Adobe product like Photoshop, that won’t work.

Software manufacturers make money out of selling you their latest products, so when they release a new version they stop adding support for new cameras to the old version. So even if you download the latest version of Adobe Camera RAW it will only be recognised if you’re running Photoshop CS5. People tend to get a bit upset at Adobe in particular for this - Unlike most products where support will continue for a few years, Adobe stop adding new camera support to their products as soon as they release a new version.

So if you’ve just bought a new Canon EOS 7D but you’re still running Adobe Photoshop CS3, it will not recognise or open your RAW files. Even if you copy the latest Adobe Camera RAW plug in to the correct folder it won’t work. I know lots of people who’ve tried - Yes, OK you can include me in that.

To be fair, Adobe do offer a way around this. They offer a free package to convert almost any RAW file to Adobe’s own RAW format :  DNG - (Digital Negative) which all Adobe applications, even older ones, will recognise. How well it works varies, so good luck on that one - it’s not an ideal answer, but no other vendor offers any answer at all.

The message is quite simple:

If you buy a new camera, expect to have to update your software.

Download Adobe DNG Convertor

Adobe’s Point of View

To balance out the above - there is one argument that Adobe make that deserves to be heard. 

If you take a long term view, as Adobe do, of the historical importance of photography, things need to change.

For years now Adobe have been pointing out that the almost universal:

 New Camera  =  New RAW Format

is just crazy.

Although some manufacturers support DNG, Nikon and Canon don’t., so if we carry on as we are, there will be not just hundreds, but thousands of RAW formats in the years ahead, so we will be looking at not just compatibility of new camera formats, but old ones too.

There is also another less obvious consideration. Although all software suppliers update their RAW file processing modules regularly, these “updates” usually  just add support for the endless list of new cameras being launched every year. I suspect that many of the core elements of the software are rarely, if ever, updated. Developers are probably far too busy just adding support for new cameras to even look at that.

So why not use a standard RAW format for all new cameras? Good question. Obviously Adobe are promoting their own DNG or Digital Negative format, but perhaps they’ve got a point. Their suggestion is that you convert all your RAW files to DNG now and they will guarantee that all their future products will open them. However, if you store them in the camera manufacturer’s RAW format, 20 years down the line that may not be the case.  There will simply be too many formats for that to be possible, if camera manufacturers carry on as they are.

Maybe it’s time we had a standard RAW format.

© David Gold
All text and images copyright David Gold 2006 - 2011
and must not be reproduced in any way without permission.