Microsoft adds RAW preview support to Windows 7

Fellow photographers, rejoice! After a quick codec pack download, those of you running Windows 7 or Vista should be able to preview RAW files straight from Windows Explorer, without having to use third-party tools like Adobe Bridge. Micrsoft announced the release of the pack on its blog earlier today. You can download it here in 32-bit and 64-bit variants.

As the video below demonstrates, the codec pack doesn’t just let you view RAW thumbnails in Explorer; it also imbues Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 with RAW support:

For the uninitiated, RAW files can be generated by DSLR cameras instead of (or in addition to) JPEG files. While JPEGs are inherently compressed, RAWs retain uncompressed image data from the camera’s sensor, usually with more than 8 bits of color fidelity per channel. That means you can tweak settings like exposure and white balance without having to resort to post-processing filters.

I’ve gotten in the habit of snapping all my TR photos in RAW format, so I’m pretty happy to see Microsoft finally catch up here. It’s just too bad it took so long—Mac OS X has had built-in RAW thumbnail support for years, something that’s always unnerved me when switching from my MacBook to my Win7 desktop.

Comments closed
    • wiak
    • 8 years ago

    FYI: this pack also enables other WIC enabled applications to gain support of the same codecs in the package
    [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Imaging_Component[/url<] kinda ironic that this codec framework isnt widely supported in software, even that its clearly Superior method to support different image formats WIC is the same to picture codecs that dshow/media foundation is to audio/video

    • Jon
    • 8 years ago

    Now they need to re-add support for animated .gifs.

      • Mystic-G
      • 8 years ago

      Why did they remove it?

        • Voldenuit
        • 8 years ago

        Actually, that’s not too far off the truth. Most modern cameras can record video as MJPEGs, where every frame is a JPEG.

        • Jon
        • 8 years ago

        This is why: [url<]http://blogs.msdn.com/b/pix/archive/2007/06/05/faq.aspx#q12[/url<] Poor logic behind that decision I can tell you.

          • Mystic-G
          • 8 years ago

          LOL!! Sounds like they needed a quick excuse.

    • nstuff
    • 8 years ago

    For those that are saying your camera isn’t supported yet… from the source blog: “Brad Weed: For those of you looking for more codecs, we hear you. We’re working on more and will release them as soon as they’re available.”

    Now that they’ve made a good first effort, i wonder if OEM’s will make sure their future (and most recently released) cameras are supported by going TO MS, rather than MS having to beg them.

    • malicious
    • 8 years ago

    Somewhat on-topic question: Why is RAW(all caps) so commonly used when the term is neither an acronym nor abbreviation? I’ve wondered about this but have yet to find an answer.

    On topic, people who use raw images will already have a viewer/editor as part of their workflow so this addition is more ‘kinda nifty’ than truly useful. I much prefer standalone applications and a lean OS but that’s a different discussion.

      • TravelMug
      • 8 years ago

      It’s a leftover habit from the DOS days and it’s 8.3 all caps filenames.

      • willmore
      • 8 years ago

      Exactly, I’ve had RAW (capitalized because it’s used with JPEG and gets promoted to all caps due to association) preview and viewing in windows since I downloaded the coded that canon provides.

    • Chun¢
    • 8 years ago

    Apple’s preview feature, Quick looks or whatever, was one of their greatest additions to leopard.

    • Mikael33
    • 8 years ago

    I like it raw

      • bthylafh
      • 8 years ago

      Your mom likes it well done.

        • cygnus1
        • 8 years ago

        And your mom likes it frozen. WTF?

          • dashbarron
          • 8 years ago

          Hah. Kinky

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 8 years ago

    I might be ignorant, but is there any reason to use a RAW image over PNG?

      • phez
      • 8 years ago

      … PNG

      • Geistbar
      • 8 years ago

      A quick search seems to imply that PNG can not have a color depth greater than 8 bits / channel. So I would assume that is the primary reason.

      Even without that limitation, converting the image data (especially from a high resolution DSLR) to PNG would take a noticeable amount of time on camera hardware. Probably too much time to make allow pictures to be taken in rapid succession.

        • Voldenuit
        • 8 years ago

        Actually, truecolor PNG files can store 16 bits per channel of color information (the 8-bit/channel limitation is for indexed color PNGs). Most camera RAW filesystems store between 10 and 14 bits per channel.

        You are right that compressing PNGs on-camera would be a bottleneck, and that is probably the main reason camera makers stick to RAW. Compared to JPEG (the other main camera format), RAW files have much greater dynamic range, allowing users to adjust exposure and color balance without clipping channels, and to have more available channel information and fidelity (for instance, when color-mapping). RAWs also usually have much less post-processing and noise reduction applied than JPEGs, allowing users to recover more detail.

          • Geistbar
          • 8 years ago

          Did not know that about PNGs. Thanks for the clarification! It seems that converting to truecolor PNG after it is on the computer could be ideal.

      • jstern
      • 8 years ago

      For one, PNGs doesn’t give any information such as time and date that an image was taken, you can’t add tags to them, and a bunch of other metadata. Two, it’s a much larger file size. For example I just took a raw image, it’s about 5mb. I saved it to a PNG and the final size was 11mb. Then I saved it to a jpeg XR and the size was 6mb uncompressed, and it retained all the good information, like time and date taken, and I can add tags to it. So while PNG is a god sent for images that contain few unique colors, it’s just not efficient for regular digital photos.

      Same image, same amount of unique colors, but the jpegxr was 6mb and the png was 11mb.

      I save all of my uncompressed picture scans in jpeg xr, it has saved me a ton of gigabytes. But for regular documents that I can whiten the background, PNGs. I know it’s Microsoft and a lot of people hate them, but I really, really hope JpegXR takes off.

      • xeridea
      • 8 years ago

      RAW stores the raw camera sensor data, before any processing for lighting, color correction, or other processing effects are done, allowing greater control over image. PNG, though lossless, would still be stored after these post processing effects are done.

    • xeridea
    • 8 years ago

    I preview RAW photos in Picasa, which is far more efficient for photo/video browsing than via the OS. There are freely available RAW editors also. It is nice I guess that they finally have it in the OS for consistency, to bad it doesn’t work with all cameras.

    • thesmileman
    • 8 years ago

    YES! IT doesn’t work. Sweet!

    • hiro_pro
    • 8 years ago

    does NOT work for nikon d7000
    works for d80 and d200

    why release a codec that doesnt work with any camera released in the last year?

      • w00tstock
      • 8 years ago

      You know it could be worse… at least now there is a 64bit codec for Nikon cameras.

      • phez
      • 8 years ago

      There is a list of compatible cameras on the download page.

      • cygnus1
      • 8 years ago

      Or you know, maybe camera manufacturers could not change the RAW format for nearly every camera they make.

    • Farting Bob
    • 8 years ago

    What makes RAW photos so hard to preview that windows only just got native support?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      Everyone’s RAW image format is different.

        • cygnus1
        • 8 years ago

        It’s more than just everyone being different. That’d be way easier to support, if say there were only a dozen or two variations. But very nearly every camera model has it’s own RAW format.

        I don’t know if it’s the camera or CCD sensor manufacturers that would have to get together to settle the format, but they should.

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          Not only does each camera maker have their own RAW format, every RAW software processes the image differently. So importing a RAW file in Capture One gives a different output than ACR, or Silkypix, or Aperture.

          A lot of it has to do with demosaicing algorithms, but it seems there is a lot of latitude in interpreting the RAW data.

          EDIT: Oh, and RAW is a moving target. Every time a new camera comes out, most RAW software usually has to be updated to support it. RAW previews in the OS are nice, but that’s all they are good for – previewing. It is no substitute for a good dedicated RAW processing app.

    • jstern
    • 8 years ago

    Cool. I only shoot in raw, just to maintain the best quality possible. Hopefully this codec will load the pictures faster than my Canon’s codec, and hopefully I can open them up with the regular photo viewer. I’ll go check.

    Edit: Lame. It didn’t work at all.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 8 years ago

      I always shoot RAW + Small JPEG (EOS 40D). The latter provides quick previews while the former preserves image quality.

        • jstern
        • 8 years ago

        Thanks for reminding me of that, I think my camera saves a jpeg version inside the raw file. I tested it out with irfanview, and I can finally browse through the images without waiting 10 seconds for the next to load up. It will be less of a pain.

        Edit: I remember changing something in the raw setting of my camera, for higher resolution jpeg. At the time I thought it was related to the preview image in the camera, and that it would allow me to zoom in further without the loss of quality that the raw pictures get, compared to the preview image of jpegs, but now I opened up some of my older raw images before I changed that setting on my camera, and they’re pretty small.

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