If you're an avid photographer with a DSLR or maybe even a high end point and shoot, you probably know about the extra depth you can gain from your images when shooting in RAW format. However unlike the more common JPG format, RAW files are not easily viewed without 3rd party software installed such as Photoshop. In addition such software may be time consuming to launch, add that to the cost of opening each image in the application and you have a very laborious on your hands.
Last month (July 2011) Windows put out a codec pack which allows for RAW files (amongst some other formats) to be viewed as thumbnails in Windows Explorer and also in the built in picture viewer. Why this wasn't built for Windows 7's release is unbeknown to me, I guess it's something Microsoft just doesn't really care about. Also note that it works with Vista too.
Simply install the codec pack (download from the links section at the end of this post) and you will instantly be able to view your RAW images files. However there are some limitations:
- - Some more recent camera's RAW files are not supported. As Different brands and sometimes even cameras encode RAW images differently, updates need to be made to the codec pack when new cameras are released. For example popular cameras such as the entry level Nikon D3100 and more high-end Canon EOS 60D are unable to have their RAW files opened. This also shows that whether you have a high end camera or not doesn't make a difference.
- - To generate the thumbnails for the images you must open at least one image in Picture Viewer. Some people say that an image must be opened in Windows Live Gallery, it certainly defaults to that (it can be changed later). Generating of the thumbnails takes quite some time too and only begins when each folder containing RAW files is opened.
- - Opening the images in the built in Picture Viewer (or Windows Live Gallery) can actually take longer than opening them in a pre launched Photoshop window (in my experience).
- - Not all cameras are supported - Microsoft provides a full list of supported devices on the download page
Download the Microsoft's RAW file Codecs