How to view RAW image files on Windows 7 (and Windows Vista).

My photography posts appear to be a bit like busses. I don’t make one for a while then two together …

Some while back I wrote a tale of two Codecs bemoaning the patchy support for RAW files.  Basically we (Microsoft) don’t provide codecs for anything other JPG, TIF, PNG and our Windows Media formats. Everything else is down to whoever is responsible for the format showing a bit of leadership. Pentax fell a bit short with the codec for their PEF format – no 64 bit support. Still, a 32 bit codec works in 32 bit apps –like live Windows Live Photo Gallery, and if one of those previews the image and creates the Thumbnail it then shows up in explorer. At least Pentax’s Codec will install: they support Adobe’s DNG format as an alternative and Adobe’s rather old beta codec won’t install on 64 bit Windows 7. I discovered Ardfry's Codec for DNG, which is pretty good, though not free.

Putting QuickTime player onto my rebuilt PC I find that it has partial codec support for WIndows – i.e. some Mov files can be played in Windows Media Player and show a thumbnail in Explorer , and some can’t (it appears the “can” use H264 video and “the can’t” are CinePak or Sorenson). Before I had a chance to get the latest build from Ardfry, someone sent me a link to this page of Codecs from Axel Rietschin Software Developments.  I’ve only installed and tested the 64 bit ones PEF and DNG ones but the initial impression is very good indeed. The only gripe is that there doesn’t seem to be a way for the Codec to return the meta data information from the picture but tell Windows “For this format the meta data is read only” – with both Axel’s and Ardfry’s codecs you can enter new data only to get an error when Windows tries to save it.

The full list of supported formats is as follows.

Adobe Digital Negative (*.dng  )
Canon Raw Image  (*.cr2, *.crw )
Fuji Raw Image (*.raf)
Hasselblad Raw Image (*.3pr, *.fff)
Kodak Raw Image (*.dcr, *.kdc )
Leica Raw Image (*.raw, *.rwl)
Minolta Raw Image (*.mrw)
Nikon Raw Image (*.nef, *.nrw )
Olympus Raw Image (*.orf)
Panasonic Raw Image (*.rw2)
Pentax Raw Image (*.pef)
Sony Raw Image (*.arw, *.sr2, *.srf)

A nice bonus is that these were created to support Fast Image Viewer, which I hadn’t come across before: this supports tethered shooting on Cameras with PTP support (like my new Pentax K7). I’m going to give this a try and I’ll hand over the small pile of pennies required if it works. Update there are different levels of PTP support, and the K7 doesn't do what I need it to. Sigh.

Comments (4)
  1. James ONeill says:

    I might try to get people to contribute a list of what works and what doesn’t, but I want to hook up with the Microsoft people who talk to camera makers to see if we can do a better job of explaining why these things matter… Saying to them "If you implement <X> Windows will give your customers a great experience of <Y>, and third party stuff which does <y> better than Windows will work with your camera as well". They really don’t seem to get it. How many camera vendors provide picture organizing tools which do the job less well than Live-Photogallery or even Vista’s Explorer/Search combination … but only do half the job with codecs.  

    Pentax did "Remote assistant" for the previous models but they have said they don’t plan to update it for the K7. Remote assistant doesn’t work on 64 bit (although I’ve got a demo of it working using the new XP mode on Windows 7).

    I’ll see what the shell people say. The shell copes with office documents where some properties are read only (word count) and some are read/write, so it should be possible for images as well.

  2. James ONeill says:

    Axel, I’ll look at filing a bug for this internally, hopefully that will lead to the necessary change in the shell.

    By the way the Pentax K7 doesn’t support the commands for tethered shooting 🙁

  3. axel says:

    >“For this format the meta data is read only”

    This is actually a shell issue. It would be trivial to check for the existence of a metadata encoder and disable metadata editing if none is found, for example by calling IWICComponentFactory::CreateMetadataWriterFromReader() and IWICImagingFactory::CreateFastMetadataEncoderFromDecoder(). If both calls fail, disable the editing interface.



  4. axel says:

    Sorry to learn about the K7. Few cameras actually supports MTP/PTP for shooting. Nikons work fine but I had mixed feedback from Canon users, for example. What you can do is use the manufacturer’s tethering software (assuming it works on your platform…) and watch the incoming folder with FastPictureViewer using it’s tracking mode (T). The end-result is about the same as with the built-in MTP/PTP tethering.

    Thanks for the post, by the way, and for considering to report the issue to the shell team. I’m not sure of all implications but it seems that they could try to get the writer upfront, on the other hand there is maybe something that prevents them to do that. With my codecs it would fail without harm because there is no encoder at all, but with others perhaps this would open the file for writing? Anyway I fully agree with your observation: the UI should be disabled when metadata cannot be written.



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