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Using RAW files


Most digital cameras these days can store the photographs in either RAW or JPEG format. JPEG is an 8-bit (still) compressed format, giving 256 (2^8) values for each Red, Green and Blue values, making a total of around 16 million possible colors (256x256x256).

The RAW format for most DSLR's these days store 12 or 14 bits of information, rather than 8 bits. Also, no real preprocessing is done on the raw image, so things like colorbalancing, under- or overexposing for postprocessing will be better.


The extra bits of RAW means more accuracy (4096 values per color instead of 256, or 12 bits instead of 8 bits, where modern cameras such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark II will do 14 bits) which effectively means you can deal with under- and overexposed photographs a lot better in hindsight. Also, the image is lossless, so you get the best quality your camera's sensor can deliver.

Ofcourse, this isn't a reason to ALWAYS shoot in RAW. RAW files take up more space and cost more time in post-production. So if you're not too concerned with quality (like when shooting at parties), JPEG may be all you need.


With Photoshop CS2 comes Camera Raw (3.1). For EOS 350D/400D cameras, you'll have to upgrade to get Camera Raw to recognize the formats. Visit Adobe's site for information on the upgrade (it's free). The 400D requires v3.6, the 350D is supported under v3.5.

The update contains only the loading filter; 'Camera Raw.8bi'. Place this file in your Photoshop installation directory, i.e. C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS2\Plug-Ins\File Formats. This will enable Photoshop to load .cr/.cr2/.nef files (NEF files are Nikon RAW files).


This is specific to EOS 350D cameras, which produce .CR2 files. The default Camera Raw 3.1 for Photoshop CS2 must be upgraded to accept CR2 files. However, after upgrading, you might find that Adobe Bridge still only displays icons for CR2 files. Here's the fix:

  • After having upgraded to Camera Raw v3.7 (or up), quit Photoshop/Camera Raw.
  • Use Explorer to browse to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS2\Plug-Ins\File Formats (the path may vary according depending on your Photoshop installation)
  • Notice the 'Camera Raw.8bi' plugin, which deals with CR2 loading. Right-click the file and select 'Copy'.
  • Browse to 'C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Plug-Ins\CS2\File Formats', which is where the Adobe Bridge RAW file format plugin lives. Right-click and select 'Paste'. Note that this directory seems fixed and cannot be changed during installation.
  • Restart Photoshop and start Bridge. It now has the ability to display thumbnails for the CR2 files. However, you may notice that thumbnails of previously visited directories don't work yet. For that, use the menu item 'Tools | Cache | Purge cache for this folder' to recreate the thumbnails for any missing .cr2 files.


Getting thumbnails for .cr2 and .crw files in Windows XP can be tricky. The older method which works for most cameras before 2007 is from Microsoft itself:

This works for cameras including my own Canon EOS 350D and 5D (mark I). For the EOS 50D and 5D mark II, you will have to look further, since Microsoft doesn't seem to update the above thumbnailer anymore. Also, going to Windows Vista or Windows, raw thumbnails need a different approach. From some searching around, you can try:

  • Canon Raw Codec - from Canon itself, this will provide thumbnails in Explorer. Note that 64-bit Windows versions are supposedly not supported, but they might still be nevertheless. I tried it on my Windows 7 64-bit machine, but unfortunately it did not work.
  • Install FastPictureViewer's codec pack. A single-user license costs $15 though. It does work on Windows 7 x64 though.
  • Install Windows Live Photo Gallery; it is said to contain the raw thumbnail codec for Win7 64-bits.
  • dpMagic - some commercial solutions are available, but also a free plugin to view RAW files for newer cameras such as the 50D. Just get the dpMagic Community download, which is free, to be able to view those thumbnails.

THUMBNAILS OF RAW FILES (.CR2/.CRW etc) - WINDOWS 7 - 32 and 64 bits

Skipping Vista for a second (who didn't), getting .CR2 files to generate thumbnails in Windows Explorer was a problem for years. Seemingly Canon still hasn't discovered that this is the 64-bits age, and hasn't provide drivers for the Canon EOS 5D for example (it works under 32-bits, but not under 64 bits).

Thumbnails now have been provided for by Microsoft themselves with a Codec Pack.



(c) 2006-2011 Dolphinity B.V. / Ruud van Gaal