Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories
Many photographers (especially those with digital SLRs) shoot in ‘RAW’ mode, which outputs a file format that is proprietary to their camera make and model (e.g. .CR2, .NEF, etc.). These RAW formats preserve more of the original information from the camera than the JPG file that most other cameras output. This extra information provides greater quality, but it comes at a price of convenience. JPG is a universally supported image file format, but as anyone who has used RAW files can tell you, they are anything but universally supported.
In the past, RAW shooters had to either rely on RAW conversion software provided by their camera manufacturer, or put their fate in the hands of the myriad of software makers who have attempted to reverse-engineer these formats for support in their software applications. This led to a number of problems: compatibility issues, varying quality or inconsistent results from one application to another, and holes in the user workflow where RAW support is lacking.
Windows Vista attempts to solve these problems by providing an extensible platform that allows support for these (and other) new file formats to be added to Windows by the owner of the file format. This support comes in the form of a codec, which users will get from their camera manufacturer, either by downloading it, or provided with a new camera body. The Photo Gallery will even detect the presence of these files and help you download a codec when it exists.
Microsoft has been working with the major camera manufacturers so that they can provide codecs for their various RAW formats to their customers. Once these codecs are installed, users will find that they can now view their RAW files and thumbnails throughout Windows Vista. Users can also perform most of the same tasks on their RAW files that they perform on their JPG files in the Photo Gallery – their RAW files can be viewed, tagged, rated, printed, etc. Because photographers shoot RAW for advanced editing of their photos, we did not enable the light touch-up functionality in the Photo Gallery for RAW files. Windows Vista also exposes a set of APIs, so that other applications can also provide this same level of functionality by using the same RAW codec.
The camera manufacturers are hard at work getting their RAW codecs ready. Although we can’t provide specifics of their individual plans, we expect codecs for the most common RAW formats to be available to customers within the first few months after the January 30th Vista launch. If you are interested in support for your specific camera model, we suggest that you contact your camera manufacturer for more details.