Microsoft Now Offers limited RAW Camera Support

Today Microsoft released a Codec Camera Pack which brings (long overdue) limited support for various RAW formats from the major camera vendors. While most RAW shooters use more substantial tools (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.) for manipulating images, Microsoft has provided a download for both 32 and 64 bit Windows that allows viewing RAW formats in Windows Live Photo Gallery and some basic image manipulation, mostly rotate and resize. You can, however, copy a NEF to JPG format and edit it inside WLPG, but that is not the same as editing a native NEF (or other RAW format file) inside Lightroom, Photoshop, etc. This may be good enough for casual photographers.

Below is a screen shot in Windows Explorer Tile view of some Nikon NEF RAW images which is where I looked first. Note the generic Windows Live Photo Gallery icons, but please read further


Or, if you view with large icons, you will see something like the screenshot below:


As you can see, you can’t INITIALLY actually view images in Windows Explorer with this new codec pack, but you can open/preview in Windows Live Photo Gallery. It seems that after you open a group of photos in WLPG and click through each one, eventually some magic happens and if you are patient, you will eventually get thumbnails in Windows Explorer view. Here is a screenshot using Windows Explorer after clicking through some, but not all images in a folder. It looks like WLPG needs to complete looking for people tags and until this completes, only the generic WLPG icon will appear:


I will continue to use Adobe Bridge or Fastone Image Viewer (FREE) to quickly select images for editing. Here’s what Fastone produces for thumbnails:


Once you elect to Preview/Open a RAW file in WLPG with the new codec installed, you can view properties and find EXIF info and lots more. I note that while Microsoft didn’t list the Nikon D7000 (but does list the D700) that both of my Nikon DSLRs are indeed supported.


Once inside WLPG, you’ll see thumbnail and as stated, be able to perform a few image manipulations, but you won’t be able to adjust color/curves/saturation, etc. as you can with a full blown image editor. The types of editing provided for RAW files, at least for the Nikon NEFs I tested, inside WLPG are not the same set available for say JPEG images. However, you can open the image in your favorite editor (and select from those editors you’ve configured if you have multiple image editors).


I was hoping that the new codec would let me view RAW NEF files inside Windows Media Center, and was encouraged when I saw thumbnails.


But alas, it is not meant to be, as apparently WMC still cannot display RAW images and instead I see the dreaded “unable to display picture screen”. Turns out this is true of images shot with my D7000 but works correctly with my D700. I guess the meaning of the omission of the D7000 from the supported list is clearer.


I have contacted Microsoft about this and do not know if there will be a fix.