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Over on Inside Windows Live, Brad Weed announced today the release of the new Microsoft Camera Codec Pack. This enables the ability to natively render supported RAW photo file formats in Windows 7 (Windows Explorer) and in Windows Live Photo Gallery. Being that I’m someone who shoots a lot of photos and manages them with Photo Gallery, I thought I’d blog about the process of getting RAW support with the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack.
First off – you’re going to need the QFE2 update for Windows Live Essentials 2011 for the Microsoft Codec Pack to work correctly with Windows Live Photo Gallery. To install that update, head on over to download.live.com and run the Windows Live installer. It will update Windows Live Essentials if you don’t have QFE2 installed. And if you do have it installed, it will tell you there’s nothing to update. If you don’t use Photo Gallery, you can view RAW files from within Windows Explorer by installing the Microsoft Codec Pack separately by itself via the Microsoft Download Center. However you need to have QFE2 installed for Windows Live Essentials to ensure the RAW photo support functions correctly.
With QFE2 installed, Windows Live Photo Gallery will detect if you have photos in any of the supported RAW photo file formats and will alert you that a codec pack is available for download. You’ll of course want to choose to download and install!
One thing to note is that if you have any third party RAW photo codecs installed from manufacturers such as Nikon or Canon, Photo Gallery won’t prompt you to install the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack.
Once the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack is installed, you can view your RAW photos in Photo Gallery and also in Windows Explorer. When you also import RAW photos off your camera, you will also see them displayed in the Import Photos and Videos wizard where can choose which ones you want to import (see below screenshot).
When you double click on a RAW photo in Photo Gallery and want to edit it, Photo Gallery will alert you that you need to make a JPEG copy of the photo. You will need to make a JPEG or JPEG-XR (also known as HD Photo) copy in order to edit the photo. This includes being able to fix red-eye, make color and other image adjustments.
You can think of RAW photos are sort of like the “negatives” of your photos where you can always go back to the original but make as many copies as you want with various edits and tweaks.
For me – I often make a copy of a photo and add the black and white effect allowing me to create a black and white photo. But because I have the RAW photo which is in color, I can always go back to a color photo if I want! I also like to adjust the coloring of my photos as well. Again, it’s great to be able to go back to the original and have that option (although Photo Gallery allows you to revert any changes you make the JPEG copy too!).
With RAW files in Photo Gallery you can still add people tags, geotags, captions and descriptive tags to those photos. And this data is preserved when you make a JPEG copy too!
Overall, it’s great having this functionality in Photo Gallery and makes managing photos even better on your Windows 7 PC!
To celebrate the release of the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack, we’re giving away 10 free Nikon/D5000 DSLR cameras! The contest objective is to submit a photo essay that showcases before and after photos that map to theme of the contest which is “summer fun”. You will need to also include a short paragraph explaining how Windows (and Photo Gallery!) has improved your photography. We’re giving 10 extra points for contest entries that use the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack that displays the RAW original and then edited photo from Photo Gallery in their submissions! Click here for contest rules. You can submit your entries here!
One suggestion: please provide native RAW support in windows8 by equipping it with FastPictureViewer or Aperture like more versatile services compared to Microsoft Camera Codec Pack. As per the observation of pervious commenters, I believe buying FastPictureViewer would be a good start to excel in this department 8-|)
@brandon - To answer your direct question: with a stopwatch. Example: D3 12MP NEF file previewing: Microsoft Camera Codec Pack: 980ms, FastPictureViewer Codec Pack 263ms. That's nearly 4x quicker.
@brandon - 379 cameras including all the latest models for the FastPictureViewer Codec Pack versus 120 cameras, all at least 18 months old, for the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack would be a good comparison starting point.
About 6 releases per year versus 1 update in 6 years for Microsoft (since 12/16/2005, the release date of the latest Microsoft RAW Thumbnailer and Viewer) would be another good metric.
Finally no one understands why on earth would anyone shoot raw only to convert the images to 8 bit JPEG first thing before editing them?! At least my raw codecs surfaces the IWICDevelopRaw interface and would let an hypotetical raw editor control some aspects of the raw conversion, but the Microsoft Camera Raw Decoder return WINCODEC_ERR_NOTIMPLEMENTED from the QueryRawCapabilitiesInfo() call, which, in other circumstances, would be a reason for a good laugh.
As far as creating thumbnails and providing fast previewing and slideshows in Explorer, Photo Gallery and Media Center, using the embedded JPEG preview – which most codecs in the FastPictureViewer Codec Pack do by default – will always be quicker than converting and processing the raw data, let alone more faithful as all camera settings are already applied (white balance, sharpening, contrast, and proprietary manufacturer sauce like PictureControls/PictureStyle etc) vs. some baseline (i.e. arbitrary) raw conversion parameters for the MS codec.
-- Axel Rietschin (www.fastpictureviewer.com/codecs)
@saulc - the D7000 isn't currently supported nor are some of the newer cameras however we're looking at new camera models to support for the next release.
@7flavor - the codecs are installed all in one file (a DLL) so its not like we're installing hundreds of files for all the difference codecs. No one wants to have to find each codec for their specific camera or cameras.
@axelriet - I'm not entirely sure how you're judging the performance of our codec pack but I see that you're engaging with Brad Weed on his blog post on Inside Windows Live.
While interesting to see this so late, Microsoft pretty much allowed Adobe to make Explorer obsolete for my day to day work via Adobe Bridge. Neither Vista nor Windows 7 64bit support showing previews and metadata of Adobe's file formats (.psd, .ai, .indd, etc...), there are several forums on Microsoft's and Adobe's support sites in regards to this. Microsoft points at Adobe as the problem and Adobe points at Microsoft.
Bottom line given the choice between purchasing a third party codec to fix Explorer, which neither Adobe nor Microsoft seem able nor inclined to fix, I use Adobe Bridge which is already part of the Creative Suite. Bridge may as well be a full on replacement for Explorer, and Bridge can already view RAW formats without this codec pack...
It should give me the option to install only RAW codecs for Nikon or Canon and so on. You get this choice by installing the codec pack directly offered from the camera manufacturer and they also support XP with their codecs.
Brandon - Codecs with broader camera model support and far better performances than yours have been available for years and worked very well with Explorer and Photo Gallery. At least two ISVs (one being me) who specialized in WIC codec development and filled the gap for you are now out of business. I guess this is your way to say thank you.
What's the point of installing all codecs for all cameras if you own a DSLR from only one manufacturer? It should give me the option to install only RAW codecs for Nikon or Canon and so on. You get this choice by installing the codec pack directly offered from the camera manufacturer and they also support XP with their codecs.
I don't see the newer Nikon cameras on the list of supported cameras (for example, the D7000). Does that mean that these cameras are not supported?