Raw files are to digital photography what negatives were to film. A raw file contains all of the light data recorded by the digital camera’s sensor over the course of the exposure. A raw file is not technically an image though, and you need special software in order to edit a raw file and convert it into an image file format.
The first type of software I will discuss is that distributed by the camera manufacturers. Many photographers like to use the software that comes with their camera, explaining that no one knows how to work with the data produced by a camera better than the camera’s makers. I personally have not done any conclusive testing on the matter, but I have heard this topic enough times from enough photographers to consider it worth mentioning.
I will not go through the trouble of listing all of the software produced and shipped by the various camera manufacturers, since odds are you already have a copy that was packaged with your camera.
Third Party Raw Converters
- Adobe Camera Raw comes a long with Adobe Photoshop, and works in conjunction with Adobe Bridge and Photoshop. Available for Windows and Mac.
- Adobe Lightroom is a stand-alone Adobe product that aims to both manage and edit your library of raw files.
- ACDSee Photo Editor software can work with raw files. Windows only.
- Aperture is Apple’s version of Lightroom — Mac-only software for organizing, editing, and converting your photographs.
- BreezeBrowser is a lightweight package for browsing and converting raw files. Windows only.
- Bibble is referred to as “Professional Workflow Software” and works with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
- Capture One 4 advertises support for many cameras, and a full set of controls for a complete photography workflow. Available for Windows and Mac.
- dcraw-assist is a KDE GUI interface for the dcraw utilitiy.
- DxO Optics Pro boasts many software awards, and works with both Mac and Windows.
- IrfanView is a free, lightweight image browser that can do conversions and supports various raw formats. Windows only.
- iPhoto ships with every Mac, and boasts a “simplified” interface for editing and converting raw files.
- Picasa from Google is an image organizer that can read and convert a majority of raw files. Windows only.
- UFRaw is an open source raw manipulation program. It can operate as a stand-alone program, or as a plug-in for Gimp.