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What to do with Nikon D5000 NEF files?

Tyson Phillips , Aug 30, 2009; 02:52 a.m.

As stated, I have a Nikon D5000 and I am saving my photos in the Nikon raw format. I am doing this because I am just learning how to "fix" my photos. My problem is that I have Photoshop CS3 which only has the Adobe Camera Raw 4.6 plugin which of course does not support my camera. CS3 will not open my NEF files. The only solution I have come up with is to convert the file using DNG Converter and then open the DNG file with CS3. I could be wrong but I believe DNG is not a RAW format so when the photos are converted, information is lost. This brings up two problems for me. Since I want the file with as much information as possible, I have to keep the NEF file. To work with this file in CS3, I have to keep the DNG file. So I have two somewhat large versions of every one of my files. The other problem is that if I just accept some information loss and keep only the DNG file, then I can only open and view my photos in CS3 which is clunky if I'm not editing anything and just viewing them. Does anybody have any suggestions about which formats I should be using and saving. I'm aware that I could just get CS4 and this would not be an issue but it's a little expensive and only a last resort.

Responses

Michael Hendrickson , Aug 30, 2009; 05:30 a.m.

I tried to grapple with this when I first got my LS4000. I quickly decided that I should just save my scans as TIFFs.

My impression, from what I read in the manual at that time, was that the scanning program's NEF format was unique to the scanner and not the same as the NEF that you get from Nikon's cameras, so I'm now surprised that you can convert them to DNG using the converter! So I guess I'll have to go back and re-study this situation.

In any event, that earlier reading indicated (to me, I may be wrong) that you can process NEFs from your scans in NikonScan, then save the images as TIFFs. This may have some workability, but I decided early on to just save my scans as TIFFs with as many bits as possible, in the widest gamut I can, and then work them in Photoshop and save as PSDs, so as to preserve the original TIFFs from the scans.

My understanding (also limited, from previous reading) of the DNG format is simply that it's a sort of universal RAW TIFF file anyway that can be opened using any software that will handle the DNG format. I like the idea of its universality but wonder how it will endure in the long run. But the point is that I believe that getting a good, full scan saved in high-bit TIFF will get you there just as well as converting to DNG will, although in doing so you lose the capability of processing the image in Camera Raw (at least in CS2 that's the case; I think in later versions you can open TIFFs in Camera Raw -- somebody else will have to verify this).

Anyway, storage is fairly cheap, so for right now until you've got a better handle on things, it's probably a good strategy to continue as you're doing. Better safe than sorry -- saves you having to re-scan anything later.

Hope this helps. I'll certainly be returning to this thread to see what others have to say, and hopefully learn something too.

Robert Brake , Aug 30, 2009; 07:50 a.m.

DNG is a raw format. There is no loss. In fact you can embed the original NEF into the DNG file (larger files of course) if you have concerns about working with the original NEF later after upgrading.

Alex Ragen , Aug 30, 2009; 08:48 a.m.

Download the DNG software for free from Adobe's website and use it to convert the NEF files to Adobe's DNG format. You will have all the benefit of RAW file processing.
I have exactly the same problem. I use CS3 and got a camera that came out after CS3 did, so it doesn't support its RAW format. The solution is as I said above. It wqorks just fine for me.

Edward Ingold , Aug 30, 2009; 09:02 a.m.

It is always advisable to keep the original, which constitutes your "digital negative", using DNG as your working copy as needed. HDD storage is cheap and convenient. Just make sure you back up to durable media (e.g., DVDs) as you go. HDDs can and do fail - I lose about one a year.

DNG files are definitely RAW files. You can interpret them in any way you wish in a non-destructive fashion, whereas TIFF files are permanently configured. If you change a TIFF file, you lose some data irreversibly.

You may lose some peripheral data, such as camera settings, when you convert from NEF to DNG. If that is a problem, you can use Nikon CaptureNX to do the conversion. Personally, I do not ascribe any special significance to in-camera settings. You can update from CS3 to CS4 for about the same cost as CaptureNX (which is a kludge program), so the solution is obvious.

rob miles , Feb 13, 2010; 10:41 a.m.

SUBJECT DOWNLOADING RAW FILES FROM THE D500 INTO CS3
Having been a Canon user for 10years & just downloading RAW files straight into CS3 I was a bit perplexed when I tried to open up from the D5000 & .up popped "Document not recognised"
I hope I am right in thinking that I need to download the Adobe DNG converter for RAW into CS3.Its a bit confusing as to which plug in I should use. I have a feeling it needs to be 5 but when I looked at the downloads table it appeared to be for CS4 .
Would appreciate any guidance anyone can give if they have been down the same route & have subsequently resolved
Thanks Rob

Scott Kennelly , Mar 22, 2010; 12:22 p.m.

If I were you, I would consider Picasa (free download from Google).
http://www.google.com/picasa
If you want something better you should buy Adobe Light Room.
http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshoplightroom
You can use either one to view and review your NEF or just about any other type of image files. Plus you can even do some basic editing, such as cropping, exposure and saturation adjustment, etc. They both let you edit using Photoshop CS2, CS3, or CS4. When you edit photos in either of them, whether you use the tools included or edit with Photoshop (from within Picasa or Lightroom), your original file will remain untouched. When you "export" a file, you can always export the original or whatever version you like (such as a small JPEG or full-size TIFF). You can decide what color space to use, when you create your "versions" when you export them also. This is an excellent way to work on large volumes of photos, since you will be unlikely to ever need lots of big files other than the originals. Take it from someone with hundreds of thousands of RAW files filling many hard drives. Software like these are AWESOME! I use Aperture (only available on a Mac), but from what I can tell, Adobe Lightroom is just as good, and in some ways better.
Good luck!

Scott Kennelly , Sep 09, 2010; 03:26 a.m.

Since writing my response here, I discovered ViewNX (a free download from Nikon). It works fine (thought not as feature-packed as Picasa and definitely far from Lightroom or Aperture). Use it rather than Picasa, because Google has decided to go the way of Microsoft and try to force everyone who uses their software to conform to their ways. Unfortunately, a good piece of software has gone a step in the wrong direction there. It's a shame.

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