I'm curious about the differences/advantages of the .NEF format compared to the TIFF. I assume the RAW format is better if you want a true unprocessed image to work with. Also, is Nikon Capture required to work with photos taken as .NEF or will Nikon View (or other imaging software) work?
#1. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 0darrellyoung Registered since 21st Apr 2006Mon 28-Oct-02 05:08 PM
The NEF format is, as you suspected, simply RAW data that the CCD has captured. It has not been modified in any way by image processing software, either in-camera, or off-camera. It is not a usable format for things like printing. It can be viewed in Nikon View 5.0, or Nikon Capture. Most people that use the NEF (RAW) format are ready and willing to do some post processing in software like Photoshop. The NEF format is the closest thing to a negative or slide that a digital camera can make. It is pure raw unprocessed 12-bit image data with no manipulations of any kind.
Any format that moves away from RAW (NEF) format is throwing away data.
The TIFF format is an 8-bit format that comes from that same RAW 12-bit data. It is 1.5 times larger than NEF, but contains less image data. In the case of TIFF, the conversion from 12-bit to 8-bit crams 12-bits of data into 8-bits of data space. That is no big deal, since there are no devices that I know of to display the full 12-bits of data anyway. Even the monitors we use can only display 8-bits, so you never really see the full 12-bits. So, if I were going to use a format for printing to photo paper, it would be TIFF. It is a loss-less format in that, once the 12-bit to 8-bit conversion is done, there is no more data loss. You can modify and save the image many times with no data loss, since no data compression is taking place. (like with the JPEG) format. The TIFF format is a widely used loss-less format. The only real drawback is that it is HUGH. A 9.5MB RAW file will convert to a 17.6MB TIFF file. A one-gigabyte IBM Microdrive will only hold 54 full res TIFF files.
I use RAW (NEF) format extensively, since I want ALL of my original data to be there when I decide to work with an image. JPEG throws away an enormous amount of data. TIFF throws away some too. So, wouldn't it be better to shoot and store your images in NEF. Then when you want to do something with the image in the future, you can simply make a TIFF or JPEG out of it. You will, like a negative, always have your original pure data to work with. Maybe someday we will have 12-bit imaging devices to work with. When that day comes, your images will be much better than the images many chose to convert permanentley to 8-bit.
I wrote an article about this subject here:
By the way. This is a very very controversial subject, and you will have many people with differing opinions. Get ready for the explosion!
#4. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 1bigjohn Basic MemberMon 28-Oct-02 10:06 PM
Thanks a bunch Darrell.
You have answered any if not all of the questions I have on this subject. I shoot in the .nef format and when I save it out in .tiff format the filesize is enormous. I knew the .tiff format was 8-bit but didn't know the .nef format was 12-bit. But why does the 12-bit .nef file when converted into an 8-bit (what I would think would contain less information), get so big?
Anyway, thanks again.....John
John K Clark
#5. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 4genec57 Basic MemberTue 29-Oct-02 12:24 AM
I think it worthy of mention here that not all tifs are 8 bit. True, the tif file in the D100 or D1X is 8 bit. However, when you open that file in NC or Bibble and then send it to Photoshop it will be a 16 bit file in Photoshop.
Other than the fact that it is readily opened by a number of graphics applications I can see little reason for shooting in tif mode but there can be numerous reasons for saving the opened NEF file in tif and I can not think of any reason not to do that. I personally prefer to save my processed image in Photoshops PSD format which limits me to working in Photoshop in the future but I am content with that limitation.
Darrell, am I missing anything here?
#6. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 5slow_driver Basic MemberTue 29-Oct-02 04:07 AM
It seems I'm the only JPEG shooter here. Sure, it can be a nightmare when you have taken a shot with a wildly wrong WB setting, & it will deteriorate each time it is processed. But, from slide film, I have learnt to get my exposure right when I release the shutter, not during hours of post processing.
But the fact is the D100 buffer is way too small to cope with RAW files for sustained shooting. With my microdrive, it takes the best part of 30 seconds just to clear 4 RAW files from the buffer. This limits my ability to capture action, spontaneous moments & even posed photos since a group of people won't wait for the cows to come home before I can take another picture. In JPEG Large / Fine mode, I have rarely had to wait since the smaller files get written straight away. In Medium / Fine, I've only run into the buffer at sports events.
I'd like to use RAW one day, but I'm afraid the D100 just isn't up to the task most of the time. I am limited to use it for landscape & other static subjects until this issue is sorted (ie, hopefully in the next camera).
#7. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 6Wed 30-Oct-02 06:56 AM
I had this recording time problem too the first time I used the D100. The camera is probably compressing the .NEF images and that takes considerably longer than just recording the RAW data (my experience was a 40 second lag after each exposure, when the buffer was full). When shooting uncompressed and the buffer is full the .NEF format has the lag or record time around 6 seconds on a 1 gig IBM Microdrive. Unless you have low capacity recording media you shouldn't use compression. Go to the Shooting Menu>Image Quality>RAW>NEF(RAW) NOT RAW Comp.
Now to the .NEF format Issue. I used to live in the darkroom and really appreacted a negative correctly exposed and developed. But I have almost never seen a piece of film that couldn't use just a little more tweeking (I'm away the perfectionist). Today the final output is not always a physical print. The image may go to the web in the form of a .jpg or to print on a press in the form of a CMYK .tif. The advantage of the .NEF format is, that all the information is in the file, nothing is filtered out or left behind. This allows for the greatest latitude of interpretation in creating a print, or web image, or what ever the use maybe, just like a properly exposed negative. Darrell Young is correct when he posted above "Any format that moves away from RAW (NEF) format is throwing away data." In fact if you SHOOT in anything less than .NEF format you are throwing away data. Data that you may want, or need later to improve, change or correct you image.
But I believe that Mr. Young is on the wrong track when he states,
"The TIFF format is an 8-bit format that comes from that same RAW 12-bit data. It is 1.5 times larger than NEF, but contains less image data. In the case of TIFF, the conversion from 12-bit to 8-bit crams 12-bits of data into 8-bits of data space. That is no big deal, since there are no devices that I know of to display the full 12-bits of data anyway. Even the monitors we use can only display 8-bits, so you never really see the full 12-bits."
It IS a big deal if you want to keep as much data as possible, as you should. Keep in mind that even though we can't see a 12-bit per pixel image on our monitor, because we are limited in the total number of colors and shades of those colors we can discern and the monitor can display (8 bits per pixel or 24 million plus colors). But the DATA is there. If we change a 12-bit per pixel image, lighten, darken, alter the curves or any number of other corrections it can effect these unseen extra bits of data that can and may be use by software to create a truer, more accurate and consistent representation of the image and or more consistent final output. After all why do you think they manufacture "True 48-bit color depth" color scanners (keep in mind that's 16-bits per pixel instead of 12-bits).
I do agree with Mr. Young when he states, "So, if I were going to use a format for printing to photo paper, it would be TIFF. It is a loss-less format in that, once the 12-bit per pixel to 8-bit per pixel conversion is done, there is no more data loss. You can modify and save the image many times with no data loss, since no data compression is taking place. (like with the JPEG) format. The TIFF format is a widely used loss-less format. The only real drawback is that it is HUGH. A 9.5MB RAW file will convert to a 17.6MB TIFF file." Keep in mind that you can use a standard loss-less compression routine to slightly reduce the file size, and HUGH, after all is a relative term.
And again I completely agree with Mr. Young when he states later in that same post, "I use RAW (NEF) format extensively, since I want ALL of my original data to be there when I decide to work with an image. JPEG throws away an enormous amount of data. TIFF throws away some too. So, wouldn't it be better to shoot and store your images in NEF. Then when you want to do something with the image in the future, you can simply make a TIFF or JPEG out of it. You will, like a negative, always have your original pure data to work with. " Well stated.
So, match your FINAL file type to you FINAL output, WEB - .jpg, PRINT - .tif, and so on, but shoot to get as much data and resolution as possible. You can always throw it away, but you can't create it, if it wasn't there to start.
#8. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 7Wed 30-Oct-02 03:25 PM
Thanks JLP for the reply. You and the rest bring up valid reasons to primarily shoot .NEF which is what I intend to do. (My D100 is somewhere between New York and Spokane at the moment)
My original hesitation was primarily because I didn't want to part with the extra $130 for NC3 if I didn't need to. After looking a little closer at NC3 it appears I will need to purchase it to work with .NEF.
Thanks again to everyone for their input,
#9. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 8Wed 30-Oct-02 11:17 PM
The D100 is a good camera, it has it's draw backs, but you will be happy with your purchase. The EXTRA $160 plus, for the Nikon Capture 3 Software is a good investment and a drop in the bucket considering the amount of money and time spend on the other lenses and accessories you have, or will purchase. You wouldn't think twice about a product, at that price, that can dramatically improve your image quality the way this software can if properly used. Nikon has been a slow starter when it comes to image capture software and it is still clunky here and there, but they are improving their applications all the time (Capture 3.5 end of November, maybe). I believe that Nikon is just beginning to take advantage of their .NEF image file format.
Do keep in mind that the software does come with an Adobe Photoshop Import plug-in. You can still do some basic things with the .NEF files and the import plug-in when used in Photoshop, like color balance and exposure variation. It does limit your options when using the Photoshop import plug-in compared to the Nikon Capture 3 software.
Now, if I could only purchase a "Buffer Service Enhancement" like the one recently announced for D-1X, for my D100. Double or triple my buffer size? YOU BET!!
I would be happy to spend Nikon another $234.00, plus local tax, shipping and handling $12.50. No kidding.
Are you listening Nikon?
P L E A S E
#10. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 9jtouboul Registered since 30th Oct 2002Thu 31-Oct-02 05:52 AM
Just a note to add to the NC3 issue.
First if you look around you can find the software for $100.00 ($99 to be exact)
Second NC (comes with camera) and NC3 does come with a plug-in for opening and manipulating NEF images with Photoshop 5 or 7 (I tried both)
Third if you have some issues with the degrees of sharpening and contrast offered by the camera (too much or not enough) then NC3 will not solve this problem. You'll need to open in Photoshop and manipulate there.
I've tried many combination and while I am not a fan of Photoshop (I like QImage much better and the price is amazingly low for what it does - hallas no NEF yet) I must admit that it does a better job at controlling sharpening and contrast based on my experience.
#11. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 10Thu 31-Oct-02 07:07 PM
To clarify jtouboul post, a fully functional version of the Nikon Capture 3 software does come with the camera. However, it is a TRIAL version with a 30 DAY EXPIRATION DATE, from first USE (not installation). You can call Nikon for a key to unlock the software or, depending on the vendor, expect to pay $100 (over the internet) to $160(Nikon direct), to upgrade once the trial time expires.
On another note.
I do agree that there is Photoshop import plug-in but it does not provide the same level of functionality as the Nikon Capture 3 software. The feature set for the two applications do overlap, but not completely, and personally, I like the color balancing / enhancement / correction metaphor better in the Nikon Capture 3 than in Photoshop. I feel Capture 3 is more intuitive, for some tasks, for a person coming from photography to computers, than some one who arrives at the same point from the reverse direction. Photoshop is a great piece of software, and has controls that allow you to fine tune your images for almost all of the many features, but often it come down to what feels comfortable for you and your work flow, your process.
In the end, the camera, lenses, filters and software are just the tools you use to help you arrive at the result that you envisioned when you tripped the shutter. Only you can judge what is best for you, give it a try, you do have 30 days.
#12. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 11Fri 01-Nov-02 04:33 PM
Just received my D100. I installed NC3 but it appears that it has the .NEF capability disabled? I guess I will have to wait until I purchase (soon) the lisenced copy to play with .NEF
Thanks for all the info,
#14. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 13Fri 01-Nov-02 11:37 PM
Your right, I was still using Nikon View 4.0 to download, I installed Nikon View 5 and re-downloaded my images, now NC3 reads the .NEF files. Not sure if that was the problem but it seems to be working fine now.
#15. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 7
As my work involes mostly graphic arts and going to print with CMYK images I use Photoshop exclusively for CMYK converions and image adjustments. I will be purchasing my D100 next month.
What are my options and best methods for using these formats in photoshop? Do I shoot in NEF and open directly in PS or open in NC3 and convert to TIFF in NC3 or do I shoot in TIFF?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Steve O'Collin (mick)
#16. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 15Tue 19-Nov-02 04:36 AM
My process to prepare files for print. Well, this is how I approach things, do keep in mind I am a bit of a perfectionist.
Shoot in .NEF format only, open in Capture 3, make modifications, i.e. white balance > exposure correction (you must have the correct exposure before you judge color, just like in the darkroom) > color correction (to include tone, hue, saturation), export as .tif, open in Photoshop (watch your color space and profiles), CMYK conversion, retouch, save as, adjust size and resolution, apply unsharp mask.
It appears to be a lot of work, but it goes fast with better camera settings to start. With a very close exposure and color balance out of the camera it makes the post processing that much easier. As you become more accustom to the camera and the software it will be easier to know how much of what adjustment is needed and less trial and error.
The time required for post processing will also depend on the final printing requirements. There is a big difference between high end and low end printing, plain old four color process vs Hexachrome Hi-Fi six color process, 12 Pt. CS2 Kromecoat vs 88 lb Double Thick Strathmore cover, long vs short run, Promotional vs Doorknob flyer.
You shouldn't waste too much time fine tuning that image that will end up on the company high speed color copier. Then again, if your shooting for Lockheed Martin's annual you can afford to spend a few more minutes tweaking your masterpiece.
Oh, and one more thing - when is the last time you calibrated you monitor? BTW, what Gamma did you say you're using, 1.8, 2.2? What's your Target white point? how about Tristimuli values?
What was it the First Mate said to the Captain of the Titanic? I think we only hit the tip.
>As my work involes mostly graphic arts and going to print
>with CMYK images I use Photoshop exclusively for CMYK
>converions and image adjustments. I will be purchasing my
>D100 next month.
>What are my options and best methods for using these formats
>in photoshop? Do I shoot in NEF and open directly in PS or
>open in NC3 and convert to TIFF in NC3 or do I shoot in
>Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
>Steve O'Collin (mick)
#18. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 17mick Basic MemberSun 01-Dec-02 05:16 PM
Thanks for the tips!
I am very conversant with photoshop and I feel I would be much more at home using it (PS) to set the white point in levels, HSB and colour balance etc. Can I just use Capture to switch from NEF to TIF (or EPS)?
Re my system, I calibrate using ColorSoft Proof hardware and software every 2 months on a LaCie 22" to neutralize and load the profile into PS. My matchprints and finished 4c process work is within 98% of what I see on screen.
Various slow peroids at work have not let me buy the D100 yet but I hope to be well ahead of the learning curve when I do.
#19. "RE: D100 and .NEF File formats" | In response to Reply # 18Wed 04-Dec-02 11:33 PM
>Can I just use Capture to switch from NEF to TIF (or EPS)?
Nikon Capture 3 supports the following file types when saving images:
Nikon Electronic Image Format (NEF) 16-bit
16-bit TIFF (RGB)Uncompressed (.TIF)
8-bit TIFF (RGB)Uncompressed (.TIF)
8-bit TIFF (CMYK)Uncompressed (.TIF)
8-bit JPEG (Exif-compliant)Compressed (.JPG)
8-bit JPEG (JFIF-compliant)Compressed (.JPG)
You should consider downloading the manual from the Nikon site at