Nikon Raw (NEF) Codec: fast, free new option

The Fast Picture Viewer codec is free, works on 32- and 64-bit Windows, and has since become my go-to codec for raw (NEF) images on both Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

Nikon Logo

Earlier this year, I wrote about the where, why and how of Nikon Raw (NEF) Codecs for Vista and Windows 7.

In the intervening months, my fellow photographers have introduced me to a shiny new alternative called the Fast Picture Viewer codec, which is free, works on 32- and 64-bit Windows, and has since become my go-to codec on both Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

Fast Picture ViewerWith this codec installed, you get Raw image support in places like Windows File Explorer, Windows Live Photo Gallery, and Windows 7 Media Center. And it’s surprisingly fast.

Here’s a link back to my updated earlier article, which explains the codec story in more detail.

Or you can just go download the Fast Picture Viewer codec.

Microsoft tech Bonus: It was created by a BizSpark startup.

Viewing a directory of Raw (NEF) Files from 64-bit Windows 7
The goal: a directory of Raw (NEF) Image files and their metadata in Windows Explorer. This is 64-bit Windows 7.

Nikon Raw (NEF) Codecs for Vista and Windows 7

Nikon Logo

Two years ago, I mentioned in an article that Nikon’s Raw (NEF) Codec was an important part of my photo-processing pipeline.  After many laptops, photos, and software updates, it still is.

I now work with photos on 32- and 64-bit machines running Windows 7 and Windows Vista.  In the hope it will help other Nikon photographers, here is an update describing some of my more recent experiences working with Raw (NEF) files under Windows.

[Note: I last updated this article May 2012.  tl;dr: download Nikon’s 32- and 64-bit NEF codecs here.]

First – Why would you want a NEF Codec?

The principal reason you’d want a Raw (NEF) Codec is to view Raw Nikon images and metadata from within Windows File Explorer and Windows Photo Gallery, and now Windows Live Photo Gallery as well, which was released as part of Windows Live Essentials.

Viewing a directory of Raw (NEF) Files from 64-bit Windows 7
The goal: a directory of Raw (NEF) Image files and their metadata in Windows Explorer. This is 64-bit Windows 7.

Of course, if you’re shooting Raw images, you’ll probably also want a fully-featured application that can view and edit NEFs (such as Nikon’s Capture NX 2, or Adobe’s Lightroom or Photoshop), in addition to the Codec. But the Codec itself is very useful for viewing, sorting and “triaging” your photos.

The options available to you for NEF Codec solutions will depend on whether you’re running 32- or 64-bit Windows.  Here are the ones I use today.

Nikon LogoRecommended NEF Codec for both 32- and 64-bit Windows:
Nikon’s NEF Codec

(current version: 1.14.0)  (click for download info)

Nikon’s Codec has gone through a number of revisions.  It is currently at version 1.14, and can be downloaded from here.  This codec is free to download. I should note that I couldn’t get it to work on a pre-release version of Windows 8.

Fast Picture Viewer

Alternate option: FastPictureViewer Codec (NOT FREE)

(current version: 3.2) (click for download info)

My impression (not even remotely scientific, since I’ve switched machines and cameras) is that version 1.8 is quite a bit quicker and more robust (stalls less often) than earlier versions.  My improved experience may also have to do with updates to Windows Vista, so I’m not sure.

Nikon Logo

64-bit alternate option: Ardfry’s x64 NEF Codec

(current version: 1.0.0.12) (click for download info)

In addition to the Fast Picture Viewer, another third party, Ardfry Imaging, have released a 64-bit NEF codec for Windows Vista x64.  I have previously worked with it on multiple 64-bit Windows 7 installations, and it worked well for me.  I evaluated the Ardfry Codec beta for its trial period, and decided it was well worth the $19USD they were asking for a registered copy.

But what if I don’t want to pay for (or install) a Codec?

Please note that even if you choose not to install a codec like FPV or Ardfry’s, Nikon’s Capture NX 2.1 works fine under 64-bit Windows (in 32-bit emulation mode), as you can see in the screenshot of 64-bit Windows Task Manager below.

Capture NX 2.1 works fine under 64-bit Windows 7 in 32-bit emulation mode
Capture NX 2.1 works fine under 64-bit Windows 7 in 32-bit emulation mode

That being said, I value being able to see my photos and their metadata within Windows Explorer and Windows Live Photo Gallery, which is not possible without the codec.  So a codec solution like the ones listed above makes sense for me. The Windows 7 installation pictured at the top of this article is sporting the Ardfry codec.

I hope this helps, and am always grateful for tips, advice, and further thoughts on streamlining my photography pipeline.

Nikon D90 – I need to learn how to shoot video now

Nikon D90
Nikon D90 (link goes to nikon.ca)

I recently picked up a Nikon D90 body, and have only just started to play with it. Although it hasn’t seen a real stress test yet, so far, 12.3 megapixels of rich colour have been most appreciated.

Compared to my previous D70s, the camera shoots impressively well in low light. Indoor shots taken at 800-1600 ISO (and even 3200 ISO) look sharp and impressively grain-free, even when enlarged. I also really like the ability to configure a custom menu that’s opened by the button under your right index finger, to give yourself rapid access to functionality that was previously buried in menus.

Ken Rockwell’s D90 Users Guide In Plain English has some great tips for tweaking the D90’s initial settings for ease of use and good results. I took his tip to change the customizable button to the Set Picture Control menu, which lets me quickly switch between Standard for people shots, and Vivid for lanscapes. Check out Ken’s guide for more tips.

The D90 has the unique ability among DSLRs of its class to shoot video of up to 1280×720 resolution (720p).  When in video mode, the camera does not auto-focus, so you have to shoot Hollywood-style.

I wasn’t sure if the D90 video quality could be taken seriously until I saw this Youtube video of a Henkell Champagne commercial that was shot with the D90 (direct link).  They apparently used several Nikon lenses to get the job done (Nikon 400 2.8, Nikon 80-200 2.8, Nikon 50 1.8, Nikon 17-55 2.8).

The commercial’s subject matter is not too hard on the eyes, either.

Wow – very cool, and proof to me that in the right hands, the D90’s video functionality can produce some amazing results. Now I need to learn some videography (and invest in a few lenses!).

Mazinaw Lake by Night

I was up at Mazinaw Lake over the weekend, where my sister’s fiancé and his family have a cottage.  This is proper Ontario, where you head out to the lake and scurry across by boat to your getaway. 

Go on hikes, watch the meteor shower, swim, chill with the other lads in the wedding party, have a few polites, and gawk at what your future brother-in-law’s D80 can do shooting long-exposure shots of the night sky.

Mazinaw Lake by night