How can I process new RAW photos with older Adobe software?

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May 15, 2015 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in Q&A, Tips & Techniques by  •  7 Comments

When I was shooting in RAW format with my older cameras, I was able to use Photoshop 3 to modify the files and convert them to TIFF. But I recently bought a Nikon D5500, and Photoshop 3 cannot open its NEF format (RAW) photos. Is Adobe is no longer updating Photoshop 3? If so, what can I do aside from paying a monthly fee for Photoshop CC?
—Sándor T.

Adobe stopped updating the Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop 3 a few years ago, Sándor, so this software is incompatible with the RAW formats produced by newer cameras. Your D5500 shipped with a copy of Nikon View NX 2 software, which can convert RAW files, but the optional Capture NX-D—available free of charge as a download—is preferable since it offers more tools for greater versatility.

The camera manufacturers offer RAW-converter software, such as Nikon’s versatile Capture NX-D that I often use. These vary greatly in feature set, but all are available free of charge. Use the program’s HELP feature to find and download any recent updates to ensure compatibility with the latest cameras’ RAW formats.

The camera manufacturers offer RAW-converter software, such as Nikon's versatile Capture NX-D that I often use. These vary greatly in feature set, but all are available free of charge. Use the program's HELP feature to find and download any recent updates to ensure compatibility with the latest cameras' RAW formats. © 2015 Peter K. Burian

The camera manufacturers offer RAW-converter software, such as Nikon’s versatile Capture NX-D that I often use. These vary greatly in feature set, but all are available free of charge. Use the program’s HELP feature to find and download any recent updates to ensure compatibility with the latest cameras’ RAW formats. © 2015 Peter K. Burian

If you prefer to use an Adobe product for RAW conversion and want to buy software instead of paying a monthly subscription fee, you have two options: Photoshop Elements 13 ($90 CAD at retail stores) or Photoshop Lightroom (v. 5, $175 CAD). Both are versatile image editing and RAW-conversion programs (particularly Lightroom), and Adobe issues regular updates regarding new cameras’ RAW formats. Lightroom is more expensive, but its version of Camera Raw offers more options for modifying your photos, so it’s preferred by serious shooters.

If you insist on using an older Adobe imaging program for modifying/converting RAW files from newer cameras, start by downloading and installing Adobe's free DNG converter. Use this utility to convert your RAW photos to the DNG RAW format and you'll be able to modify/convert them in your existing Adobe software. © 2015 Peter K. Burian

If you insist on using an older Adobe imaging program for modifying/converting RAW files from newer cameras, start by downloading and installing Adobe’s free DNG converter. Use this utility to convert your RAW photos to the DNG RAW format and you’ll be able to modify/convert them in your existing Adobe software. © 2015 Peter K. Burian

There’s also a workaround available from Adobe that’s free of charge: Digital Negative Converter. This utility enables owners of newer cameras to use older versions of Photoshop (or Lightroom) for RAW photo modification and conversion. Simply download and install DNG Converter 8.8 for Windows or DNG Converter 8.8 for Mac. Use it to convert your new camera’s RAW captures to DNG, Adobe’s own RAW format as shown in this video tutorial: The DNG Converter for Photography. You can then process those RAW files in unsupported Adobe software such as Photoshop 3. Naturally, the new features provided in the latest version of Camera Raw (in current Adobe software) will not be available to you. Hence, you’ll probably want to consider buying a new Adobe program (preferably Lightroom) to get the maximum versatility and image quality.

7 Comments

  1. Richard Tomkins / June 1, 2015 at 4:21 pm / Reply

    I have the following workflow.
    I shoot RAW.
    Nikon Transfer 2, it understands the proprietary NEF format.
    Nikon View NX 2, it understands the proprietary NEF format. It will produce TIFF and JPG output. I then use the TIFF or JPG in Corel PaintShop Pro (same as Adobe but cheaper).
    Nikon Capture NX-D, it understands the proprietary NEF format. It will do JPG and TIFF export.

    All the Nikon software is available for free. All the Nikon software understand the NEF RAW proprietary format. The Nikon body and the Nkkor lens both encode special information in the NEF RAW file that Adobe or other software cannot understand. This extra meta data is used by the Nikon software to enhance the image processing. Adobe, and DxO and others cannot use this data as they cannot read the proprietary meta data. Does it make a difference? Maybe.

    Why all the new releases of Nikon software, well, a little company did the original work for Nikon and that company was bought by Google and Nikon was given a year or so to create new non-dependency software, so they went to another little company.

    My personal opinion is that if you intend to use the RAW, use Nikon software to get the images off the storage card and if you intend to heavily edit, convert the images to TIFF and use that in your Adobe or Corel or whatever.

  2. leslie carr / September 2, 2015 at 5:28 pm / Reply

    Do I understand that Elements 13 will process raw files from my Nikon D5500? Thank you. L.G. Carr

  3. PETER K BURIAN / September 5, 2015 at 8:39 pm / Reply

    Yes, L.G. Carr. If it does not open the RAW file from your camera you will need to get the update for Adobe Camera Raw. The easiest way is to click on HELP at the top of the screen and follow the prompts to get any Updates; download and install those and Adobe Camera Raw in your version of Elements 13 will support the RAW formats of the latest cameras.

    There is also another Q&A discussing Adobe software that might be of interest:

    https://www.photolife.com/2015/08/how-can-i-work-with-my-new-nikons-raw-files-without-upgrading-software/

  4. Ron / July 12, 2016 at 5:57 pm / Reply

    Thanks for your post. I am new to this whole new idea of shooting and developing raw images. So I am trying to learn all I can I am not sure what software/hardware is best. I found a few resources that have helped me as a newbie out, this one was especially helpful for understanding the basics: http://www.paintshoppro.com/en/landing/raw-images/ But if there are any other sources you know of, or if you have any other recommendations for software or hardware that would be great.
    Just trying to figure out what would be best for me.
    Thanks again!

    • Jenny Montgomery / July 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm / Reply

      Hi Ron,

      We’ll have an article on Raw files in the October/November issue, so that might be one you’d be particularly interested in!

      Best,
      Jenny

      • Ron / July 15, 2016 at 10:11 am / Reply

        Thanks Jenny for the heads up. I will be sure to check it out.

  5. Lisa May / July 13, 2017 at 11:28 am / Reply

    I shoot in RAW but I do not use Nikon software to post process my files. I use this: http://www.aftershotpro.com/en/pages/nef-file/ because it is much easier to use and it supports all RAW formats like (Canon’s .CR2,. Sony’s . ARF, Olympus . ORF etc. ) So in my opinion whenever you deal with RAW do it with AfterShot Pro

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