Longevity of RAW formats?

Discussion in 'Digital Discussion & Q&A' started by MikeBcos, Nov 20, 2008.

  1. MikeBcos

    MikeBcos TPF Noob!

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    This is something I am wondering about, from what I can tell there are many different RAW formats out there. I'm assuming one day they will be standardized. That though will leave the problem of many different formats that in a few years will no longer be supported by anyone.

    As an example, back in the 90s I used to have all my good transparencies scanned to Kodak Photo CDs. Unfortunately, several years ago part of my photograph collection was destroyed and all I have now is the CDs. Nobody fully supports the PCD format any more and I'm trying to work out a way of extracting the full resolution images from the CD. Irfanview can read a low res image but not the high res. Adobe says CS3 will read PCD with a pug-in but I found that not to be true, or at least not on the one computer I still have CS3 on.

    So, one day, probably within a decade, the vast majority of our Raw images are going to be useless. Has anyone considered the future and how we might be able to keep our images? Is there another common format out there that will allow the same amount, and ease, of post-processing that Raw does?
     
  2. Ls3D

    Ls3D TPF Noob!

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    Since the RAW code is so closely tied to the camera's engine expect to see ever evolving formats and features - a good thing, though it can cost to stay in the game, you've probably just bought a new camera in this case.

    I open RAW in 16 bits and preserve that depth for anything deemed valuable on the light table. It would be nice to retain RAW parameters in another format and this is likely coming or already here.

    -Shea
     
  3. dEARlEADER

    dEARlEADER TPF Noob!

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    don't think you have much to worry about if with a mainstream established company like Canon or Nikon.... they will most likely always support their formats in one form or another... in addition many 3rd partys will continue to support older formats of RAW...

    however, if ur that paranoid you could save lossless tif's for your backups...
     
  4. MikeBcos

    MikeBcos TPF Noob!

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    Kodak is about as main-stream and established as you can get and they no longer support their own PCD format.

    Tiff is a good format to save to but it's really no better than a jpg for post-processing. I tend to save to PSD a lot but haven't really tried any processing in that format yet.
     
  5. dEARlEADER

    dEARlEADER TPF Noob!

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    tiff is lossless...

    but post process your RAW's and save a Tiff back up...
     
  6. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    whenever you migrate to new software you have doubts about downwards compatibility, ... convert your files!

    however, i am sure you can read photo CDs still for years to come, at least there are converters available.

    the good thing, what people seem to forget is, that in computing it was always evolution, never 100% revolution ;)

    severe issues usually only come up if the recording hardware changes and you forget about migrating your old archive to the new hardware ;), software things can always be emulated.
     
  7. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Every raw processor I've ever used can handle all the raw file formats that were introduced before the software. As long as I can run the software, it'll continue to open my raw files.

    Kodak may be mainstream, but the PCD file format never was. Many, many more people are using Canon and Nikon raw formats (the other brands, who knows?). If PCD conversion was a service in demand people would offer it, or make new software to do it. What do you know; someone has done it for obsolete files including PCD (this was at the 2nd link when I googled "PCD format") http://www.coolutils.com/TotalImageConverter They want $20. Here's a quote from their site. I don't know how accurate it is, but they claim all sorts of common software should open PCDs.

    "The disadvantage is that not all CD-ROM drives can access Photo-CDs. However most of the graphic software such as Adobe Photoshop, Pagemaker, and CorelDraw support Photo CD format. Other software include Microsoft Office version 7 and above, Extensis Portfolio image database software and Macintosh Apple Quicktime."

    Your problem may be your drive, not the software. At the Kodak site it says the PCD plug-in won't work unless some other software has been installed previously.

    Here are some other links for PCD files

    http://www.fileinfo.net/extension/pcd?CID=exit&idhbx=pcdfileviewer
     
  8. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well I'd take that with a grain of salt. Nikon's decision to encrypt the white balance data in their NEFs is a clear example that it doesn't matter how large you are, you can still make stupid decisions that anger your customers.

    Also while the standards are currently being done by third party programs, remember this is photography we are talking about. It's not a question of can I read the files in 5 years, it's a question of can I read the file in 50 years. I guarantee in 50 years there will be few products which could still read a D200 RAW file. Even now less than 10 years into the era of the DSLR there's already about 50 different RAW formats to decode. Eventually people will give up.

    There is a standard format already called DNG. It's 100% open and fully documented standard for storing RAW data, BUT it currently lacks serious support from camera manufacturers. Regardless it's one positive step for future proofing simply because the format is fully documented, meaning in 50 years time when there is no software supported it should be trivial to simply write a piece of software capable of converting the DNG file to something currently used. Currently major support exists in Lightroom and CameraRAW, and I think I read somewhere that either olympus or pentax was planning (or has) native camera support, but don't quote me on that.
     
  9. NCHornet

    NCHornet TPF Noob!

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    Garbz mentioned this above but I will repeat. I am no pro, I am new to digital photography and CS3, but I am reading a great book by Scott Kelby and the ch I read last night hit on this very subject. It was recommended to save everything in the DNG format, so I am taking his advice. It really is crazy that all the different manufacturers have different RAW formats!! If I would have known this I would have bought two Nikons instead of the D90 and the Sony A300.
    I think the others are correct, nothing will stop evolving. It's like music, unlike many of you I can still remember records, those big black round things!! My son thought it was a giant CD!! We went from records to tapes, from tapes to CD's and now CD's are becoming obsolite as the MP3's have taken over. The bottom line is if you want to preserve your older files you need to stay on top of technology and change with the times.
    Take Care
    NCH
     
  10. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    Dave Coffin's open source Raw conversion program dcraw (Wikipedia page, Manpage) is used by other software developers to do the basic decoding of Raw files, and it is regularly updated as new cameras become available. Part of its purpose is to try to avoid long-term compatability problems. I use Raw Developer which is an excellent Raw converter that uses dcraw, but unfortunately it is only available for Mac (I use both, I'm not partisan). I think that a few other programs use it, including Photomatix (?).

    It's a while since I tried to open any of my Photo CDs. I know that the old Mac Photoshop plugin isn't compatible with Intel Macs, but I think that the old Photo CD .8bi plugin could still work with CS3 under Windows - maybe not problem free, however. Which OS and platform are you using?

    Best,
    Helen
     
  11. MikeBcos

    MikeBcos TPF Noob!

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    Windows XP, CS3, I have the PhotoCD.8bi plug-in, and Photoshop still refuses to open it. Irfanview can, but only the low res version, each file has three versions embedded and all I want is the high-res version.

    I think I have found someone with PS7, that will open it!
     
  12. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Worse still different CAMERAS have different formats. You'd be no better off with a D300 and a D90 than 2 different manufacturers.

    Music is different in that everything is open. Vinyl is trivial to read with a pickup needle. CD/DVD drives are trivial to engineers as the patents have expired and open documentation is available. Even MP3 has fully open implimentations. However just like with RAW a large plethora of files such as encrypted AACs, and WMA will most definitely not stand the test of time as they hinge exclusively on when a single company decides to stop supporting the product.
     

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