New RAW Format


Today’s Question: I just bought a new Nikon model, the D5500, only to discover that Photoshop/Adobe Camera RAW has not been updated to process that camera’s RAW files. What is the best procedure until Adobe’s software is updated: use Nikon’s software to process the RAW image, then convert it into a tiff to finish up in Photoshop? — or convert the image into a TIFF immediately and then open it with Photoshop’s Camera RAW? (I don’t know if it affects your answer, but I use Photoshop CS5.)

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two issues here. You will need to upgrade your software if you want to be able to process RAW captures with your new camera using Photoshop. If you don’t want to upgrade, you’ll need to process your RAW captures with other software (such as Nikon’s software) before opening the images in Photoshop.

More Detail: Adobe is no longer updating Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop CS5 or earlier. In order to get support for the latest camera RAW formats in Photoshop, you will therefore need to upgrade to Photoshop CS6 or to the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop. With the Photography Plan subscription you will gain access to both Photoshop CC and Lightroom, with ongoing updates to both during your subscription.

If you choose not to upgrade to a newer version of Photoshop, you will need to find a different workflow. And, of course, while you’re waiting for Adobe to update Adobe Camera Raw to support the new RAW capture format for your camera, you’ll need to adopt this sort of workaround solution in any event.

The basic approach here would involve using RAW-processing software to convert the RAW captures to a TIFF file, and then open that resulting TIFF image in Photoshop. My recommendation is to take advantage of the RAW-processing step to apply at least basic adjustments to optimize the resulting image. In general I favor the software provided by the camera manufacturer for RAW processing, though there are other options available as well.

This issue of “delayed” RAW support can be a little frustrating for Photoshop users, as it adds an extra step to your workflow. It is even more challenging for Lightroom users, however, because you aren’t able to work with the unsupported RAW captures within Lightroom. You therefore need to create derivative TIFF images for the short term, and then “revert” back to the original RAW captures once Lightroom is updated with support for your new camera.

Unfortunately, since camera manufacturers continue to update the RAW capture formats used by new cameras, this sort of workflow challenge is likely to remain with us for some time.