The Simplest of All RAW Converters

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Preview for Raw

Many Mac OS X "Tiger" users don't realize that they have a powerful Raw converter bundled with their operating system. Every 10.4 Mac comes with a handy application called Preview that most folks think of only as a PDF viewer. Even Apple touts its PDF capabilities without going into much detail about its hidden powers. The most notable of these lesser known features is Preview's ability to decode Raw files and convert them to other formats.

It's true. You don't need Photoshop Camera Raw. You don't need Aperture. If you want to open a common Raw formatted image, just drop it on the Preview icon on your Dock. Preview will decode the Raw file and display it on screen. But wait, things get even better. Go to Tools > Image Correction and you're greeted with a handy set of adjustments that include Exposure, Gamma, Saturation, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, and even Sepia -- all of which you can use for manipulating your Raw file.

Would you like to read the metadata embedded in the file header? Go to Tools > Get Info and click on the Details tab. Tons of image data are revealed including dimensions, aperture, shutter speed, color space, and even the camera model used to capture the shot.

When you're ready to convert the file, go to File > Save As and choose among four different formats: Photoshop, Tiff, PNG, and PDF. With the first three options, you can choose between 8-bits or 16-bits per channel. And if you choose the PDF format, you have more options including file encryption -- that's right, you can assign a password to your image to protect it from prying eyes.

File Encryption

And yes, there's still more. You can rotate the Raw file, flip it, assign a Colorsync profile, then print the image. If you go to View > Customize Toolbar, you can add a cropping tool and even a Scale resizer. So not only can you zoom in and out with the Zoom tools, you can set the numeric amount to scale the image, such as 25 percent. Then crop it if you wish.

Preview is an amazing photo editing application that's right there under your nose. If you haven't done so already, I recommend that you add it to your Dock, and use Preview whenever you have to make quick edits to a stray Raw file, or to save it to another format. For many simple jobs, this tool is faster than Photoshop.

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51 Comments

I love comming here, everytime I learn somthing new, Thanks.

Awsome tip! You have no idea how many hours of work you have save me. I still plan to get Aperture but what a great tool for a quick and dirty RAW conversion. Thank you!

This is absurdly cool. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Apple would think of these Core Image tie-ins for even a "simple" app like Preview. Ever since my switch to Mac (~ 3 years ago) it seems like these sorts of neat little discoveries about the OS come at regular intervals.

Hmmm... doesn't seem to like KM.mrw files :( I wonder where there is a list of supported raw files?

unfortunately, their RAW engine does not recognize the older RAW format used by the Canon G1 :(

You're right. Preview only supports the same Raw file formats that iPhoto 6 and Aperture supports. Generally speaking, the useable Raw formats are: CRW, NEF, TIF, CR2, and OLY. I'm sure (I hope) support for others will follow.

actually, it's more interesting than that... canon G1 RAW 'is' a CRW file. I think the issue is more related to the image matrix mapping and how it's represented/understood by OSX apps (I assume preview, iphoto, & apperture rely on the same basic library to a point). There was a thread on apple's support site that mistakenly thinks it has solved this issue ;)

nice to know i am not the only one who knows about this...now. one thing to note of importance is the level that the raw conversion manipulates the file. the preview is useful to look at the images, but the quality of the conversion is not the same as that of iphoto or aperture. try it yourself, you might notice a funny vertical, or an edge in preview. but in the dedicated apps, the image is crystal. thought you folks could take my tidbit of experience for whatever it is worth. and on topic even...

Not only this is available in Preview.app but this is available to any Mac app that uses the great API offered by Apple: ImageIO. Basically just call this system API and you can load and save in a lot of format.

Thanks to this the application I am writing natively supports a *lot* of formats, and it only took about 15 lines of code :

I made a comprehensive list of the supported formats (look for 'supported formats' near the bottom of the page.
http://www.chocoflop.com/features/

Damn, even I didn't know my app could import MacPaint files :-)

but how does 16bit export work?

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Well, this didn't work for me. Are RAF files not supported?

Nice place! Chapter "photo tips" very intresting!
Thank you! :)

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I have an iMac OS X but Preview won't open my .CR2 raw image files. I shoot with a Canon 7D. I think I just need an update on Preview..? Can someone help me out?

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