Friday, November 4, 2016

The Danger of the "I Only Shoot Raw" Mentality

Canon DPP 4.5.10.1 failing to load a CR2 file in November 2016
Uh oh, why doesn't Canon DPP 4.5.10.1 support my CR2 files from multiple cameras?

For years I've jumped off the "I only shoot raw"  bandwagon and instead shoot RAW+JPEG as 25+ years in the software industry has taught me to be weary of long-term support of old file formats.

A great case in point is that DPP 4, despite being out since mid-2014, still hasn't been updated to support its older raw files - despite having the same CR2 extension as current camera models. This means shots like this require me to go get an older version of DPP 3 .15.

Yes, you can go to Canon's website to try to download it but if you are working late and need that file you are going to freak if you get one of these dialogs:

Canon Site Down

Fortunately Canon is a big company so usually US users can go to Europe or vice versa and download the software off a different Canon file server.

You kept that old CD right?

Canon DPP 3.15 Setup Start CD Search

You kept that original CD for all of your old cameras right?

Oh, and you still have a computer that can load a CD, right?

It's been a while since I've checked the USA site, but I know that Canon Europe does have software downloads for the Canon Rebel XTi (if you remember to search for 400D) or a 40D. However, as you can see from above getting the software is only part of the problem - there's still that pesky CD prompt! Fortunately there's a solution for that problem here.

There's also the lingering question that even if this problem were solved, will it ask me for my serial number before allowing me to install it? Fortunately the answer is no - serial numbers are only needed for software downloads for newer models after the CD era.

If I don't have the camera and I can't read the raw then how do I know the serial number? Well, fortunately with apps like Lightroom and exiftool you can get around this problem.

Yes, I've been in the software business for a long time and I know all about deprecating software and old file formats. However, raw files are people's memories so this a bit worse than not reading an old database file. It can cause major panic and stress - even more so if you are a pro photographer who has a big client offering a big licensing fee for a digital asset in your archive (e.g., you have a great shot of the famous celebrity that just died).

Am I totally out of luck?

Is that thumbnail all I'll have of that memory moving forward?

Well, as of the last time I had a panic attack about this problem, I reached out to my contacts at at Canon North America and they assured me that they were aware of this issue and that they wouldn't get rid of DPP 3 until all CR2's were supported by DPP 4.

So, NO I'M NOT OUT OF LUCK and there's no reason to panic.

I still hold out a lot of hope that no major camera manufacturer - especially Canon and Nikon - would leave their users with no way to read their raw files. That's bad business, and that's not something any camera maker wants.

With that said, it does still give me chills that years later that DPP 4 still hasn't and with the way companies do reduction in workforces these days, will the people who are "in the know" about this be around to prevent that when they are replaced by fewer more ambitious young whipper snappers?

Yeah, but I use DNG

Oh wait, what's that? You think you are immune because you converted your RAW's to DNG? Read this article to see how you can get in problems there too.

Conclusion

While this example uses Canon, this problem could exist at any point in the future with any raw format - especially from camera companies that go out of business, are sold, or  who are small enough that they don't have the resources to continue to support old formats.

Yeah, I always shoot RAW as its great to have that file when you need it. However, I also don't mind spending a few extra bucks on memory cards and storage to keep those extra JPEG's around so I'm not screwed if 10 years from now if the latest software doesn't read my RAW's.

You have been warned.

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1 comment:

Robert Good said...

Very good point. I only shoot raw but export the best edited subset to jpeg's on my computer's main drive for syncing to my iPhone and IPad and that drive gets cloned weekly as well as normal backup. This at least provides some level of file format protection. Since I started working with computers in the punch card era, I am concerned about file formats that can no longer be read. I may change my change my raw only mentality.