Nikon and the dangerous world of proprietary technologies

The menace of proprietary formats and technologies, have bitten the photography community as well.

The controversy started when an Adobe engineer mentioned on their forums that Photoshop will no longer support raw/NEF images from Nikon’s new D2X and D2Hs cameras, because Nikon has started encrypting them. Nikon confirmed this, mentioning that the unencrypted raw image data can be retrieved only by using their SDK.

Michael Reichmann and Juergen Specht have written a wonderful essay (The RAW Flaw), explaining the dangers of proprietary raw image formats. Interestingly, their opening analogy is strikingly similar to the arguments against proprietary file formats like MS Word, MS Excel, etc.

Once I, as the photographer, have pressed the shutter, the image file belongs to me; not Canon, not Nikon, not Pentax, or anyone else. Me! And by putting up roadblocks to my unfettered access to these files, they are acting against my needs and my interests.

The Nikon NEF file encryption has already been broken. But companies like Adobe will not decrypt this format for Photoshop, simply because they will run afoul with DMCA, which prohibits any kind of attempt to break encrypted content(DMCA Prevents Photoshop Support of Nikon Camera). Anyway, the OpenRAW Working Group was formed with these issues in mind. From the essay:

The goal of OpenRAW is to encourage image preservation and give creative choice on how images are processed to the creators of the images – us – photographers. This group is an amalgam of photographers and other interested people founded to create awareness of these issues, suggest a solution, and provide coordination for these efforts.

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