NEF Codec with Windows 7 64-bit (and Vista 64-bit too!) – Updated
It’s known that Nikon (stupidly if you’d ask me) choose to not release a 64-bit version of the NEF codec. And since I installed the 64-bit version of Vista on my desktop workstation since it has 4GB of RAM, I’ve not been able to view the thumbnails of my NEF files. Instead, I just opted to use a photo viewer application, Picasa to be specific, to browse through my camera’s RAW files to pick the ones that I’d like to edit and move on from there. An annoying addition to my photo editing workflow, but hey, whatever works, works.
Fast forward to today, and with Windows 7 now being my operating system of my workstation, I decided to search again to see if Nikon have finally decided to release a 64-bit version of their NEF codec now that almost everyone’s going to be on 64-bit since most machines today are equipped with 4GB of RAM at the very minimum. But alas, Nikon’s just too ignorant to this. Perhaps, they’re just too lazy to recompile their codec to support 64-bit systems. Whatever, the reason, it sucks. So I’d no choice but to search and see if there are any 3rd party codecs that supports the NEF format for the WIC (Windows Imaging Component) in the 64-bit version of Windows 7 and Vista.
After a quick Google search, it seems that there are two main options to choose from. And thankfully, there’s a free option too. 😀
freely cheaper option
Fast Picture Viewer had graciously made the previous version of the standalone codec available for free to download and use as a donation-ware. However, with version 2 of the Codec Pack, it’s no longer a donation-ware but is available at
US$5.99 a regular price of US$29.99 now. But do check their site from time to time as they seem to provide discounts somestimes.
Nevertheless, the Fast Picture Viewer WIC RAW Codec Pack is an excellent option
despite it being a cheaper alternative at US$5.99. I’m currently using the previous ‘free’ version of this codec for my workstation and it worked flawlessly. The installation was a breeze and performance wise, it loads my NEF files very fast.
To be honest, don’t see a reason why NOT to use this codec at all.
And best of all, it too supports a whole lot of RAW formats from major camera manufacturers, such as Canon, Olympus, Fuji, Sony and much more. You can get more information here at their website.
One other cool thing about this codec is that it integrates very well with Windows 7 (and so will it on Vista since Windows 7 is practically Vista-done-right).
Look at the screenshot I took off my desktop on the left. If you see in the top right corner of the window where the search bar is located, you’d notice that I’ve used the “cameramodel” search criteria which would look for the model metadata stored in the NEF file. Cool stuff indeed! And yes, you too can search for all RAW images that you took at “isospeed: 200” which would return you all photographs which is shot at ISO-200!
Take a look at all the other metadatas that the codec can retrieve and display in Windows!
The paid option
Ardfry Imaging provides a paid alternative in the form the Nikon RAW (NEF) Codec. However, do note that it’s still in Beta (4) release. The retail price is set at US$29.95, but is available now for US$19.95, a US$10 savings if you pre-order it now. There is a free 15-days trial if you are interested to give this codec a test ride on your system.
At first glance, it seems like Ardfry Imaging’s codec does exactly what the Fast Picture Viewer’s codec do.
However, at closer look, you’d notice that this codec goes an extra mile to decode the lens model as well from the NEF file. And a quick check again in their website confirms this as in the Beta 4 release, they’ve added in a feature to “decode lens data using the extended LensID data“.
So, if you need the lens metadata to be retrievable from Windows itself, perhaps to make it searchable or sortable by lens models, then this codec would provide you exactly that!
But otherwise, it seems to work just the same with the Fast Picture Viewer’s codec.
Well, in my opinion, the Fast Picture Viewer is the way to go. Firstly, it supports more than just Nikon’s RAW NEF format. Ardfry Imaging’s codec is specifically just for Nikon users. Secondly, the price of the Fast Picture Viewer’s codec is great. It’s a donation-ware, so you choose the price you’re willing to pay for it! Compare that to US$19.95? Well, you can do your own calculations there.
So until Nikon decides to release an official version of the NEF codec for 64-bit Windows users, I’ll be sticking with Fast Picture Viewer’s WIC RAW Codec Pack for as long as it works on my workstation.