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What is NEF?

Image Format Description

NEF, an acronym for Nikon Electronic Format, is the RAW image file format used by Nikon for its digital cameras. RAW files are unprocessed image files that contain all the information needed to create an image, much like a film “negative”. NEF is the name given to Nikon’s proprietary RAW file format.

A NEF file consists of three parts - the raw image data captured by the imaging sensor of the camera, thumbnail images of the raw data, and an instruction set that preserves camera settings from the moment a picture is taken. The NEF format has several advantages over other image file formats like JPEG or TIFF. Among the main benefits are: while JPEG and TIFF use 8-bit data files, NEF uses 12-bit files. This allows more data to be stored thus giving finer control of color depths and shadow areas; the image file data inside the camera remains unprocessed, thus allowing for greater flexibility at later stages; and editing a NEF file does not affect the original image data in the file, which permits any manipulation of the file to be undone.

Because of these advantages, professional photographers and individuals with collections of photographs usually prefer the NEF format to store their photos. An added advantage is the fact that the file is lossless. This further allows for maximum quality with minimum loss.

The only disadvantage with the NEF file is that it has more than one standard and each model of a Nikon camera supports a different version. This is why not all developing software support NEF. Only a few, like the Factory Image Converter, support all variations of NEF.

The Nikon Electronic Format, with the file extension of ‘.nef’, can be opened with Nikon View (versions 5 & 6), Nikon Capture (versions 3 & 4), PictureProject, Adobe Photoshop 5.0 or later, and Photoshop Elements using Nikon NEF plug-ins on both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. NEF files can be converted to other formats with Factory Image Converter.

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