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Joy for Photography nerds

Right. Pay attention, you lot, because this is a bit nerdy.

One of the main things people have begun using their computers for in the last 10 or so years, which they never used to, is managing photographs. Right? The coming of the digital camera makes the PC a crucial accessory for any photographer.

But, computers don't work that well with the most upmarket cameras in many ways. Think about the last time you saw a professional photograph on a computer- it was a jpeg, right? That's a 'lossy' format, heavily compressed to save hard drive space. Most digital cameras take pictures direct into jpeg, compressing the files to save space on the memory card.

That's fine for most people, but if you're a fancy-pants professional it means you only ever see a compressed photograph. So for those whose shots could feasibly be seen on the cover of a newspaper or magazine, most high-end digital cameras also have the option to shoot in 'RAW' format. More a collection of formats than a single one, as each manufacturer's is different, RAW is essentially the uncompressed photographic data exactly as the camera's sensor receives it. If you want to edit a photo on a computer, for best results, this is the file to work with.

But there's always been a problem: Windows doesn't recognise RAW files as files. You can't look at thumbnails in Explorer or open a RAW file in Image Preview. To even look at a RAW file you've had to open every individual one in an editing program. Until now! Microsoft has released a Camera Codec Pack which finally adds support to Windows for viewing and handling RAW files. You'll still need editing software to do the actual editing, but for looking, the Codec Pack gives your Windows (Vista or 7 only, folks) the necessary oomph to handle the files.

It's good news for photographers, and those of us with fancy SLRs who want an excuse to spend all weekend playing with them. Hurrah!

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