It’s no secret that working with a camera’s RAW images can improve photo quality, as you’re accessing all the information from the original shot.
But as RAW files are also huge, and often slow to render (if your preferred software supports them at all), it’s no surprise that most photographers stick to JPEG.
If you’ve not quite given up on RAW, though, FastRawViewer may be able to help.
The program is a free Windows and OS X tool, based on LibRaw and dcraw, the industry standards for RAW viewing. And so when the developer claims it supports “almost every single existing RAW format”, you can be confident that they’re right (and it certainly had no problems at all with our Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic shots).
The core viewer is relatively simple. There’s no thumbnail browser, you either open an individual image, or step through the contents of a folder. But as well as the image, it displays the file name, resolution, key EXIF metadata, the actual RAW histogram, and more. And what’s really important is the speed: even the largest of our test photos was rendered in a fraction of a second.
There are tools to highlight under and overexposed areas of the image, and manually correct any issues. Exposure changes can be recorded in XMP files, ready for use by Adobe Bridge/ Camera Raw/ Lightroom.
You also get options to highlight focus peaking (the sharpest areas of an image), check noise levels, adjust white balance, assign an XMP rating or label.
Once you’ve finished, you can move the picture to defined “accepted” or “rejected” folders, pass it to other programs for further processing, or just click “Next” to check the next image.
FastRawViewer is targeted at the professional user, someone who needs to scan through perhaps hundreds of RAW files and sort out the best shots. And it does that very well.
The program’s rendering speed and wide RAW format support mean it’s useful just as a simple viewer, though, so if you need any help working with RAW photos then we’d give it a try.