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Nikon whipped RAW: Canon are you listening?
Recently there’s been quite a bit of hubbub about Nikon’s D2x camera, and it’s compatibility with Adobe’s Photoshop. While not normally a topic of general public interest, both the controversial (and ill-conceived) DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and DRM (Digital Rights Management) both surfaced as components of the discussion.
The background and timing of the story follow:
|March 1st, 2005||Complaints (readers can log in as guests) regarding the Nikon D2x’s lack of documentation for the NEF (Nikon Electronic Format), and ACR’s (Adobe Camera Raw) subsequent inability to import NEF into Adobe Photoshop begin to appear on Adobe’s corporate hosted user-to-user forums.|
|April 14th, 2005||A Nikon representative sends a response and link (to a page Nikon has subsequently and mysteriously removed) to an Adobe forum member that complained to Nikon, outlining Nikon’s position regarding NEF, Capture (Nikon’s own image adjustment software), and Adobe Photoshop (the text of which is posted on the Adobe Forums). The page is particularly disparaging to Photoshop, stating: |
"Where does Photoshop come in? As graphic arts software, it's great for removing a telephone pole, or adding a drop shadow, or affixing a caption to your photo. But if you're using it to crop or straighten an image, or adjust contrast, brightness, saturation and curves, or to apply filters, you simply don't need it."
This suggests to many that Nikon is purposely not releasing information and or support Adobe to boost the use and sales of its own product.
|April 17th, 2005||Thomas Knoll, the original author of Photoshop, posts to the Adobe forums regarding ACR’s support for NEF, accusing Nikon of encrypting the white balance data, and states that due to conventions of DMCA (which makes it illegal to build devices that circumvent encryption), Adobe would not take the legal risk of decrypting NEF’s white balance data without an indemnity from Nikon.|
|April 17th, 2005||A story about Thomas Knoll’s post and a link to it are posted on PhotoshopNews.com.|
|April 19th, 2005||The PhotoshopNews story is linked to by Slashdot, where the story generates heavy commentary.|
|April 20th, 2005||Nikon gets a positive mention in BoingBoing, with a link to photos taken of the space shuttle with its D2x camera. This is negated with an update to the developing story on PhotoshopNews and Slashdot. Controversy is also sparked by the idea that Nikon may be claiming some sort of ownership of the digital negative, because it is in a proprietary format.|
|April 22nd, 2005||Nikon issues a response to the controversy, here at Digital Photography Review. The repose is widely criticized as meaningless, ignorant, incomplete, and did I mention meaningless? It specifically tells developers to use Nikon’s SDK (Software Developer Kit), something Thomas Knoll addressed as early as March 1st as being insufficient (scroll down from the top to see his commentary).|
|April 22nd, 2005||The response is linked to on BoingBoing.|
|April 25th, 2005||OpenRAW group |
One of the most interesting features of this story was how often Canon came up as an alternative, and how many people said either that they would purchase a Canon camera, or that they would do so if Canon were to adopt an open standard. An example of this sentiment can be found here on O’Reilly Radar. There’s a real opportunity here for Canon, if they’re listening.
To get conceptual, the information age has spawned the hyper-informed consumer, one who is increasingly tiring of limitations and restrictions placed on the products they buy (are you listening, RIAA? How about you Verizon?). Consumers will reward companies who recognize this, stop trying to spin faults and lock-in as features, and start concentrating on, shock, producing a better product.
Shout-out to BoingBoing, as an old fan of the zine and The Happy Mutant Handbook. Keep up the good work.
UPDATE: There have been requests for a more formal version of this write-up. A pdf of it can be found here.
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Tracked on Sep 3, 2009 6:59:22 PM
The OpenRAW survey results are being released on http://www.openraw.org/survey/
>19k people worldwide gave expressed some of their perspectives.
Posted by: Rob | Apr 27, 2006 11:07:08 AM
This is a fantastic case study. Thanks for doing this - having it at hand will help me make a clearer case to all those marketing wonks who still don't get just how 'empowered' the 'consumers' have become! Keep up the good work...
Posted by: Adriana | Jun 3, 2005 5:34:01 AM
Thank you for the update Jeurgen. I've modified my description of OpenRAW above.
I admit to being a relative newbie with regard to camera technology. What really drew me into this story was the invocation of the DMCA, subsequent conversation on DRM, and the traffic that resulted.
IP law has long been an interest of mine, and increasing the availability of information often leads to both new uses and increased value. OpenRAW seems to fit that model quite nicely, so kudos for starting it, and best of luck to you.
Posted by: Jeffrey Feldman | May 9, 2005 12:16:44 PM
Hi Jeffrey, interesting time line. You missed some information and exchange in the Nikon D1scussion mailing list (archive is only available for members) starting as early as February 24th, when I got my D2x and sent WB balance bracket shots to Eric Hyman on Bibblelabs to decode D2x NEF files in Bibble. (Note: Thomas K. is a list member). Eric basically discovered that the files are encrypted.
On March 14th, 2005 the OpenRAW mailing list was founded with the simple goal to coordinate an effort to motivate camera makers to openly document their file formats.
At April 25th, 2005 we launched the OpenRAW web site and we still just advocate "Digital Image Preservation Through Open Documentation", and not to stablish common Raw standard like you wrote above.
Of course (and that's even our hope) if current RAW file formats are openly documented, it's possible to create an open RAW standard in future and we are all for it. However, openly documented RAW file formats solve a problem TODAY while a future common RAW format solves a problem in future.
Posted by: Juergen Specht | May 5, 2005 9:44:16 PM
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