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Nikon issues statement on WB storage method used in D2X NEFs  
Friday, April 22, 2005 | by Rob Galbraith

An unsigned statement released today by Nikon USA's public relations firm responds to the recent hubbub about the way in which white balance (WB) information is stored inside D2X NEF files.

WB information is written into NEF files produced by the D2X in a manner that at minimum makes it more difficult for third-party developers to utilize the WB set in the camera, unless their program's Nikon RAW file support is constructed around Nikon's NEF processing libraries (and then, the WB information isn't separately extractable; these libraries are designed to output converted image data while providing little other functionality).

Thomas Knoll, one of the originators of Photoshop as well as the creator of the program's RAW format support, has publicly described D2X WB data as being encrypted inside the NEF file.

Because it's encrypted, says Knoll, Adobe isn't prepared to accept the legal risk of decrypting this data within the Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop CS2 (though D2X NEF files will still be supported in Camera Raw 3.1 for CS2, which is to be released in May 2005, shortly after CS2 itself is widely available).

Several third party developers, include Eric Hyman of Bibble Labs and, more recently, Dave Coffin, have revealed they've cracked the WB storage method. Later releases of Hyman's Bibble RAW conversion application in fact make use of the D2X in-camera WB data, even though Bibble doesn't employ Nikon's SDK.

In response to all of this, Nikon's statement doesn't specifically address all the reasons behind the WB storage method the company adopted for this camera, as well as the D2Hs, beyond noting that it was "an action that protects the uniqueness of the file."

It does make clear that Nikon considers how the NEF is processed - including the honouring of in-camera settings (unless overridden in Nikon Capture, presumably) to be an integral part of the Nikon user experience.

Reinforcing this point, the statement says that "(s)ecuring the [NEF] structure is intended for the photographer’s benefit, and dedicated to ensuring faithful reproduction of the photographer’s creative intentions through consistent performance and rendition of the images.  Discussions propagated on the internet suggesting otherwise are misinformed about the unique structure of NEF."

The full statement is published below.

Nikon Advisory

April 22, 2005

The Nikon D2X professional Digital Single Lens Reflex camera has received widely positive acclaim for its overall performance and image processing quality.  Recently, speculative statements which appear to be based on misunderstandings and misinformation about the D2X camera’s “encryption” of certain white balance data have propagated on the internet.

The purpose of this advisory is to clarify this matter with facts and explanations.

The Nikon D2X is capable of producing high quality images that can be saved in a variety of file formats, including the proprietary Nikon Electronic Format (NEF), standard TIFF and several levels of standard JPEG compressed files. 

The NEF, a Nikon proprietary raw file design, was introduced with the Nikon D1 Camera and Nikon’s original Capture software.  The combination of Nikon camera, in-camera image processing, NEF file format and in-computer image processing with original Nikon Capture software was developed as a system that faithfully saved image files that represent the camera settings made manually or automatically by the photographer at the time a picture was taken.

Nikon’s preservation of its unique technology in the NEF file is employed as an action that protects the uniqueness of the file.  At the same time, Nikon makes available a software developer kit (SDK) that, when implemented appropriately, enables a wide range of NEF performance, including white balance, for Nikon photographers and their productive use of the NEF file. 

Since the inception of the system, Nikon has always provided photographers with choices about how they might use the system’s performance and enjoy high quality images.  Nikon’s choices for opening and processing NEF files have been and continue to include:

• Nikon Capture software
• Plug-in for Adobe’s Photoshop
• Nikon PictureProject software
• Nikon View software
• Availability of Nikon Software Developer Kit (SDK) and the software that has been developed using the SDK

Through use of the Nikon Software Developer Kit, authorized developers can produce software by applying creative concepts to their implementation and adding capabilities to open Nikon’s NEF file and use NEF’s embedded Instructions and Nikon’s Libraries.  Nikon photographers reap benefits from independent developers’ approaches, because it allows the photographer to open and process their NEF images. 

After a developer’s software is created using the Nikon SDK, a NEF file can be opened, edited in either TIFF or JPEG format, and then saved in formats available in the developers’ software.  This process has been available since the first Nikon SDK for NEF.

With each introduction of a new Nikon digital Single Lens Reflex model, Nikon updates the available SDK selection to provide new information; this is the situation with the D2X, D2Hs and D50 models.  As stated above, application for the Nikon SDK is possible for bona fide software companies that send Nikon a written application for the SDK.   Once approved, the SDK is provided to the developer at no charge and they are authorized to use it.

Nikon has provided its confidential SDK software to many software developers.  With the Nikon SDK, developers may design excellent and creative compatibility between the NEF and their software, all without compromising the integrity of the NEF’s original concept, and ensuring that work done by the photographer during the picture taking process can be incorporated into the rendering of the image.

The trilogy of performance, from Camera-to-NEF-to-Capture, has evolved though several generations of Nikon Digital SLR models, improving along the way.  As a proprietary format, Nikon secures NEF’s structure and processing through various technologies.  Securing this structure is intended for the photographer’s benefit, and dedicated to ensuring faithful reproduction of the photographer’s creative intentions through consistent performance and rendition of the images.  Discussions propagated on the internet suggesting otherwise are misinformed about the unique structure of NEF.

Nikon’s Camera System, NEF and Capture software are a tightly knit system, and they are all developed through the cooperative efforts of Nikon’s design teams, and this collaboration results in achieving the highest image quality. 

Nikon strives to provide photographers with excellent picture taking performance, compatible Nikon in-system image processing performance and by extension, compatibility with additional software developers’ products, with the ultimate goal of delivering a high level of integrity for a photographer’s creative vision. 

Nikon continues to welcome dialogue with bona fide software developers.

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