Upcoming releases of Adobe's Camera Raw plug-in and DNG Converter will be able to fully read the encoded white balance (WB) information inside the RAW NEF files produced by recent Nikon digital SLR cameras, says Thomas Knoll, the author of Camera Raw and one of the originators of Photoshop.
Some history: On April 17, 2005, Knoll brought to light the fact that Nikon - beginning with the D2X - was storing the WB data inside NEF files in a manner that meant Camera Raw would not be able to provide a correct As Shot WB when certain WB settings were chosen, including Preset WB. To do so, said Knoll at the time, would require decrypting this information. While technically feasible, Knoll cited legal obstacles: "Nikon might consider breaking the white balance encryption a violation of DMCA, and sue Adobe."
As Internet forums lit up with discussion of the matter, an unsigned, ambiguous statement from Nikon appeared to further inflame the situation. To outsiders, the posturing of each company suggested there wouldn't be a resolution any time soon.
On September 2, 2005, however, the first signs of a thaw between Adobe and Nikon appeared. The two companies jointly released a statement (Adobe's version is here; Nikon's version is here) that made vague references to future cooperation between them. This has been followed up by a post by Knoll in the Adobe user to user forums this evening. In it, he indicates that Nikon has supplied Adobe with a "mini-SDK" that will enable the upcoming Camera Raw 3.2 plug-in for Photoshop CS2, as well as DNG Converter 3.2, to read the encoded WB information inside D2X, D2Hs and D50 NEF files (earlier Nikon cameras do not store this data in an encoded manner). Says Knoll:
"What this means (so far) is that Nikon has added to their existing SDK (which performs the entire raw conversion as a black box) a new "mini-SDK", which has the sole function of reading the white balance parameters from a NEF file (while still allowing the host application to do its own raw conversion).
The upcoming Adobe Camera Raw 3.2 and DNG Converter 3.2 will use this Nikon "mini-SDK" to provide "as shot" white balance support for the Nikon D2X, D2Hs, and D50."
Adobe has not set a release date for Camera Raw 3.2 and DNG Converter 3.2, though the activity of the past several days suggest we'll see each on Adobe's download pages sooner rather than later. Presumably, other third party RAW converters that also lack the ability to read the encoded WB data from newer Nikon models will have access to the same code as Adobe, though we've seen no announcement to that effect as yet.