What would you say if someone told you that it was possible to open and edit a Raw image directly in a Web browser—no plugins required? Awesome springs to mind.
TopTechPhoto, the outfit behind pics.io, a cloud-based storage, collaboration, syncing, and photo utility service, is hosting an open demonstration of its new technology called Raw.pics.io. This online utility processes Raw images in the browser.
It works with Canon and Nikon cameras only, as well as Adobe’s DNG digital negative format. You can test it on your own CR2 and NEF files without login.
“At the end of 2012 we got a vision that in a few years the entire workflow of photographers and photo enthusiasts will move to the cloud,” said Konstantin Shtondenko, chief of business development for TopTechPhoto. “We knew that trend of mobility will get stronger, the need for collaboration larger, and cloud storage cheaper.” Shtondenko cites the recent price cut for Google Drive cloud storage as evidence of that trend.
“It was clear that without an ability to edit Raw photos, photographers won’t be able to move to a ‘Google Docs of photo editing,’” he said. TopTechPhoto was not letting that go unchallenged.
Camera Raw is an uncompressed native file format particular to each camera, unlike universal compressed formats such as JPEG, GIF, and PNG. Raw images, because they contain all the imaging information derived from the camera sensor, are much larger than compressed images and are very particular about what utility can open them.
Pro and advanced enthusiast photographers like Raw despite the extra time, effort, and space it requires because Raw images present the entire spectrum of digital information for each shot. As imaging technology improves, there’s no telling how much potential there will be to improve imperfect shots. With a raw image, you can always use software to boost image quality.
With a compressed image, so much information is removed by the camera in an effort to improve the immediate result that many problem images may be rendered permanently useless.
Raw.pics.io is not the first attempt at Raw photo processing in the browser. Another effort last year was WebRAW, a demo from Mozilla engineer Vladimir Vukicevic. It uses a completely different technical approach, and so far, works only in Firefox. One major difference is that WebRaw works with more camera brands.
Why only Canon and Nikon? “Canon and Nikon were chosen because of the market share each holds. Most of the difficulties came from the proprietary nature of those files. They aren’t open and well-documented. It required lots of reverse engineering and research. But we did it,” Shtondenko said.
When you’re done converting your image, you can save the JPEG to your desktop or share it on Facebook right from the browser window. Note that this demo does not include the many raw editing options that desktop software currently offers, though developers recently added exposure adjustment controls in the latest iteration of the demo.
Raw.pics.io works independently of network bandwidth—the processing happens on the computer itself. It takes 15 to 20 seconds on average. Shtondenko said Raw.pics.io conversion will happen a lot faster when WebCL technology arrives on browsers, allowing the use of the computer’s on-board graphic chip.