Recently I’ve seen some questions on various Facebook groups about shooting RAW photos. Specifically, why when you select RAW as your camera’s capture format, it often captures in a different file extension, like .ORF, .NEF or .CR2.

If you’ve been around cameras for a while, you love the RAW format. It captures the most amount of data possible in your image, and allows you to get more out of your photograph while editing.

While RAW is great, it’s often misunderstood, especially if you’re looking at your camera’s info screen or once you import your photos into a program like Lightroom or Luminar.

You might not see “RAW” when viewing your images in a program like Lightroom Classic, but the .ORF extension, amongst others, is every bit of RAW as you’d expect.

Here’s the thing. RAW is a type of file — it’s (in most cases) not the file extension you see. Your cameras has a proprietary file format for the RAW images it captures. For Olympus users, you’ll notice your cameras capture RAW photos with a .ORF file extension. Canon users will see either a .CRW, .CR2 or .CR3 extension, depending on the camera.

These photos are still 100% RAW photos. They’re just put together differently by each camera manufacturer. Here are some other common RAW file extensions:

  • Nikon: .NEF, .NRW
  • Pentax: .PEF, .PTX
  • Panasonic: .RAW, .RW2
  • Leica: .RAW, .RWL, .DNG
  • Sony: .ARW, .SRF, .SR2
  • Fuji: .RAF

Again, these are still RAW files, even if it doesn’t show the .RAW extension.

To confuse people even more, some software companies like Adobe have come up with their own version of RAW files as well, namely the .DNG file extension. This is still a RAW format, but it’s one that’s widely supported by Adobe’s software programs.

Why all the different types of files?

As you probably noticed above, most cameras do not use a .RAW file extension. By creating their own file types, camera manufacturers are able to manipulate their RAW files to better suit your camera for color profiles, sharpness, etc.

So it’s still a RAW file, and is based on the same idea, but the file types are personalized for the camera you’re shooting with.