What is a NEF (RAW) file?

RAW image files are sometimes referred to as "digital negatives" as they contain all the image data captured from the camera sensor and can be saved in uncompressed (or sometimes "lossless" compressed) form. The NEF (RAW) file format is exclusive to Nikon cameras.

The primary benefit of saving images in NEF (RAW) format rather than TIFF or JPEG is that the images are unprocessed. This means that settings such as white balance, hue, tone, and sharpening are not saved in the actual RAW image data; rather, those values are retained as an instruction set. This makes it possible to process the image multiple times without ever disturbing the original RAW image data. Also, depending on the camera, the NEF (RAW) file format retains 12-bit or 14-bit data, resulting in an image with a far greater tonal range than an 8-bit JPEG or TIFF file.

Post-processing of NEF (RAW) files is possible in Nikon software - NX Studio. RAW image files can be converted into other formats such as TIFF or JPEG for additional processing. 

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