Using Photoshop CS, CS2, or CS3 for new cameras

Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie reminds us that where a camera uses DNG as its native raw format, Photoshop CS with ACR 2.4 will support those DNGs directly.

And ACR 2.4 will also support DNGs created with non-Adobe DNG Converters.

The principles described here also apply to Photoshop Elements. Photoshop Elements 3.0 and later, using ACR no earlier than 2.4, can process raw DNG files created from the raw files of all the cameras supported by ACR 4.2 and Lightroom 1.2. (I haven't updated the page to give more details about Photoshop Elements).

This page is primarily written for cameras whose native raws are supported by Adobe.
Variants sometimes apply for cameras whose native raws are not directly supported by Adobe.

Lots of people still use Photoshop CS, CS2, or CS3 yet want to handle raw images from cameras which were launched after Photoshop CS4 was released. This is possible using the "DNG route". Users of Photoshop CS, CS2, or CS3 can handle raw image data from all of the (about) 200 cameras that the latest versions of Photoshop CS4 can handle. Some of these can be handled directly, but most of them only via the "DNG route".

This page is based on personal experience.


What to do

  1. Create DNG files from your original raw files. To do this, use a sufficiently up-to-date version of the (free) Adobe DNG Converter, for example (at the time of writing) version 5.1. The DNG Converter is a stand-alone utility, and therefore any version of it can be used even if you use Photoshop CS, CS2 or CS3. The last DNG Converter that runs on Windows 2000 is reported to be 4.3.1.
  2. Use ACR 2.4 as your raw converter plug-in to Photoshop CS. ACR 3.7 as your raw converter plug-in to Photoshop CS2. ACR 4.6 as your raw converter plug-in to Photoshop CS3.
  3. If everything is installed correctly, ACR 2.4, ACR 3.7, or ACR 4.6 will open the DNGs created as above by the DNG Converter. If it doesn't, you have got something wrong! You may be able to diagnose your error using the (recommended) AcrChecker.

Common problems

  1. This "DNG route" doesn't work for Photoshop 7 and earlier. Adobe no longer provide raw conversion for them. Other companies such as Bibble may do so.
  2. This "DNG route" only works once Adobe have released support for the camera concerned. They release support by ACR and the DNG Converter at the same time for each new camera. They release updates to ACR and the DNG Converter about every 3 or 4 months. They won't commit to dates and features!
  3. This "DNG route" only works with a sufficiently up-to-date version of the DNG Converter. Sometimes a DNG Converter provides unofficial support for a camera, but this may not be high-quality support. Where possible, use a version that Adobe explicitly identifies as supporting the camera. The DNG Converter has to be downloaded explicitly. The last DNG Converter that runs on Windows 2000 is reported to be 4.3.1.
  4. The DNG Converter is a stand-alone utility, and has to be explicitly invoked in some way. It is not a plug-in, and images will not automatically be converted to DNG by ACR 2.4 or Photoshop CS. When navigating to the files to be converted, select a folder, not the individual files.
  5. The following folders are for CS, not CS2: The ACR 2.4 plugin must be put into the correct folder, (while Photoshop isn't running), without any other version of ACR there:
    Windows: (Typically on disc C): Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop CS\Plug-Ins\File Formats
    Windows (Creative Suite; typically on disc C): ): Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS\Plug-Ins\File Formats
    Mac: Applications/Adobe Photoshop CS/Plug-Ins/File Formats
  6. The following folders are for CS2, not CS: The ACR 3.7 (or ACR 4.6) plugin must be put into the correct folder, (while Photoshop isn't running), without any other version of ACR there. (A similar folder structure with the obviousd changes applies to CS3).
    Windows: (Typically on disc C): Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Plug-Ins\CS2\File Formats
    Mac: (From the root of the local disk, not the user's home folder): Library/Application Support/Adobe/Plug-Ins/CS2/File Formats
  7. Nikon software sometimes installs its own plug-in that usurps the role of ACR. (Here is a view of a 2004 version). It needn't have the same name to be a problem - it may be a name like "Nikon NEF Plugin.8Bi". If in doubt, use Help > About Plug-In > Camera Raw... to check whether there is a plug-in that starts "Nikon ...". Remove unwanted plug-ins from the path. Don't just rename them or put them into descendent folders, because Photoshop may still find them.
  8. The DNG Converter's dialogue requests what folder the images to be converted are in. It really does mean "folder"! (If only a subset of the images in a folder are to be converted, the DNG Converter can be put on the desktop and selected images can be dragged onto it).
  9. ACR 2.3 was the first version to support DNG, but it doesn't support the version of DNG created by the later versions of the DNG Converter. And ACR 3.x is only for Photoshop CS2 (or "9"). If in doubt, use Help > About Plug-In > Camera Raw... to check that ACR 2.4 or ACR 3.7 is present.

Cameras that Adobe don't have native raw support for

The "DNG route" also works where a DNG Converter other than Adobe's is available for the camera concerned. There are several such products, and some of these cameras are not supported via their native raw files even by the latest Adobe products. In effect, for these cameras, the DNG route has to be used with all Adobe products. These extra DNG Converters come from camera manufacturers or private initiatives.

To support one of these cameras, use the chosen DNG Converter in place of Adobe's DNG Converter in the above description.


Useful links including Adobe's supported-camera list


My personal experience

I use Windows. Although I use Photoshop CS3, I still have Photoshop CS and CS2. I have ACRs and DNG Converters from version 2.3 to version 4.2, kept for testing purposes. (I also have a few non-Adobe DNG Converters).

I have tested the "DNG route" for at least 35 cameras from 14 manufacturers, including most of the recent popular cameras. In the circumstances identified on this page, the "DNG route" has always worked for me.