Sony NEX-5 Raw (.arw) Files Don’t Open in Photoshop CS5 or Lightroom 3. Or Do They?

by Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen on August 18, 2010

Raw files from the Sony NEX-5 digital compact camera – in Sony’s .arw format – are not recognized by the current versions of Adobe Photoshop CS5 or Lightroom 3. New versions of these programs will add support for the NEX-5, the NEX-3 and several other new cameras. Here’s how to get the new software before it is released.

Sony NEX-5I’ve just tried to import my first batch of NEX-5 raw images into Lightroom 3 and got a nasty shock: Lightroom 3.1 does not support ARW raw files from the NEX-5!

If you’re desperate, you can skip ahead to the solution here.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

I know it’s not unusual for raw files from brand-new camera models to be temporarily unsupported by Adobe and other image-editing software manufacturers. It takes them a while to catch up. So, I wasn’t too concerned when Photoshop CS5 also refused to open the NEX-5′s raw files.

I’d just convert them to digital negatives using my old standby, Adobe’s DNG Converter.  The plan was to later re-process them once Lightroom was updated to support the Sony raw images.  Nasty shock number 2: even the DNG converter doesn’t recognize the Sony file format.

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~Henry Ford

It turns out I had an older version of Adobe’s DNG converter. So I downloaded the latest version (6.1.0.255) from Adobe’s website. But still, no habla Sony.

Now things were getting desperate. I tried a couple of other image-editors I owned – ACDSee Pro 3 and DxO Optics Pro 6 – and guess what, they’re not Sony savvy.

I hate to do it, but it looked like I’d have to install the software that came with the camera. I don’t like using proprietary software, but it might be a good short-term solution. I installed Sony’s Image Data Converter SR and Image Data Lightbox SR from the included CD. But, as far as I can tell, there is no batch function in either of these programs. I could process one image at a time, but not convert an entire day’s take at once. Too time consuming, so …

I tried a few Google searches. I was sure that someone else must be having the same problem – and I was right. But most of the solutions I found didn’t do the trick for me. I eventually found the answer.

The Sony NEX-5 includes Sweep Panorama mode for creating hand-held panoramas.

Sony NEX-5 in Sweep Panorama mode

Adobe Release Candidates to the Rescue

Here’s how to open Sony NEX-5 .arw raw files in Photoshop CS5 and Ligthroom 3. (If you’ve read all of my blather up to this point, thanks. If you skipped right to this answer, you’re forgiven).

Photoshop CS5 users, you need to install Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) version 6.2. It’s a beta version (or in Adobe’s parlance, a release candidate) so it may include a few bugs or incomplete features. If you need it now and can’t wait for it to be officially released, download it from the Adobe Labs website. It’s easy to install. It will automatically locate your Photoshop CS5 software and update your existing ACR to version 6.2.

Lightroom 3 users can download the Lightroom 3.2 release candidate here.  It includes ACR 6.2 as well as a few other Lightroom improvements. Beware that it replaces your previous version of Lightroom, so there is no going back. But the 3.2 version seems to work fine. And, now I can process my Sony files.

Here’s a list of the new cameras supported by ACR 6.2 and  Lightroom 3.2 (in the case of the Casio and Leica, these aren’t new, but Adobe has improved DNG support):

Time to Upgrade

If you’re still using Photoshop CS4 (or earlier) and you have a new camera that’s not supported by earlier versions of ACR, you’ll need to upgrade to Photoshop CS5. New releases of Adobe Camera Raw only work with the latest Photoshop version. Here’s a link to Adobe’s website to download the upgrade right now.

Or, if you don’t mind waiting a few days, you can save a few bucks by upgrading to Photoshop CS5 through these links:

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Upgrade
(Windows or Mac)
Adorama (Windows) Adorama (Mac)
Amazon (Windows) Amazon (Mac)

The same applies to older versions of Lightroom. Upgrade to Adobe Lightroom 3 either from Adobe’s website (instant download), or order Adobe Lightroom 3 from one of these merchants:

Adobe Lightroom 3 Upgrade
(Windows and Mac on same disk)
Adorama (Windows & Mac)
Amazon (Windows & Mac)

NOTE: If you order through one of the links on this page, I’ll get a small referral fee to help keep PhotoCitizen running. Thanks.

I’ll be writing a full review of the Sony NEX-5 soon. If you don’t want to miss it, subscribe to PhotoCitizen.

UPDATE: My in-depth review of the Sony Alpha NEX-5 is now available. Read it here: The Lightweight Photographer: Sony Alpha NEX-5 Real World Camera Review.

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{ 5 comments }

1 Alan October 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I was desperately looking for a solution to converting my .arw files from the Nex-5 into jpeg. Came across this and I am so very grateful. Thanks for that!

2 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen October 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Hi Alan,

Glad I could help. Hope you’re enjoying your new NEX-5.

- Alan

3 zohaib November 7, 2010 at 6:56 am

Thx mate, it was a nice post !! Did help me a lot ! And raw files sure are the best way to go with photo.

4 Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen November 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Zohaib,

Sounds like your Sony raw files are working ok now. Glad to hear it. I agree, raw is the only way to go: Working in the field is always so hectic with lots of chances to mess up. I love having a second chance to get things right later in the computer.

Cheers,

Alan

5 Joe February 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm

WOW – Works great, thanks so much!

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