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Recently, my family had some professional photos taken while vacationing at a resort. The photos were given to us on CD in both .CR2 and .jpg formats.

While we can view the JPEG-format versions of the photos just fine, they had some effect and color filters applied which we'd rather not have for some prints. Consequently, I'd like to open the .CR2 files myself to get at the original unmodified photos.

I don't own a recent Canon camera, so I don't have the corresponding Canon software that undoubtedly ships with their RAW-capable cameras. I tried Corel Paint Shop Pro X2, but it didn't recognize the .CR2 files.

So, what is a cheap or free tool to view and convert .CR2 photos on Windows?

Note: I don't want to buy Adobe Photoshop. I trust it would work, but I'm seeking a cheap or free solution, at this point... I'm not yet enough of a photo addict to buy expensive pro tools.

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Lightroom seriously kicks ass but it's $299 US. – Nick Bedford Nov 14 '10 at 1:36
OK, if I need a RAW ass-kicking, I'll consider Lightroom ;-) – Chris W. Rea Nov 14 '10 at 14:05
possible duplicate of What is the best free RAW editor/converter on Windows? – mattdm Dec 25 '11 at 16:04

10 Answers 10

up vote 14 down vote accepted

You can use any free (as in freedom) RAW processing software. I can recommend:


It is a stand-alone RAW converter. Its interface is different from many other RAW converters, but I find it quite good. It easily integrates with Gimp photo editor.


It is more like workflow software rather than just a RAW converter. One may consider its interface more friendly. Also, it allows to save the processing profile and quickly apply it to many photos in a series.

Either tool should handle CR2 files. On one hand, there are other free RAW converters to choose from, but most of them are directly or indirectly based on the same dcraw.c, as UFRaw is. RawTherapee, on the other hand, seems to have a different rasterizer.

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+1 for RawTheraphee, which is actually amazing and now open source so everybody can put his hands into it :) – Rafal Ziolkowski Nov 14 '10 at 20:59
RawTherapee did exactly what I needed. Thanks! – Chris W. Rea Nov 16 '10 at 1:35
+1 for "free (as in freedom)" :-) – ltn100 Nov 25 '10 at 9:31

I'm not sure what you mean by 'cheap', but Photoshop Elements is under $100 online.

You may also want to check out Canon's website for downloads. They seem to have all the software that would come with a camera available to download.

I think Picture Style Editor should allow you to open the CR2 files, and it seems the full program is available for download (rather than just an update).

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Thanks. Let's say cheap < $30. Also, I checked out the Canon web site .. many of the downloads are "updaters", implying I need the original software. Is there a particular download there I should be looking at? – Chris W. Rea Nov 14 '10 at 1:29
@Chris I updated my answer to mention 'Picture Style Editor', which definitely can open CR2 files. From the downloads listing, it looks like they are offering the full program, and not just an update. (I can only verify that the program by that name that I installed off of the CD can open CR2 files, so please let us know if the download works for you. – pkaeding Nov 14 '10 at 1:58
Yes, Canon offers full versions of their programs. Also, there's a "codec" for windows that integrates the format into the operating system. – Carles Nov 14 '10 at 7:26
The codec looked promising, but, boo: "64-bit Operating systems are not supported" – Chris W. Rea Nov 16 '10 at 1:11
OK, I downloaded and installed "Canon Picture Style Editor". It can certainly view the CR2 files. However, there doesn't appear to be any option to convert or save the image in another format. – Chris W. Rea Nov 16 '10 at 1:20

A few of the free possibilities include:

  1. DCRaw
  2. RAWHide
  3. StepOK raw importer
  4. Scarab Darkroom
  5. Gimp

DC Raw is kind of the godparent of nearly all the other free/open source camera raw converters. It has code to convert data from almost any camera that can produce a raw file -- but only a command-line interface. Most of the others are basically graphical front-ends that either spawn a copy of DCRaw, or use Libraw, which is basically just the DCRaw code converted to library form. OTOH, many of them use the DCRaw code for little more than the most basic reading of the raw data, and handle most (if not everything) else from there, including more sophisticated demosaicing algorithms, etc. Of course they also provide GUI interfaces and most of the typical adjustments (exposure, contrast, etc.)

GIMP probably deserves separate mention: where the others are basically raw converters with some adjustment capabilities, GIMP is a full-blown photo editor with raw import capability (i.e., more like Photoshop, where the others are more like LightRoom).

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IIRC, Gimp is only capable of importing RAW when the UFRaw (or similar) plugin is installed. – ysap Jun 21 '11 at 7:05

Canon's own Digital Photo Professional can be downloaded from Canon, and that can be used to handle the conversion as well as tweaking white balance etc.

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When I've tried to download DPP in the past I've found you can only download the update to latest version online, which will only install if you have an old version already. Is this still the case? – Matt Grum Nov 14 '10 at 10:14
@Matt I've found I've been able to install with only the barest minimum of tools installed (I think it only checks for the EOS Viewer or a previous version of DPP). – Rowland Shaw Nov 14 '10 at 10:27
@MattGrum: There are work arounds. There are registry hacks online that enable 'update' without previous install. – Peter pete Jun 24 '14 at 23:14

Picasa from Google is free and will convert Canon RAW to jpeg. It is also a capable tool for organising your photo collection and will perform basic photo editing operations.

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I would vote for Canon's software, downloaded from their support site. Plus a little bit . ... cough

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At least last I looked, Canon only offered updates which required that you had the original software. – Michael Kjörling Feb 17 '13 at 12:11
Yes, that's what they "do". But! You can download their "update" (which really is the full version with a simple registry check). Before you install the "update" you do what that website does (ie, make a text file, paste in the registry stuff appropriate to your operating system version and save it as a .reg, then run the .reg) Then install the "update" and voila! the full version. I've done this to instal on my laptop, netbook and home server w/o ever, ever, ever touching the CD. – Peter pete Feb 17 '13 at 12:19
As someone who has lost their original CD that had the DPP tools on it, knowing how to bypass this very annoying Canon "thing" is very helpful. I've been wanting to upgrade to the latest DPP for a while, and have been unable to. Thanks for the tip! – jrista Feb 19 '13 at 4:43

Lightroom is very good - and you can download a free 30 day trial - would this be enough time for what you need?

Here is the link to the trial download

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You should consider using the Adobe DNG converter which is free to download and converts the CR2 files into digital negative format. DNG files are supported with almost all image editors, including Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 that you are using.

Depending upon your comfort level, you can also try GIMP for Windows to edit the photos.

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Another alternative but only to view. You can install the microsoft camera code pack at the following link Now explorer and the default photo viewer can display cr2 images.

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And any application which can use the codec pack can export or save those images including the windows live photo gallery or something better like Paint.Net. – James Snell Jan 25 '13 at 14:26

Instant JPEG from RAW is a free tool that let you extract the embedded JPEG preview from RAW files. Just Right-Click on your CR2 files to extract the unprocessed JPEG preview.

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protected by MikeW Feb 17 '13 at 5:34

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