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Is it viable to convert the CR2 image file to the NEF?

by Casey Schmidt  |  January 16, 2020

3 min. read
Staircases of different colors.

A lot of photographers and companies who work with photographers have dealt with both the CR2 and NEF file formats extensively. They understand the dilemma of these file types, in that they’re large and need to be converted to be edited and shared. Is it possible, then, to convert a CR2 into an NEF? Here’s a guide to break it all down for you.

What is the CR2 image file?

The CR2 image file is the standard digital file format for photographs snapped on any Canon camera and then downloaded onto a computer. CR2 officially stands for Canon Raw 2, the second edition. It is a raw representation of the exact image the photographer captured and is very large in size due to its high resolution.

What is the NEF image file?

The NEF image file is the standard digital file format for photographs taken from any type of Nikon camera. NEF stands for Nikon Electronic Format and is an exact replication of the picture taken by the photographer. It is large in size and is very high resolution.

A Nikon camera on top of a journal.
The Nikon uses the NEF format exclusively.

Can you convert the CR2 to NEF?

As it stands, you cannot convert a CR2 file into an NEF. You cannot do it manually or even using a third party software system. However, you shouldn’t need to or won’t to anyway. Here’s why: a CR2 needs to be converted for a number of different reasons. The user may want to share a lot of CR2 files all at once and therefore want to convert it into a smaller file size. The NEF isn’t a smaller size than a CR2 anyway. Both take in the raw, unaltered version of a photograph.

A user may also want to convert the CR2 in order to make extensive edits to it. Unfortunately, yet again, the NEF doesn’t offer any further editing capability than the CR2. So once again, the conversion is pointless anyway. Ultimately, the CR2 and the NEF are the same file type for different camera equipment. It doesn’t make sense to convert one to the other. There are some different routes to go that would help, however.

A blue orange cut into two.
Some conversions don’t work or even make sense.

Alternative solutions to consider

Now that we have confirmed the CR2 cannot be converted to the NEF, what are our options? Well, the first thing we can do is make a conversion to a different image file type. This will depend on different factors, such as why the user wants to convert. If you’re converting in order to edit your CR2 file(s), consider image file types such as the PSD or INDD. Both of these files are extremely editable due to the systems they belong to, Photoshop and InDesign. This conversion is simple to do and involves using a third-party software program such as a browser-based converter or a system-based converter (one you install onto your computer).

Alternatively, if you want to be able to share a lot of your CR2 images all at once, you might benefit from something like JPEGs or PNGs. These file types are known for their smaller size, which allows users to share a lot of them with minimal struggle. It’s important to point out, however, that the quality of a JPEG or PNG will be much lower than your original CR2. You can convert using a browser-based or system-based converter.

Ultimately, this conversion doesn’t work or even make any logical sense. Fortunately, once you understand this, you’ll know exactly how to make an alternative conversion to handle the required tasks.