A lot of inexperienced users read about the NEF image file format and wonder if they can convert other image types into it. This is understandable, as a NEF is a raw image file with high quality. However, the process is complicated, depending on the file type you use. Here’s a breakdown to help everyone understand it better.

What’s a PNG Image File?

The PNG image file is a very popular graphic format, mostly due to its high resolution and accessibility. A PNG is a Portable Network Graphic that uses lossless compression – meaning it retains all of its quality and resolution when it shrinks in size. It is an image file that uses raster graphics, which means it’s mapped by a structural grid of pixels. Finally, the PNG can be opened by a wide range of different programs, making it easy to share as well.

What’s an NEF Image File?

The NEF image file is a Nikon Electronic Format graphic that is the result of any photograph snapped using a Nikon camera. It is a raw image that, like PNG, is lossless compression. The NEF is typically not the end result as most users convert them to a different file type. The official Nikon software that handles the NEF is the Capture NX-D, which provides some essentially editing options to photographers.

The PNG logo.
PNG uses lossless compression.

How to Convert a PNG to a NEF

Unfortunately, there’s no way to convert a PNG to a NEF. This is because the NEF is a direct result of a photograph taken on a Nikon camera. Whenever a photographer uses a Nikon camera and uploads their files digitally, they’re stored in the NEF format. From there, they edit and convert them to more accessible image file types. This is the only way to create an NEF, but don’t worry, you don’t need to convert the PNG to NEF anyhow. Everything you need in terms of editing and sharing is already available with a PNG.

Think of the NEF like a vintage painting. You can convert it to things like printed pictures, digital pictures and other image media. However, you can’t convert a digital photo into a vintage painting, being that the artist is deceased among other reasons. The same goes with the NEF – it is the painting. It can be converted into other images, but not vice-versa.

An animated woman painting.
The NEF is like a completed painting in a lot of ways.

How to Convert a NEF to a PNG

Even though you can’t convert the PNG to NEF, the reverse conversion does in fact work. There are a couple different ways to convert a NEF to a PNG. First, you can open the NEF file using a graphic editing program and then save it as a different type of file. For example, you could open a NEF in Adobe Photoshop, then save it as a PNG. Note that the flagship software, Capture NX-D, doesn’t allow for saving into the PNG format.

The other method is through an online converter. There are quite a few programs that convert NEF to PNG. One that works well for me is Convert.Files. This is a browser-based system, meaning you don’t need to install it. It’s only recommended that you have a sufficiently fast internet connection and enough hard drive space. Give it a shot if you don’t want to install software in order to convert.

Remember, if you’re trying to convert a PNG to a NEF, you need to find a different file format. There are plenty of other image types available, so look around until you find the one that works best for you.

Casey Schmidt – Content Manager and Industry Expert | Canto

Casey is a content management and branding expert who enjoys taking complex subjects and making them easy to understand for readers.