Here’s how to open NEF files in Windows 10

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • NEF files are a proprietary image file format specific to Nikon cameras.
  • Opening them on Windows 10 isn't all that easy since you lack any native tools that can handle this format.
  • As such, you will need third-party tools to view, edit, and convert NEF files, software like Adobe Photoshop.
  • You can read even more guides like this on in our dedicated File Opener page.
open NEF files

NEF stands for Nikon Electronic Format, a RAW file format that contains digital photos taken by a Nikon camera. This format has each and every detail of the image as captured by the camera’s sensors, and has no compression or loss of quality.

The NEF file format stores metadata of the images such as the model of the camera itself, settings, lens information, and other details.

The main advantage of writing images in NEF file format to the memory card as compared to the TIFF or JPEG format lies in the fact that no in-camera processing post-processing isn’t permanent.

Stuff like the hue, tone, sharpness, or white balance is applied, but these are retained as instruction sets that come with the NEF file, and can be changed as many times as you want without affecting the original photo’s raw data.

Another advantage is that depending on the camera you’re using, the NEF file retains 12-bit or 14-bit data, which translates to an image with a greater tonal range than that of an 8-bit JPEG or TIFF file.

With Nikon’s Capture NX2 software or other imaging programs, the after-capture processing of NEF files gives you greater control over the final image than when JPEG or TIFF files are processed.

You can then save them as TIFF, JPEG , or as NEF again. Provided that the original NEF file is preserved, the digital negative remains untouched and processing doesn’t change the original instruction set.

It is exclusive to Nikon cameras, and sometimes it is referred to as digital negatives and is written to the camera’s memory card in either uncompressed or lossless compressed format.

How do I process NEF files in my camera?

Here are the steps you can take to process the NEF files in your Nikon DSLR camera prior to opening the file:

  • In the Retouch menu, find NEF in-camera processing feature.
    • This lets you process NEF RAW files into JPGs within the camera, and is useful for shooting RAW files or sharing a quick JPG
  • Adjust Picture Controls or change images from color options like Black & White (B&W) or Sepia, change white balance, exposure compensation and so much more
  • Once you’re done with and satisfied with the adjustments, preview it by pushing the magnifying glass button on the back of the camera
  • Select EXE when you’re ready to save the JPG file to your media or memory card
  • The original NEF file will be saved on the memory or media card so you can revert to the original capture when opening the NEF file on your computer

If you have the right codec on your PC, you can open or view NEF files without the need for more software. For Windows 10, you don’t need to install the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack as the codecs are built-in to the operating system, but should you want to add support for DNG formats, or others not supported, you would have to download a codec.

The Microsoft Camera Codec Pack enables viewing of a variety of device-specific file formats in Windows Live Photo Gallery and other software-based in Windows Imaging Codecs (WIC). Installing it will allow supported RAW camera files to be opened or viewable in File Explorerand is available in 32-bit or 64-bit versions.

NEF files can also be opened using software as the ones below:

How do I open NEF files in Windows 10?

Adobe Photoshop CC 2020

There’s no way you can talk about opening or editing image files without the name Adobe Photoshop popping into your mind.

This raster-based image editor can also be used as a NEF file opener. More so, the toolset allows you to take the NEF file and then turn it into a more manageable format, such as JPG or BMP.

Besides, NEF files could always use a little bit of doctoring themselves, and that is something that Adobe Photoshop can easily handle as well.

Normally, this world-class program is subscription-based to use, but now you can test it for a full 7 days without any type of limitations.

Download Adobe Photoshop for free

FileViewer PlusFileViewer Plus is an extremely powerful software and is highly rated on the market. It will open over 300 file formats including all the most popular photo formats. You will be able to open, convert and edit not nly NEF files, but also RAW, 3FR, ARI, CR2CRW,  and many other popular formats directly in its interface.

The best thing so far about this tool is that it can be used not only on photo files. You can also open and edit video, image and text formats whithout having to download various converters from untrusted sources that may harm your PC.

Download now FileViewer Plus 3

GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a free photo editing software for XP, though it requires some extra skills or time to understand and use it so it’s not as simple as most free photo editors. But if you want to open NEF files, then GIMP is one of the best tools to use for this task.


Irfanview windows 7 photo viewer

IrfanView is your best bet for opening NEF files. Some cool things you can do with this photo viewer include file searches, batch conversions for advanced image processing, Photoshop filter support, Paint options, blurring, and more.

Get IrfanView

Note: You can also use Adobe Photoshop to open NEF files but if it doesn’t work, install the latest Camera RAW plugin supported by your version of Photoshop and try opening them again.

You can also use Nikon’s CaptureNX2 and/or ViewNX2 software to open the NEF files. With CaptureNX2, you have to buy the software, but ViewNX2 is downloadable then install it to open and edit the NEF files in Windows 10.

!How to open NEF files in Windows 10

This is a full-featured, non-destructive photo editing software that gives you all the tools to quickly and easily edit your digital photos.

It has features such as color control, selection control, auto-retouch and shadow/highlight adjustment. You can enhance the hue, brightness and saturation of an image as well.

It works with RAW NEF files, but also JPEG and TIFF as well, and its interface has customized workspaces, toolbar function and layout, edit list functionality, redesigned image browser with favorites folder and image resolution adjustments.

Get CaptureNX2


This software also helps you open NEF files, and has a refined user interface with three different workspaces: Browser/GeoTag/Edit – these can be smoothly switched using the tool button. You can also select background color based on image brightness.

It is free to download and install to browse, edit and share images and movies. It also has RAW processing functions and movie editing features equivalent to those in digital SLRs. Images saved in the Nikon Image Space can be browsed as if saved on your own PC.

Once you login, you need not input your ID and password again, plus you can use the drag/drop operation for easy uploading of images.

Get ViewNX2

How do I convert a NEF file on Windows 10?

You can convert NEF files to different formats using a file converter or an image viewer/editor then save to a different format such as JPG, RAW, PNG, TIFF, PSD, GIF, and many others.

There are other online options that you can use to convert your NEF files to open in Windows 10 like Zamzar,, and Online RAW converter that convert the NEF files to BMP, GIF, JPG, PDF, and TDG among others.

Are there other ways you use to open your NEF files in Windows 10? Share with us by leaving a comment in the section below.

FAQ: Learn more about NEF files

  • What is a NEF file?

NEF stands for Nikon Electronic Format, a RAW file format that contains digital photos taken by a Nikon camera.

  • What program can open NEF files?

NEF files can also be opened with Adobe Photoshop, Able RAWer, IrfanView, GIMP, AfterShot Pro, and more.

  • Can I convert NEF files to JPG for free?

There are plenty of online tools that can help with image conversions to and from a wide variety of formats.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been since revamped and updated in April 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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