Three Common Problems with Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop CS
Those who have upgraded to Photoshop CS have undoubtedly discovered the wonders of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) for processing NEF files (or other camera raw formats if you're not a Nikon shooter). While another raw converter may be favored by some, there's no denying that workflow becomes a lot more streamlined with Adobe Camera Raw since it's integrated with Photoshop. Some new Camera Raw users encounter one of three common problems, all or which are actually easy to fix, once you know the cause.
Help, it Won't Fit on My Screen
There once was a day when all computer monitors ran at 640 by 480 pixels. Over time, monitors have gotten physically larger and their resolution has also increased. The initial standard VGA resolution has given way more and more to SVGA (800 by 600), XGA (1024 by 768) and even higher resolutions. If your monitor has not kept up with the times, you may find that the Adobe Camera Raw dialog won't fit on your screen. The obvious question if this has happened to you is "how do I make this darned thing smaller?" Answer: you can't. You need to make your screen bigger. Higher resolution, actually.
It's written is small type on the side of the box Photoshop comes in as well (as on Adobe's website) that the system requirements include a minimum screen resolution of 1024 by 768. Set yours to at least this and all will be well. This can be done easily in Control Panel on Windows or under the Apple Menu on Mac OS. If you find that you can't set yours that high or if things look too tiny after changing it, it's time to buy a new, bigger monitor.
What? Only Exposure and White Balance?
You may find that instead of the full palette of controls Adobe Camera Raw provides, all you get is a small window with options for adjusting exposure and white balance. While this certainly does simply fitting things on your screen, it's not what Camera Raw is supposed to look like, now is it? The smaller window comes from installing Nikon View. Bibble, another raw file converter, has a similar but larger window that also differs from the one Adobe intended Photoshop to have. The problem is that each of these products wants to be responsible for the NEF file type. When you want to open a raw file, only one can win. If you get the wrong one, you can easily delete or rename the one that gets in your way so you can use a different one.
On Windows, the plugin for Adobe Camera Raw is called Camera Raw.8bi and lives in "Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS\Plug-Ins\File Formats". The plugin for Nikon View is Nikon NEF Plugin.8bi and gets installed to "Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop CS\Plug-ins\Adobe Photoshop Only\File Formats". BibbleFormat.8bi is the plugin provided with Bibble. It can be found in "Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS\Plug-Ins\File Formats". If you choose to rename the ones not in use rather than delete them, simply change the suffix to something other than "8bi" and Photoshop will ignore them. Make sure Photoshop is not running when you make your changes since you can not delete or rename files that are in use.
On Mac OS, the folder names are similar but the plugins don't have the "8bi" suffix. To rename one, simply put a "~" in front of its name, as in ~Nikon NEF Plugin.
If you have more than one of these present, the Nikon View one has priority with the Adobe Camera Raw one being second. The Bibble plugin can only be accessed if you rename or delete both of the other two.
It Doesn't Seem to Like My D70
If you own a Nikon D70 camera, you may have encountered yet a third common problem when trying to use Adobe Camera Raw. If, instead of the Camera Raw window you get an error message that Photoshop "could not complete your request because it is not the right kind of document" or that "file-format could not parse the file" you need to download the free upgrade to Adobe Camera Raw 2.2. You can find the Windows version here and the Mac OS version here. Version 2.2 adds support for a number of other new camera models as well. Adobe plans several point releases for ACR each year to keep up with new models.
None of these problems are that difficult to fix. But if you are faced with them, they could certainly be frustrating. Hope this helps.
Update 9/27/2004: Adobe has just released Version 2.3 of Adobe Camera Raw. Support has been added for the Coolpix 5400 and a few other new cameras. While no specific other fixes are listed, it's usually a good idea to keep current anyway as Adobe has frequently tweaked the conversion engine in previous releases. So, whether you have a D70, D100 or other digital camera, I'd recommend upgrading. As with the 2.2 upgrade mentioned above, you can find the Windows version here and the Mac OS version here. No support for the Nikon D2x yet though....
Update 2/05/2005:Two updates worth mentioning: Adobe is now up to version 2.4 of Adobe Camera Raw, available for free download as with prior versions. Also, the Nikon plugin can infect Photoshop Elements as well. If you don't see the full Adobe Camera Raw for Elements window and only get the little Nikon one, look for the Nikon plugin and delete it. You'll be happy you did.
Update 2/21/2005: One small update worth noting. Nikon Picture Project installs a plugin essentially identical to the one Nikon View does. If you've installed either and don't see the full Adobe Camera Raw window, go find the pesky Nikon plugin and get rid of it. I do wish Nikon would stop instlling this thing without asking. Especially since ACR is built into the current version of Photoshop and has been for well over a year now.
And one more update to make today. That darned pesky Nikon NEF Plugin can infect Photoshop Elements without asking as well. If your Adobe Camera Raw for Elements window goes away, check for the Nikon plugin in "Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop Elements 3.0\Plug-Ins\Editor Only\File Formats" and delete it.
Update 3/14/2005: I just got a Mac Mini to replace my aging iMac 8.6. It seems that Nikon does give you a choice to not include the NEF plugin when you install NikonView on Mac OS. You have to do choose the Custom install option, but it does ask you. Why can't they do this for the Windows install?
Update 5/105/2005: For you Photoshop CS2 users out there, Adobe has moved their Camera Raw.8bi file over to Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Plug-ins\File Formats on Windows. On Mac OS, the new home for Camera Raw is at /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Plug-ins/CS2/File Formats.
Update 5/10/2005: A funny thing happened on the way to the Nikon Capture 4.3 upgrade: The first time I started Photoshop CS2 after installing the new version of Capture I got the message you see here. It's been about two years now since Adobe started including Camera Raw with Photoshop yet Nikon still insists on installing their plugin without even asking or telling the user (Mac OS users oddly do get a choice, but not Windows users). It seems as if Adobe has found at least a small way to strike back at Nikon's arrogance.
Update 7/07/2005: For completeness, here's what the Adobe Camera Raw window looks like as of version 3.0 which comes standard in Photoshop CS2. The current version is actually now 3.1 which Adobe released shortly after CS2 shipped, but it looks the same as 3.0. Version 3.1 contains mainly bug fixes but is the first version to offer support for the Nikon D2x and Canon EOS Rebel XT. You can download the upgrade for free from Adobe. It is compatible with either Photoshop CS2 or Photoshop Elements 3.0. Not earlier versions of either, including CS.
Update 9/26/2005 - Adobe Camera Raw 3.2 is finally out for both Windows and MacOS. The new version includes support for "as shot" white balance for the Nikon D2x using Nikon's new "mini SDK" (Software Development Kit). Copies have been floating around on the Net for the last few days after Adobe prematurely posted it for a short while, but now it's official.
Update 1/18/2006 - Adobe Camera Raw 3.3 has now been released for both Windows and MacOS. Includes support for the Nikon D200 along with a number of other new cameras. An update to Adobe's DNG Converter is available as well.
Update 7/15/2006 - The new Nikon Capture NX is out now and has thankfully done away with the pesky Nikon NEF plugin. By the way, Adobe Camera Raw 3.4 was released back in May but I failed to note it here. Even if I don't, you can always find the latest version on Adobe's website here.
Update 9/25/2006 - Version 3.5 of Adobe Camera Raw is out now including support for the Nikon D2Xs, the new Sony A100 (the successor to the Konica-Minolta Maxxum line of film SLRs) and a couple of others. If you have a digital camera already supported by earlier releases, it can still be a good idea to download this latest version. Adobe does update the profiles for existing cameras at times, and each new release does also includes miscellaneous bug fixes you may benefit from. And besides, it's easy, ... and free.
Update 10/07/2006 - A public beta of Adobe Camera Raw Version 3.6 is now available on Adobe's website. Included is support for the Nikon D80, Canon 400D (Rebel XTi) and others.