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EXIF Reader Software

I mentioned last week that, in addition to giving you thumbnail images, both dpMagic and NEFView provide at least some capability to show you the shutter speed, aperture and other EXIF data embedded in your digital camera images. It occurs to me that this might be a good time to provide some information on the variety of programs out there to more fully show you your EXIF data.

For those unfamiliar with EXIF data, the acronym officially stands for "Exchangeable Image File Format" and is part of the Digital Still Camera (DSC) standard that is also responsible for the strange names your camera image files have. The objective of the EXIF standard is to establish a common format for camera data so that programs that read and manage it can interoperate. The first version came out in 1996 which gives you an idea of just how new this whole digital thing is. In the beginning, cameras wrote the data, but there were few programs available to get at it after the fact. Now eight years on, here are some of the current programs available for reading EXIF data.

One of the oldest and still among the best is Ryuuji Yoshimoto's freeware ExifReader. It supports NEF and many other raw camera formats in addition to the basic JPEG and TIFF formats. All available data is displayed in a window and can be copied to the clipboard or saved to a file.

EXIF Utils
EXIF Utils is a highly recommended set of command-line utilities for extracting and modifying embedded EXIF data. If you want it in a window, this won't do it, but Hugh Maxwell Thomas's EXIF Utils is the best thing going to give you full access to the data in your images whether they be JPEG, TIFF or NEF. Tools are provided for extracting, changing as well as copying data from one file to another. They are distributed as shareware for Windows, Mac and Linux, but the licensing fee is quite reasonable.

Joe Huang's ViewEXIF is a plug-in for Microsoft Internet Explorer that provides a right-mouse-click action to display the EXIF data for images on web pages. This data is stripped off of many online images, but for those that still have it embedded, ViewEXIF can be just the thing.

EXIF InfoTip
Michal Kowalski's EXIF InfoTip is a shell extension for Windows 2000 and XP that provides pop-up tool tips for basic EXIF data from a variety of image formats including Nikon NEF files.

Written in Java so it will run on most any platform, EXIF-O-Matic from Institute of the Future is limited to processing JPEG files only. It will show you a thumbnail of the image on the left of its window, and a list of all the EXIF data on the right. A menu option will allow you to export the data to a text file.

Exifer supports JPEG and TIFF only but does a fairly thorough job of handling them. Allows limited editing of EXIF data.

Simple EXIF Viewer for Mac OS X
Simple EXIF Viewer works well, but does not support Nikon NEF files. It definitely supports jpeg's and may support Cannon raw files.

Of course Photoshop too can display EXIF data, but there are times when you don't want to fire up Photoshop just to check the shutter speed of an image. There are a number of other EXIF readers out there too if you search for them, but these are some of the best as of this writing. As with everything having to do with digital photography, the state of EXIF reader software is bound to improve in the future, so I'll update this page as I learn of new developments.

Update 12/7/2004: ExifTool by Phil Harvey is another good EXIF utility. It's a Perl script that can extract EXIF, IPTC, XMP and other data from a number of different image formats. If you don't have Perl, you'll need to install it as well, but it can be downloaded free for most operating systems.

Update 1/8/2005: PhotoToolCM by Hide Itoh is plugin for Mac OS (Jaguar only apparently) that provides a context menu with, among other handy features, a display of EXIF data. Quite nice, and free too.

Update 1/9/2005: The modestly entitled "EXIF Viewer" by Ralph Bibinger is another excellent option for the Windows platform. A stand-alone program, EXIF Viewer can show side-by-side comparisons between multiple images and their data, copy the data to the clipboard or even export it to Microsoft Excel. While EXIF data is extracted from all file types, image previews seem to only work for jpegs. Freeware.

Update 3/14/2005: For the curious, I just got a Mac Mini for the fun of it so I've updated some of the Mac OS information above.

Date posted: September 12, 2004 (updated March 14, 2005)


Copyright © 2004, 2005 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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