Important: D800 + Older Nikon transfer = corrupted files

Started Dec 17, 2012 | Discussions thread
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djsphynx
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Important: D800 + Older Nikon transfer = corrupted files
Dec 17, 2012

PSA (public service announcement) for those who have D800 or who are planning on getting one. You really need to update your Nikon software. This I believe also applies to D4 users, maybe D600 users.

Backstory

I just returned from Africa. Whenever I travel, I bring along my small laptop so that I can transfer pictures to my external HDs while at the camp site. I don't use the laptop much while at home.

I was in the field for about 6 days, used my D3s and D800 extensively. I transferred pictures nightly, the software (Nikon transfer) gave no indication that anything was wrong.

What has happened since

I unloaded my pictures to my local storage and began vetting and culling. While doing so, I noticed that all pictures taken with the D800 weren't "acting" properly in View NX2. Whenever I would single click on them to zoom in at 100%, the image barely enlarged, contrary to the behavior exhibited by D3s files. I shrugged it off thinking that there were incompatibilities between D800 files and View NX2.

After settling on the keepers, I began working on them in ACR. D3s files were fine. D800 files were a disaster.

Symptoms

First, upon opening them in ACR, I wasn't able to choose a camera preset (standard, landscape etc). The only choice was "embedded". I thought maybe ACR was out of date so I checked. It was. I updated it, but the behavior didn't change after the update. I decided to work on the files regardless but that's when I noticed that the file dimensions were completely off: the image that I could see on my screen was already zoomed in to 85%+ percent. When I looked at the file size in Explorer, it was consistent with other D800 NEF files from previous shoots done locally. When I added the dimensions column to Explorer, the result was correct (7360 x 4912). But for whatever reason, in ACR, View NX2 and Capture NX2, the image came in at a paltry 1500px or so.

What happened

After hours of scouring the net, I found that the older version of Transfer strips out key metadata from D800 and D4 files. ACR and other software doesn't know what to do with the file. Even though the information is all there, you can't get to it. You're stuck editing the small image the RAW file can produce, and not the RAW file itself.

How to fix it

Someone, bless them, wrote a small command line tool to reinsert the key metadata. I'm not sure what's missing, but whatever it is, the software corrects it (I'll link to it later when I get home). It's a manually intensive process since it's 1 file at a time, but I'll take that over unusable NEF files anyday.

Moral of the story

Update your software on all of your PCs and laptops and test more thoroughly all aspects of your workflow whenever you get a new camera. I took this for granted since D800 files had previously never given me any issues on my home PC. The breakdown was with the laptop's software (I just assumed the software was up to date).

Moral of the story pt2

I'm a new fan of Adobe's way of doing things. ACR supports a set of cameras. When a new camera comes out, they push out an update. Why do I like this? Because it sets expectations. I expected Nikon software to be backward and forward compatible, especially software like Transfer which does such a small amount of work (user added metadata and for renaming files). I never expected their software, especially one that does barely anything, to ruin files. I'd rather it not work (ACR-like behavior) as opposed to this ridiculous alternative.

I'll be looking for alternative tools for transferring and rating, if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

-- hide signature --

I've written this as objectively as possible in order to help others who may run into this issue. It's quite the hassle and to be honest, I thought for a moment that a lot of my work was forever lost.

That said, I'm absolutely upset with Nikon (and with myself for trusting them). That and my 10pin connector on my D800 caved in and I have to send it for repair. Merry Christmas to me indeed.

Hope this small post helps others, it will also be on my site later this week (along with more pictures from Africa). The trip was good, everything since,  not so much.

Best

Rob

--
http://www.cuibono.ca
Latest photo essay: http://www.cuibono.ca/events/bullfighting

Nikon D3S Nikon D4 Nikon D600 Nikon D800
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