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Canon CR3 raw format guide

A raw image file is like a digital negative without any lossy compression and minimal processing applied to it. A digital camera shooting images in raw format provides output in the best possible quality, which means files are larger in size and take more space. The benefits offered by shooting raw format overpowers the slight storage hassle though. Few of the well known raw formats include CR2, NEF, RW2, RAF, PEF, ARW, etc.  In this post, we will talk about the new compressed raw format introduced by Canon starting with its mirrorless series of cameras.

CR3 C-raw Canon format

History of Canon raw formats
Back in the early 2000s, Canon cameras produced raw photos in CRW format. Example of cameras shooting in CRW include Canon D60, Canon D30, Canon 10D, and Canon EOS 300D. Most of the cameras released after the year 2004 shoot raw photos in CR2 format. Examples of CR2 format Canon cameras include 350D, 6D, 7D, 5D, 5D Mark II and many more.
In 2018, Canon introduced its new mirrorless camera known as the EOS M50.  This camera takes raw photographs in a new raw format known as CR3. Late 2018 and 2019, few more CR3 format cameras were released by Canon. Let's dive a little deeper to see what is CR3 about and the available software support for it.



Canon CR3 and C-raw
In the latest Canon cameras shooting CR3 format, there is an option to enable C-raw. Just like we had M-raw and S-raw setting in case of CR2 format, CR3 has C-raw setting. The difference is M-raw and S-raw will change the image pixel dimensions whereas C-raw does not change pixel dimensions. When C-raw is enabled, the CR3 images taken by the camera comes out being compressed in a lossy way. Canon decided to apply lossy compression to C-raw images in order to save storage space while maintaining the same pixel dimensions and quality. The encoding process information about C-raw is not public though. In fact, no camera manufacturer will be happy to make the raw encoding process available freely as open source. From a photographer's perspective, there is no noticeable quality difference when viewing a normal CR3 raw vs C-raw CR3.

List of Canon cameras taking photos in CR3 format

Canon EOS M50 or Canon EOS Kiss M. Announced in February 2018. 

Canon Powershot SX70 HS. Announced in September 2018.

Canon EOS R. Announced in October 2018.

Canon EOS RP. Announced in February 2019. 

Software support for CR3
As Canon CR3 is a fairly new raw format, not every photo editing software has released a software update to support it. More and more photo editing software companies are working hard to add CR3 format support, but very few of them have it at the moment. Currently, support for Canon's CR3 format is available in:

Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 8.0

Adobe Photoshop CC. 

Capture One 12.0.0. 

DxO PhotoLab 2.3.0 ( To be released in April 2019)

Canon's Digital Photo Professional 4.9.0.0. 

Apart from the above 4 post-processing software, no other software supports CR3. I checked every possible software website and forums to see what's coming in the near future when it comes to CR3 raw format support but didn't see any planned update promises. Below is the list of editing software I checked: 
ON1 2018: No CR3 support specific plans on their website.

Luminar 2018: No CR3 support specific plans on their website. 

Affinity Pro: No CR3 support specific plans on their website. 

PaintShop Pro 2019: No CR3 support specific plans on their website.

ACDSee Ultimate 2019: No CR3 support specific plans on their website.


Canon CR3 raw converter:
If you purchased a Canon camera that shoots CR3 format and your photo editing software doesn't support CR3, there is a good way to use those CR3 files without losing quality. You can convert the CR3 files to DNG format and edit them in the software you already have. To achieve this, Adobe DNG converter is a widely accepted tool. DNG format is a good temporary workaround to edit images from a camera capturing photos in CR3.

Concluding this post, I want to talk about one common question that often comes up with this new CR3 format. Why Canon calls it a raw format if it has lossy compression applied? To clarify, CR3 format itself does not have lossy compression applied. It produces a lossy compressed image only when C-raw setting inside the camera is enabled. Even if C-raw has lossy compression applied, it is still raw in the sense that it has to go through demosaicing, gamma conversion, etc. C-raw images have the same resolution and quality with 30-40% saving in file storage size, as claimed by Canon.  Lastly, using C-raw setting in your camera is always an option, not a mandatory requirement.

Hope you found this post informative for your CR3 format photography needs. Let me know in comments if I missed a specific software that actually supports CR3. Happy photography! 

Comments

  1. Thanks for your detailed overview, the best I have found after long searching.
    I have one question. I have found that not depending if I choose CRAW or RAW, files have always the same extension CR3. I have EOS M50, but I believe it is probably the same for all "CR3 cameras".
    I have found only one possibility to distinguish between both types on PC - data in the EXIF file (the size is of course not usable for this). It is very unusual in IT. I suppose any SW should be able to distinguish both types - how it is done?
    Thanks for your answer
    Regards
    Miloslav

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Miloslav,

      Thanks for your question. Yes, you are correct. The format would always be CR3 no matter if you shoot RAW or CRAW in your camera. All the 4 cameras mentioned above take photos in CR3 format.
      Coming to differentiating between CRAW and RAW, I did a few post processing tests but it was very hard to tell any visual difference on comparison. The only way to separate them is either look at EXIF data or the file size itself.

      Hope this helps!
      Cheers

      Delete
  2. This article was extremely helpful. It answered my question exactly how I needed it to and then some. Very well organized and laid out.
    Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete

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