What is a CR2 File?

New Canon users might be a bit perplexed when they download their photos from their camera to their computers and see files with an extension of .cr2.

Just what is a .cr2 file?

A .CR2 file is Canon’s proprietary file extension for its RAW images coming directly out of the camera. Think of a RAW image as a digital negative. RAW files are unprocessed images that need to be converted into a more readily familiar and easier to handle file format such as jpeg. RAW files are larger than jpegs and contain additional information, known as metadata, such as camera information, lens info, bracketing information, white balance and other settings. It’s a totally unprocessed file coming directly out of the sensor with no data loss and no loss of quality unlike its jpeg counterpart hence why it’s called raw.

The .cr2, which stands for Canon RAW 2nd edition, is a file extension. A file extension is the three or four letters after a filename and a period that tells the operating system what application to use to open the file. For example, you might see something like 7Q9A0001.cr2. The “.cr2” is Canon’s way of stamping its trademark on a file. Canon EOS digital cameras have been using the .cr2 file extension since 2004 beginning with the EOS-1D Mark II.

A digital negative in some ways is like the old 35mm film negative. It’s just the first step. Now that you have the negative you have to do something with it. With a film negative you would head into the darkroom and use an enlarger and chemicals to print your negative. A digital negative needs an application to open the file so you can begin the post-processing phase.

How to Open .CR2 Files

Several well-known and readily available programs that can open .cr2 files. First try to double click on the file and see if your operating system (Windows or OS X) can open it. If it does, you are all set. If not, you will have to download a program that can handle that type of file. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop Elements, IPhoto or Aperture, are industry standard image editing applications.

You might have to go to Adobe’s website and download the latest camera RAW update which is a plugin to help open these types of files. It also helps to have the latest version of whatever photo editing application you choose. These are just a few examples of applications – look around and you can find some free options as well such as IrfanView.

Canon has its own image editing\viewing\converting software called Digital Photo Professional and Canon EOS File Viewer Utility.

9 thoughts on “What is a CR2 File?”

    1. Robin W Boulton

      Best\Easiest solution might be to set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG. Then you’ll get a .jpg file, as well as a .cr2 file, for each shot.

    1. Robin W Boulton

      Best\Easiest solution might be to set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG. Then you’ll get a .jpg file, as well as a .cr2 file, for each shot.

  1. Robin W Boulton

    B\Easiest solution might be to set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG. Then you’ll get a .jpg file, as well as a .cr2 file, for each shot.

      1. It will be an option somewhere in your camera settings – might be called quality, format, resolution or similar. Sorry I can’t be specific without knowing exactly what camera you have. If you have the manual or can get it, look for RAW, JPG and/or JPEG. Hope that helps.

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