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What Is an ARW File? (And How to Open One!)

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A Sony Alpha Raw image or ARW file is an image file used by Sony Alpha digital cameras.

You might be familiar with JPEGs, but Raw files are different. They are much larger, and you need a specialised program to open or convert them.

Here we show you what an ARW file is and how to open one.

Silhouette of a man walking inside a building

What Are File Extensions?

All digital files come with a file extension. Be them .psd files for Photoshop, .pdf files for text and forms or .wav files for video.

These let the computers, programs and users understand how to use the files. You can open a JPEG almost anywhere, but a Raw photo is more complicated.

What Are ARW Files?

An ARW file is a Raw format file used exclusively by Sony Alpha digital cameras. These ARW file types contain a lot of data allowing you to edit your images more progressively.

To capture your scenes in a Raw ARW file format, you need to set your Sony digital camera to Raw in the Image and Quality section of your menu.

Other camera manufacturers use Raw files too, but with their distinct extensions. CR2 is associated with Canon. Nef comes with Nikon cameras.

Like these file extensions, you may find it difficult to view or open ARW file images. How can you convert a file if you don’t know what file type it is?

You need specialised software to read an ARW file and to convert them. Editing programs and other specific programs from camera manufacturers can help open an ARW file.

These Raw files are like the more common TIFF (Tagged Image File Format). This format is for high-quality images. TIFFs are not like JPEGS and are not lossy format file types. Meaning they don’t lose quality with use.

Shot of a long bookshelf from a side perspective

Common Questions

How to Open an ARW File?

In order to open an ARW file, you will need editing software programs such as Photoshop Elements, or GIMP. Photoshop is more complex than the alternative options. You need to use Camera Raw before being able to edit the image completely.

Press Open Image in Camera Raw to use it in Adobe Photoshop. After this, you can edit your image. Lightroom opens Raw photos without any prompting.

You can open an ARW file by using Microsoft Windows Photos and Windows Live Photo Gallery. You may need to install a Sony Raw Driver for them to work. For Mac users, Preview will allow you to view them.

If you are having trouble, you can use the raw.pics.io website, which will let you view and edit images.

You can also convert them to a DNG (Digital Negative) which gives you more options for usage.

How Can an ARW File be Converted?

If you use Adobe programs, such as Photoshop, Elements or Lightroom, you can convert an ARW file to PNG, DNG and even JPEG.

Adobe Lightroom opens the ARW file directly, making this the most straightforward option. Saving the files here couldn’t be simpler.

Adobe Photoshop is another program, but it can be a little more complicated to use. Photoshop will force open Camera Raw (a Raw file converter) because the ARW file is a Raw image. You will need to do this before you can open the image.

You can edit the images with Camera Raw if the adjustments offered are enough. Lightroom also uses Camera Raw as part of its import process.

By using the raw.pics.io to convert ARW files, you can save images to JPEG, or PNG files.

Close up shot of plums with some foliage

What Programs Can I Use to Open ARW Files?

There are other ways apart to open and convert ARW files other than editing programs. Adobe DNG converter is a free tool for both Mac and Windows that allows you to convert them to DNGs.

You can also use a free file converter, such as ARW Viewer.

Is ARW a Raw File?

An ARW file is an extension for Raw image files for Sony Alpha digital cameras. It is similar to the lossless format of TIFFs. These files are large, up to 5x the size, which they need to be to allow you to edit your images.

A cityscape with street lights turned on

Which Is Better – ARW File or JPEG?

A Raw image file is generally better than a JPEG because these files contain much more data from your scene. If you plan on editing your images, then use the Raw format.

A JPEG is a lossy file format, meaning it’s losing quality every time you open it. An ARW file gives you an increased amount of data and higher quality.

It is best to use Raw file formats for all types of photography, especially if you feel like it might be a challenging shoot.

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