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What Is a CR2 File? | Canon File Extensions

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There can be confusion when downloading or using digital images captured in Raw format. We are mostly familiar with JPEG, which is a standard image extension that seems to work everywhere. But, a CR2 file causes problems. Your computer might not give you a preview. Or your software doesn’t recognize the format.

We have all the information you need regarding the Canon CR2 file extension.

printed photos stuck on an old wall
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What Is a File Extension?

A file extension is used across all files, images or otherwise. Text could be in a .txt or .pdf format, video files come in .mp4 or .wav formats. Images are no different. You might have heard of .jpegs, .pngs or .tiff files too.

When you capture images on your digital camera, it adds an extension. This extension allows you to use the file format with different editing programs and denotes where you can use the image.

Images for Facebook need to be in a JPEG format, which your camera can capture. The problem is, they don’t have the best quality. The JPEG format is a lossy image format, meaning its quality becomes reduced every time you open and save it.

A Raw image captures more of your scene than a JPEG but comes at a larger size. Some can be upwards of 5x larger, depending on the scene you capture. Raw files are the way to go.

But, importing these files means you need to use the right software to be able to convert them. Otherwise, they are useless.

What Is a CR2 File?

A CR2 file is an extension used by Canon for its Raw images. When you capture a scene with the Canon Raw setting, your image will have a CR2 file extension. This extension is what you get when using a Canon digital camera or DSLR.

Every digital camera company has their own file extensions. Nikon DSLRs will give you a NEF extension. ORF comes from Olympus, and Pentax uses PEF image files. They all hold specific information which has been specially designed by the camera manufacturer.

When imported to your computer or hard drive, you might find there are no previews or thumbnails. This means your computer doesn’t know what to do with them.

If you photograph using the new Mirrorless models, such as the Canon EOS R or Canon EOS RP, you will get a CR3 file. These are the newly advanced extension and an upgrade of the CR2 file.

The CR2 file format is modeled after the TIFF (Tagged Image File Format), which is used for high-quality images. The CR2 format doesn’t lose its quality with use.

a beautiful mountainous landscape at sunset

Common Questions

How Do I Convert a CR2 File to JPEG?

To convert a CR2 file to a JPEG is an easy enough process. The most important thing you need is software that can read a CR2 file. Adobe Lightroom is the most straightforward editing software to use, as it opens CR2 with no problem or prompt.

Adobe Photoshop is another program you can use, but it can be a little more complicated. As it is a Raw image, Photoshop will force open Camera Raw (a Raw file convertor) which you need to go through before you can open the image.

Lightroom has Camera Raw as part of its import process and uses it without your knowledge. Both of these programs allow you to import, edit, and then save or export the files as JPEGs. Then can be saved as TIFFs, PNGs or even GIFs.

How Do I Open a CR2 File in Photoshop?

Opening a CR2 file in Photoshop is a little more involved than opening it in Lightroom. As we looked at above, Lightroom opens Raw images without giving you notice.

Adobe Photoshop gives photographers and editors the chance to edit the image before converting. Camera Raw (window in the installation process) allows you to change the exposure, color, or white balance, among other things.

After any changes, you need to press Open Image to open it into Adobe Photoshop. From there, you are free to edit your image in the converted PSD format.

atmospheric portrait of a female model with star shaped glitter on her face

Is CR2 the Same as Raw?

A CR2 file is an extension for Raw image files for Canon DSLRs. It is similar to the lossless file format of TIFF. You will find these files are quite large, which they need to be to allow you to edit your images.

Is CR2 Better Than JPEG?

Typically speaking, any Raw image file is better than a jpeg. But, only if you need it. It all depends on what you plan to do with your image.

If you are a wedding photographer, shooting on a bright sunny day, then a Raw format is essential. Here, you can adjust your image up to five stops of light. On top of this, you can add a more sophisticated white balance. Generally, you have the chance to edit your image more progressively.

With a JPEG, you don’t get the same quality or play with your image. As you might want to print the photos for a paying client, you don’t want to scrimp on quality.

However, if you are capturing your family for a get-together, then a JPEG is fine. These are likely to be shared or posted on Facebook. The quality doesn’t need to be so high. They aren’t going on billboards 20 feet tall.

I always photograph in Raw format, whether for myself or others. It allows me to correct any mistakes that I didn’t notice. But, it doesn’t mean I can’t capture incredible images in JPEG format. It just means I have a smaller margin of error.

Check out how to use the Canon Camera Connect app next!

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