Annoying quirks in Vista Photo Gallery

Last week was my living with Vista week one report card and there were many things I liked about Vista.  However not all was well and a few quality issues like DVD interlaced playback problems on widescreen video content were still bothering me.
Written by George Ou, Contributor

Last week was my living with Vista week one report card and there were many things I liked about Vista.  However not all was well and a few quality issues like DVD interlaced playback problems on widescreen video content were still bothering me.  Microsoft did inform me that they will have some news for me on the DVD issue soon and I'm still waiting for a resolution.  I got around the problem by using an old OEM version of PowerDVD 5 but not everyone will have this option and they're going to be using what comes with Windows Vista.  In the mean time, a few new issues have popped up for me in Vista Photo Gallery and I'm going to share it with you.

One thing that I'm missing is the ability to use the Microsoft RAW image viewer that I've become accustom to in Windows XP SP2.  RAW images come from medium to high-end digital cameras and give digital photographers the ability to fine tune things like exposure and color temperature inside the computer which is one of the killer features of digital photography.  I do have tools from my digital camera and I have RawShooter Essentials to edit my RAW images, but the Microsoft RAW image viewer gives you a quick and dirty way of viewing icon image previews in Windows Explorer and lets you export TIFF or JPEG images on the fly.

That apparently no longer works in Windows Vista because RAW image viewer requires Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 which apparently is no longer supported in Windows Vista.  Vista does support .NET 2.0 and 3.0 (AKA WinFX) out of the box but 1.1 doesn't seem to be supported at all even if you try to install it.  Any attempts to install .NET Framework 1.1 will result in an error message.  Ironically Windows XP SP2 at this point seems to be the only one that supports all three versions of .NET though you must manually download and install all three .NET frameworks.  The funny thing is I could have sworn I had RAW image viewer working in Vista Beta though that was a while ago and it's too late to go back and confirm now.

So by this point I've given up on native RAW image viewer support and a funny thing happens to me when I try to browse a folder mixed with JPEGs and RAW images.  Windows Photo Gallery pops up an update notification that there is an update available that will let me view "additional types of pictures (such as your camera's RAW files) in Photo Gallery".  Of course I was absolutely stoked and I immediately clicked on the Download button.

But when I clicked on the "Download" button it takes me to a webpage that says I'm trying to view some CR2 (Canon RAW) files and that it isn't supported.  Huh!  But I was just told there was an update.  I figured maybe I clicked on the wrong thing and I clicked the "Download" button again and it takes me to the same thing.  So I'm somewhat annoyed at this point and I didn't want to see that popup message again to I checked off "Don't show this message again" box and now I don't know how to get that back in case there really is an update for Vista Photo Gallery.

I realize there way are too many types of RAW image formats but I should think Vista should be able to at least do what XP SP2 did with RAW image viewer or at least come out with a version of RAW image viewer written in either .NET 2.0 or 3.0 and ultimately support the new "standardized" DNG format from Adobe (assuming there are no licensing issues).  It might also be a good idea not to get people's hopes up with promises of new updated features that can't be fulfilled.

[Update] Microsoft MVP Deb Shinder pointed me to this Microsoft Photography blog which states that Sony, Nikon, and Olympus have already released their RAW image file codecs for Windows Vista and Canon is on the verge of releasing their codec and I can't wait.  So it does appear to look like Vista provides a solid framework for Camera companies to provide their vendor specific RAW plug-in for Vista which is better than some .NET based RAW viewer utility, I just wished Canon would catch up to everyone else.  So it appears that Vista has superior RAW format support, but I'm going to have to wait a little while longer for Canon.

Another problem popped up when I was going through some of my photos and I kick it in to slide show mode and I notice something's funny.  The images are kind of blurry.  I've attached two images of my lazy cat below that I captured off the screen.  The top image is from slide show mode, the bottom image is from normal viewing mode.



Observe the boxes where I labeled "Clear" and "Blur".  In the image on the top you see nothing but a red blur.  On the bottom you see vertical lines in the velvet material.  Also observe the cat's whiskers.  On the bottom you can see very sharply defined whiskers but the they're not so sharp on top and Mr. Cat wants Microsoft to know that he wants his close-ups to look good and not blurry.  Also note that I'm using the PNG lossless format so what you're seeing is exactly what I see on my screen.

My theory on what's going on is that the Gallery slide show mode loads a lower resolution version of the image for the real time cross fading effect when it flips between images.  But since modern CPUs are fast enough to make these kinds of transitions on a higher resolution image, there's no reason a more optimized clear image shouldn't be displayed.  Now I realize I'm very nitpicky about image quality, but I don't think it's too much to ask for Microsoft to fix this so that it doesn't make my digital SLR look like a point-n-shoot in slide show mode.

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