ARW File: How to Open and Convert

By Tata Rossi 21 days ago, File Formats

arw file logo ARW file is a file in the proprietary Sony Digital Camera Image format of the RAW bitmap image of Sony digital cameras (originally Alpha models, hence Alpha RAW or ARW), based on the TIFF specification. ARW file format represents a digital version of the negative film because it contains raw uncompressed image metadata captured by camera’s charged couple devices (CCD) sensors. It accurately demonstrates the conditions in which the picture was taken.

What Is an ARW File?

arw file interface

Each well-known camera brand has its own RAW specifications for maximum picture quality. To shoot scenes in .arw file format, you need to install RAW mode for a digital Sony camera in the Image and Quality section of the menu. This RAW file is similar to the more common TIFF (Tagged Image File) format for high-quality images. Like TIFF, ARW is a lossless file type in the highest quality image format. This means it doesn’t lose quality when used or processed, has no compression and is large in size.

Raw files are designed to get the most information from the camera sensor, so that you can later adjust the picture thoroughly (for instance, apply color correction). ARW files contain a large amount of data that lets you edit pictures more progressively, capturing important image details that may not be visible in many image editing programs.

  • Format without loss of image quality
  • Getting maximum information from the sensor
  • Allows to tweak many parameters: exposure, white balance
  • Clearly recognized by Sony products and software
  • The large size of the file, not obvious to many programs
  • The extension uses ArtStudio image file
  • Various cameras store RAW with an .arw extension in a different format

How to Open an ARW File?

arw file preview

ARW files in Sony RAW image format as camera file format (for instance, directly from a connected Sony digital camera) can be viewed and even opened automatically using the integrated OS tools. On a Mac, Apple Preview will let you open but not edit ARW.

Depending on the version of Windows you have, you may need to install the Sony RAW driver before integrated image viewers, such as Microsoft Windows Photos and Windows Live Photo Gallery, can open the file for viewing.

Professional Alternatives

Some well-known photo editors will automatically open files of this type for direct editing. In this case, the most convenient and affordable option is Lightroom. It is meant to recognize almost all brands of cameras and lenses.

In addition, it recognizes different color profiles of each camera brand, instantly recognizes almost all types of image files and opens them accordingly. When you upload photos from a Sony digital camera or memory card to your PC, Lightroom will quickly open them for editing. Also, Lightroom uses Adobe Camera Raw as part of the import process.

Adobe Photoshop is, unlike Adobe Photoshop Elements, sensitive to this file format and will first force open the Adobe Camera Raw file converter plugin before opening .arw files since these are RAW images. You can also edit images using Camera Raw or RAW photo editors if the suggested settings are sufficient.

ACDSee Photo Studio and Corel’s AfterShot Pro as part of the paid CorelDRAW Graphics Suite are well suited for reading and editing every detail of ARW images.

Free Alternatives

GIMP is the first free application that is worth trying for opening ARW files. GIMP edits these files to the fullest.

Adobe Photoshop Express can open ARW files for editing on mobile devices.

ARW Viewer is a completely free program that supports the ARW image format. It can open, view, resize and convert ARW images to other image formats.

File Viewer Lite is a free program for opening .arw files that lets you view raw images.

Other free graphics programs and viewers, such as ImageMagick, XnView and Able RAWer can also open an ARW file.

Online Alternatives

The ARW format, like RAW, can’t be opened for viewing directly online since it isn’t supported by Internet browsers. The .arw file can’t be opened or viewed online without special software, such as RAW file converters. Simply put, a converter is a desktop or online program or service that can read the ARW file format and display its contents. So, the function of an online viewer and editor such as Photopea, is often taken over by RAW file conversion tools.

How to Convert an ARW File?

Files of this type are typically used for editing and exporting to compressed image formats, such as JPG, GIF or PNG for further practical use. In addition, some digital camera manufacturers are developing their own RAW file converter for their file types. For instance, Sony Imaging Edge is available to open and convert images to ARW file format.

A convenient example is the website. It is a straightforward online platform for viewing and converting ARW images.

Adobe DNG Converter is a free tool for Mac and Windows that lets you convert ARW to DNG.

CloudConvert is intended for converting ARW image files online. You can use parameters to control the resolution, quality and file size of the image.

Zamzar is one more online service to perform file conversion. It is compatible with the majority of widely used graphic formats and even some camera formats.


  • • Is ARW a RAW File?

Yes. The ARW file is a RAW image file extension for Sony Alpha digital cameras. It is similar to the lossless TIFF format. In addition, ARW files are quite heavy, like 20 MB or more. They are 5-8 times larger than JPGs of the same resolution, so you can edit images without any loss.

  • • Why do the RAW formats of Sony cameras differ?

Various Sony camera models can store RAW images with the same .arw extension. But their format may be different, such as SR2 and SRF files. This happens because the sensors that capture image data on various camera models differ. Therefore, the format of the image data may differ as well.

  • • Why does the program not perceive ARW as a RAW image?

Although the Sony RAW file type is more widespread, an ARW file can be an ArtStudio Scene file. It is an image created by ArtStudio, a drawing program that lets users colorize images using brushes and blending techniques. It contains a bitmap image and its properties. If your ARW file is an ArtStudio scene file, use ArtStudio’s “File” > “Export” menu to save the file in BMP, JPG or PNG format. You can also export the scene as an EXE, SCR, SWF, animated GIF or AVI video file.

  • • I still can’t open the file?

One of the reasons why you can’t open an ARW file may be that you are misreading the extension letters following the file name. If the file extension ends with something that only looks like ARW, you can confuse the file format, which means that it must be opened in a completely different program.For instance, your file may end with the .arr file extension, which is very similar to ARW. But it only works in a program like Clickteam Fusion, since some files that use this extension are multimedia Fusion Array files. The same can be said for AWW files used with Ability Office, or XAR files created by Microsoft Excel. Other examples include ARD and GRD files.