/ Technology

Software supplied with cameras is nothing more than bloatware

Lots of software discs

When you buy a new camera do you instantly install all the software that comes with it? Many people do, but is this software always best, or should we be looking into other options before diligently hitting ‘download’?

My parents always complain when I visit them, because they’re fed up with how slowly their computer’s operating. One look at the amount of unnecessary software installed on their machine and it’s hardly any wonder.

They have scanners, printers and a number of other peripherals, which all came with bundled software. But one of the worst culprits is the software that came with each digital camera they’ve bought. They must be on their third or fourth generation of digital camera by now and each new disc has been dutifully installed.

‘Why did you install this?’ I ask. ‘It’s nothing more than bloatware.’ The reason I’m given is that they installed the software thinking that they had to.

Photo-editing software put to the test

Which? has lab-tested paid-for and free photo-editing software, such as Photoshop Elements (the latest version released this week costs £79) and Picassa, the popular free service from Google. And interestingly, it’s not always the more expensive products that come out on top in our reviews.

But what about the software bundled with cameras? Well, I may be premature in describing it as bloatware, but I have a hunch that it’s inferior to many of the paid-for and even free photo-editing suites available. And I’m also sure that it’s partly to blame for taking up unnecessary memory on my parents’ computer. A decent free download of Picassa could replace the multiple programs sat unused.

In our next lab test of photo-editing software, we’re going to include software bundled with cameras from the major brands to see if it’s really worth installing. But before we do that, I wanted to find out how many people actually use it, and how satisfied they are.

Supplied software is surprisingly popular

We recently surveyed 1,598 of our members to see if they use the software supplied with their cameras. Eight in ten Which? members own a digital camera, and 60% of those owners use the supplied software.

This number struck me as being surprisingly high, as most people I know with digital cameras throw the supplied disc straight in the bin. But it was good to see that three quarters of those who use supplied software are satisfied. Perhaps there isn’t an issue after all?

I can appreciate that manufacturers supply this software to offer their customers the full end-to-end solution: from taking the photo, to editing it, cataloguing it and sharing it. But my feeling is that there’s a better solution.

I’d be happy to be proved wrong though. Look out for our lab results being published in a few months time to see if I am.

Which type of photo editing software do you prefer?

Free software (50%, 147 Votes)

Paid-for software (32%, 94 Votes)

Software supplied with the camera (18%, 52 Votes)

Total Voters: 294

Loading ... Loading ...

I have a Canon 600d and they don’t provide drivers for it’s raw format (.CR2) for 64-bit Windows. So, you have to rely on 3rd party drivers if you want to see your pictures in explorer or windows photo gallery. Maybe instead of providing software we don’t need, they could put a little energy into providing something we do.

I keep to a commercial software that I’m very used to – keep updated and know exactly how to create an effect I want. . I have numerous digital cameras and take several 100 photos a week. So far I’m able to use the driver supplied on the camera DVD.to use with the commercial software seamlessly.

The major advantage is using a familiar excellent software to quickly create the photograph my clients want to buy.

I do trial all the supplied camera software on a laptop in case there are advantages in the supplied software – otherwise there is no way to know. . Then it is very easy to on-install it

I fell into this trap when I bought my last camera. It came with endless programmes – one to ‘stitch’ photos together, one to view them, one to upload etc etc. Totally stuffed my computer’s memory, as Ben says. The most annoying thing about it, though, was that the programme to store the images opened by default when I transferred my pictures to my computer. And then it was really difficult to get them back out and file them properly. The whole thing was a nightmare – even after I uninstalled them all – after that I will NEVER be using the software that comes with a camera again!

Norman Naylor says:
30 September 2011

I’m disappointed! Some months ago I wrote to Which about my interest in photo-editing software from camera manufacturers, pointing out that this had been ignored by Which? in their previous tests and reports. Some of this software is as comprehensive and sophisticated (or more so) as, for example, the popular Photoshop Elements, my particular interest being Nikon’s Capture NX2, which is bundled with their high end DSLR’s (free) but can also be purchased.

My point was that if you want software with all the bells and whistles of Photoshop, and your camera manufacturer has designed such a product then it’s not unreasonable to think that the design has been tailored to the camera specification, software and characteristics. Think ‘Apple’ and their software.

The reply I received from Which? was helpful and encouraging, confirming that in a report intended for later in the year, camera manufacturers’ software would be addressed. However, if Which? is going to review the likes of Photoshop Elements, then comparing it with the most basic of software supplied with point and shoot cameras is of little value. I’m not saying that simple software of this kind should be ignored – it will meet the needs of some of us – but to omit camera software that can easily compete with the big independant names that are reviewed is, in my opinion, an error of omission, and one that I didn’t expect.

My immediate reaction to the tech. podcast, apart from my disappointment, was that the treatment of the subject was superficial – the word ‘blinkered’ comes to mind – and I’m no wiser in my quest to find an independant review of the software in which I am interested. Surely I’m not the only Which? member who also owns a Nikon DSLR.

Sometimes supplied software can have features not found in basic free software. For example, when I bought my Fuji about 6 years ago, it came with software that displayed certain EXIF information that free software didn’t at the time (but more of today’s software does) and, more importantly, could read Fuji RAW formats, which most software couldn’t as this format was quite rare. Today, however, most free software has become much more fully featured: it certainly has all the features that my old Fuji software had.

The problem with installing to try is that uninstalling it afterwards does not always completely remove everything you originally installed. What I do, when trying out new software, is to install it on a copy of a virtual machine. You can get VMWare Player for free, or you can try the Open Source VirtualBox. You can create a virtual machine (you will need to buy a Windows installation disc if you haven’t already got one – even an old Windows XP disc that you no longer use is suitable for this) which is a complete Windows operating system stored in a Windows folder. You can then make a temporary copy of the virtual machine, run it, install the software, and once you’ve evaluated it, you can simply delete the copy of the virtual machine folder.

Let me first say that I do not think that any modern desktop computer should have any problems with storing any software for any digital cameras but mine do have either 500GB or 1TB hard drives and I store all of my pictures and other documents on external hard drives (they are relatively cheap now). I store my unedited photographs in various folders on my 2TB drive before processing them and saving to another external hard drive. At the time of writing I have over 500GB of pictures.

Amongst the software I have tried are Canon’s “Digital Photo Professional”, “PaintShop Pro” and Adobe Photoshop”.

Digital Photo Professional, which comes with Canon’s digital SLRs is quite good and does allow you to see what you have taken (JPEG and RAW) on Windows PCs, by folder or individually, whether 32 bit or 64 bit. I have used it on a few occasions but apart from reprinting photographs I have found it less intuitive than other software programs, even though I attended a short course on using it. DPP is supposed to be better for making Canon lens corrections.

PaintShop Pro is more intuitive but I seemed to be looking in the wrong places when I was trying to make changes to the photographs.

Adobe Photoshop is probably the gold standard and most costly of the photo-editing software. I have been using it since upgrading from an LE version that came with a scanner. With CS5 Design Premium I can seamlessly load up the pictures in Bridge, view pictures in Adobe Camera Raw and make some adjustments, and transfer them to Photoshop to make any lens correction, make colour and size adjustments, and add EXIF information before printing. I do not claim to be an expert in Photoshop or any of the other photo-editing suites but I think that Photoshop is the easiest one that I have tried and gives me the best prints.

May I make one other suggestion and that is that camera users should seek out places where there are demonstrations of the particular software that they might use. I went to a free demonstration of DPP software at Park Cameras at Burgess Hill and free demonstrations of Adobe Photoshop at the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers at their annual London show in January. There are probably free demonstrations at the annual camera fair in Birmingham.

Your question affects the answers you get. I use the Canon supplied software for organising pics and basic functions – cropping and simple adjustments. For more advanced stuff (particularly straightening) I use paint shop pro. I have stuck to Canon cameras for years, which avoids the problems of multiple installations as all have the same core and each version works with the older cameras.

The Canon Zoombrowser slide show has an invaluable feature – in the slide show you can set star ratings for each picture. This means it only takes one click per photo to go through a shoot on a full screen view and identify the pictures of interest- as an event may involve hundreds of pictures, the saving compared with other software is a great convenience.