So after I upgraded to Windows 10 and ViewNX-i stopped rendering NEFs and TIFFs even though Windows Photos could. 😦 Uurrghhhh. So for a while I was using NX-i for viewing JPEGs only, while using Windows Photos to view NEFs and TIFFs. Not an ideal solution, as the rendering is not optimized and it is slower.
Eventually I found FastStone Image Viewer. I will get to the conclusion right away – if you are looking for a fast, free and well-designed image viewer, just get this now. It has only one downside that I will describe later, but I am as grateful as you can imagine I could be for discovering this piece of excellent free software.
I do not want to get too technical or overly comprehensive here. The FastStone group describes this application as a browser-cum-editor-cum-converter solution. I use it primarily for image browsing and viewing, and will review it as such. The requirements for image browsing/viewing to achieve a satisfactory user experience are not terribly complicated. It has to be fast, render images pleasingly, support multiple image formats and has a functional UI. However you will be surprised at how many software out there can’t get such simple, straight-forward fundamentals right. Yes, FastStone Image Viewer (FSIV) ticks all the boxes here, for free!
FSIV just works. Functional and configurable UI. Colour management. Exif view. Exposure histogram. Support for multiple languages. Batch file conversion functions. Batch file renaming functions. Option to create files and contact sheets. Even editing options such as clone and heal, red-eye correction, exposure/colours/curves control, integration with Google Maps and Google Earth, and much more! I feel guilty for summarizing FSIV’s awesomeness in such a short article, but it is simply so good at performing its simple-but-important-job that more words are unnecessary. More importantly, it feels like it is designed and developed by people who actually use the application, as opposed to being built by helpless engineers under the dubious instructions of incompetent management higher-ups who don’t even use the product their organization produces.
Sure it has some limitations. It does not have the kind of comprehensive metadata support that ACDsee or Photo Mechanic might have. However I am just using it for browsing NEFs and JPEGs for quick viewing and curation, so no problem. It is also slow to render the 100+ MB TIFF files produced by a 24MP sensor, making this the one shortcoming I have experienced with FSIV. Luckily any potential performance roadblocks are easily avoided with some creative organization of files in different folders.
If you want an excellent image viewer for free, just get this. It may well become one of your favourite applications. FastStone makes other imaging products as well. If you are impressed by FSIV, you may well be interested in some other imaging products they sell. Visit FastStone’s website here.