ExifTool - A Viewer for Camera Exif Data

Digital camera image files contain Exif data (Exif is Exchangeable image file format). Each camera image contains the Exif data which describes all the camera settings that took that picture. Exif data can be in JPEG, TIFF, and raw image files, and also video and sound files (however a video Exif cannot show exposure because there are normally many different shots in a video file). Image formats PNG, GIF and JPEG2000 do not include Exif data. The current revision of Exif itself is Exif 2.2, and here is the Exif 2.2 specification.

How is Exif pronounced? Some acronyms are said as a word, and I've heard some try to say it, like Exit but with an F. My own notion is that it's more usual and proper to pronounce each letter E X I F, like say UFO or USA or FBI or IRS or BBC.

Exif Privacy Caution

Be aware that if you upload or email image files, any comments you many have added to the camera Exif, like your name and address or phone number, might be visible in the Exif data. Likewise, GPS location and Copyright info might be included. Some photo-sharing web sites that post your pictures for viewing will remove most of the Exif data before showing, but those sites will still have a copy of it.

The Adobe (Photoshop or Elements) menu File - Save For Web option saves as JPG, but it specifically omits all Exif data. That may be an optimum choice for any image copies going online. Some other editors offer a similar option.

Exiftool.exe (discussed below) has an option to remove Exif data from image files. To remove all Exif from all JPG files in the current directory, the ExifTool command line option is:
  for i in *.jpg; do echo "Processing $i"; exiftool -all= "$i"; done

Preserving the Exif data in your own image file

An important factor is that to see all of the Exif (unless it is a Raw image file), any JPG image file likely must be the straight out of the camera original. Image editors like Adobe will leave out most of the Exif when they rewrite the image file, and you'll never see most of it after that. Photoshop Bridge has menus to select which few items of the Exif to retain in the JPG file, but its choices do not include leaving the Manufacturers data (this section is also called Makers Data, or MakerNotes, same thing, Manufacturers section). Several photo editors have options for leaving or removing Exif data. Just saying, consider archiving and preserving your original image files if you might ever need to go back to them.

Removing the Exif data may be desirable for images being shared, but those should be copies of the image (written into a new file name), and should Not overwrite your original file.

But regardless, if you have ever once overwritten the original JPG image file from the camera, most if not all of the Exif data will likely be gone — as well as the original version of the image data also will be permanently gone if you have edited and overwritten it. IMO, you do want to first archive the original image files, certainly for any important photos. However, Raw images (if you don't discard the original Raw files) do preserve the original version automatically (called lossless editing), but JPG does not.

Exif Viewers

The big problem for most Exif viewers is that the Makers data section is proprietary format, not standard, and manufacturers can and do change its format at will (adding things, which messes up viewer programs). I used to use PhotoME for my Exif viewer, and I liked it. It seemed to work fine on my D300 camera (2007). But then it failed to show the Makers data for my D800 (2012). Nikon had changed the format. But PhotoMe was last updated in 2009. Opanda was another popular viewer, last updated in 2008. These seem obsolete now, they may still show basic exposure data, but no longer work for the Makers data in all of the newer cameras. If your Exif Viewer is older than your camera, be very suspicious. You need something more current.

There are several Exif viewers available, but again the problem is, the camera's Exif data contains a standard area and a larger Makers area (camera Manufacturers area). If you only want to see the basic stuff, f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO, then any viewer probably works. But if you want to see the other real deal data, you need better viewer tools that can decipher the Manufacturers section. Manufacturers can change its format at any time, so you may need a newer updated Exif viewer version. However very few Exif viewers are recently updated, which then fails to see much data from newest cameras (the last several years). Most Exif viewer files are several years old, not accessing the Manufacturers Data section.


But there is a fantastic solution. Phil Harvey's ExifTool is the ultimate, and is often updated a time or two a month (adding new cameras and fixes, etc.) And you will likely need an updated version after you buy a new camera. Or if you want to see the Exif data when someone sends you an image file from a new camera model.

ExifTool is the good stuff! And all for free. It is a command line viewer, however don't get excited by that. It can also easily work as a useful Windows program. There is a Mac version of ExifTool, but I don't know of a Mac viewer app.

The link to ExifTool and its info is https://exiftool.org/. As you will see there, this is a Big Deal. Complete, and updated very frequently, and it receives great attention from the developer, and from techies too. There is a forum too, and if you want to read awhile there, you might become an Exif Expert.

There are instructions, but in short, for Windows use, just do this:

  1. There download the Windows Executable or the Mac OS X Package.
  2. Then this part is important. The link to the ExifTool GUI for Windows makes it into a regular Windows program. (GUI is Graphical User Interface).
  3. Extract both executables into one folder, any folder where you want it. I make a folder C:\programs\ for this type of thing, and then a subfolder exiftool\. Then you will have exiftool(-k).exe and exiftoolgui.exe. These two must be in the same folder.
  4. Then, following the instructions, rename the exiftool(-k).exe to be exiftool.exe. Remove the (-k).
  5. Then make a shortcut to exiftoolgui.exe, which is what you start.
  6. There is a ExifTool FAQ and a help forum. And the tool is updated very frequently (about every 2 to 4 weeks, to stay very modern. Updates keep up with new camera models, and add options and fixes).

ExifTool is a command line tool, with many options, and is a very serious tool. However again, the free Windows program ExiftoolGUI spawns exiftool, and filters out that command line part, and presents a normal Windows interface, and makes it easy to use. If used in Windows, and if you click exiftoolgui.exe, then you see like this:

This is very easy to use. It has various features in its menu, GPS and modify date, and you can export the Exif data to a text file (in same folder with the image. Then you can text search it.) Best of all, it shows all of the data.

But the basic command line version alone looks like this:

And many do prefer that. Typing Return to answer More shows several more pages. Or CTRL C will terminate it.

BUT, ExiftoolGUI offers the Windows app shown just before this.

So what does ExifTool do?

To make sure you understand what you may be missing in the Exif data, here's a sample of what is there. Many things are shown in Exif about how you took the picture. You can output a text file (shown below, output From ExifToolGUI , here with my added bold blue comments), and then a text search can be very helpful to find things (I wish Search were in the program, but you can output the text file as shown below). Even if features are shown as OFF, their unused menu settings may be shown. It does take some careful reading, it can be confusing. This is true of all settings, like Self Timer: 2 seconds, menu setting, even if not used, or Vivid menu setting, even if shooting Raw that contains no settings. It does take some attention. Many interesting things, some of which I marked below, with comments in blue to the right side.

This is the original Exif in the original camera file. Repeating, if you output a JPG from Adobe software, even if it "retains" basic Exif, it still removes most of this (keeps some basic, but removes almost all). Adobe usually has a Preferences menu where you can select to retain some specific items, but most items will not be offered there.

Menu File - Save As - JPG does retain some, but menu File - Save For Web does not retain any Exif data.

So, you do want to look at the Exif in your original camera JPG file, straight out of camera.

Exiftoolgui.exe has menus to show the Exif (as above), and it also an Export menu which can show the complete metadata, like shown below. If you use the exiftool.exe, depending on what your camera shows, you might see:

---- ExifTool ----	 I added some comments in blue
ExifTool Version Number     : 11.12  - an older version, but it is updated a time or two each month
---- File ----
File Name                   : DSF_7308.NEF	 - the file name, this one is a raw file
Directory                   : .
File Size                   : 11 MB
File Modification Date/Time : 2017:12:16 22:45:23-06:00
File Access Date/Time       : 2017:12:16 22:45:23-06:00
File Creation Date/Time     : 2017:10:24 13:44:45-05:00
File Permissions            : rw-rw-rw-
File Type                   : NEF
File Type Extension         : nef
MIME Type                   : image/x-nikon-nef
Exif Byte Order             : Big-endian (Motorola, MM)

---- EXIF ----
Subfile Type                : Reduced-resolution image   - Thumbnail image - is shown in Windows with the Microsoft Codex file
Image Width                 : 160
Image Height                : 120
Bits Per Sample             : 8 8 8
Compression                 : Uncompressed
Photometric Interpretation  : RGB
Make                        : NIKON CORPORATION
Camera Model Name           : NIKON D300		 - The camera
Strip Offsets               : 120948
Orientation                 : Horizontal (normal)
Samples Per Pixel           : 3
Rows Per Strip              : 120
Strip Byte Counts           : 57600
X Resolution                : 300
Y Resolution                : 300
Planar Configuration        : Chunky
Resolution Unit             : inches
Software                    : Ver.1.10
Modify Date                 : 2017:10:24 13:43:08
Artist                      : WAYNE FULTON
Subfile Type                : Reduced-resolution image	 - Embedded JPG, for rear LCD and histogram
Compression                 : JPEG (old-style)
X Resolution                : 300
Y Resolution                : 300
Resolution Unit             : inches
Jpg From Raw Start          : 178548
Jpg From Raw Length         : 1662567
Y Cb Cr Positioning         : Co-sited
Subfile Type                : Full-resolution Image	 - The raw image
Image Width                 : 4352
Image Height                : 2868
Bits Per Sample             : 12
Compression                 : Nikon NEF Compressed
Photometric Interpretation  : Color Filter Array
Strip Offsets               : 1841116
Samples Per Pixel           : 1
Rows Per Strip              : 2868
Strip Byte Counts           : 10028417
X Resolution                : 300
Y Resolution                : 300
Planar Configuration        : Chunky
Resolution Unit             : inches
CFA Repeat Pattern Dim      : 2 2
CFA Pattern 2               : 0 1 1 2
Sensing Method              : One-chip color area
Reference Black White       : 0 255 0 255 0 255
Copyright                   : 2015
Exposure Time               : 1/160	 - This is the basic Exif section, most viewers show the most basic of this
F Number                    : 5.6
Exposure Program            : Manual
ISO                         : 400
Date/Time Original          : 2017:10:24 13:43:08
Create Date                 : 2017:10:24 13:43:08
Exposure Compensation       : 0
Max Aperture Value          : 2.8
Metering Mode               : Multi-segment
Light Source                : Flash
Flash                       : On, Return detected
Focal Length                : 35.0 mm
User Comment                : C2012 WAYNE FULTON Any added comments
Sub Sec Time                : 68
Sub Sec Time Original       : 00
Sub Sec Time Digitized      : 00
Sensing Method              : One-chip color area
File Source                 : Digital Camera
Scene Type                  : Directly photographed
CFA Pattern                 : [Red,Green][Green,Blue]
Custom Rendered             : Normal
Exposure Mode               : Manual
White Balance               : Manual  - Raw is not affected by settings, but the embedded JPG shows them on rear LCD and histogram
Digital Zoom Ratio          : 1
Focal Length In 35mm Format : 52 mm
Scene Capture Type          : Standard
Gain Control                : Low gain up
Contrast                    : Normal
Saturation                  : Normal
Sharpness                   : Normal
Subject Distance Range      : Unknown
Offset Schema               : 882
GPS Version ID              :
Date/Time Original          : 2017:10:24 13:43:08
TIFF-EP Standard ID         : 1 0 0 0
Jpg From Raw                : (Binary data 1662567 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Thumbnail TIFF              : (Binary data 57816 bytes, use -b option to extract)

---- XMP ----
About                       : uuid:faf5bdd5-ba3d-11da-ad31-d33d75182f1b
Create Date                 : 2017:10:24 13:43:08
Date Acquired               : 2017:10:25 12:45:32

---- MakerNotes ----	  Some good stuff in here
Maker Note Version          : 2.10
ISO                         : 400
Quality                     : RAW
White Balance               : Flash
Focus Mode                  : AF-C
Flash Setting               : Normal
Flash Type                  : Optional,TTL	 - Hot shoe flash mode used, might say TTL BL or MAN
White Balance Fine Tune     : 0 0
WB RB Levels                : 1.6875 1.15234375 1 1	 - Temperature degrees K is not in Exif. These are multipliers for R & B & 2 G Bayer channels (RBGG)
Program Shift               : 0
Exposure Difference         : -5.7	 - Difference in actual and metered ambient exposure, usually zero outdoors, usually large indoors with flash
Compression                 : JPEG (old-style)
X Resolution                : 300
Y Resolution                : 300
Resolution Unit             : inches
Preview Image Start         : 11378
Preview Image Length        : 109470
Y Cb Cr Positioning         : Co-sited
Flash Exposure Compensation : 0
ISO Setting                 : 400
External Flash Exposure Comp: 0
Flash Exposure Bracket Value: 0.0
Exposure Bracket Value      : 0
Crop Hi Speed               : Off (4352x2868 cropped to 4352x2868 at pixel 0,0)
Exposure Tuning             : 0
Serial Number               : 3018352
Color Space                 : sRGB
VR Info Version             : 0100
Vibration Reduction         : Off
VR Mode                     : Normal
Image Authentication        : Off
Active D-Lighting           : Off
Picture Control Version     : 0100
Picture Control Name        : Standard
Picture Control Base        : Standard
Picture Control Adjust      : Default Settings
Picture Control Quick Adjust: Normal
Sharpness                   : 3
Contrast                    : Normal
Brightness                  : Normal
Saturation                  : Normal
Hue Adjustment              : None
Filter Effect               : n/a
Toning Effect               : n/a
Toning Saturation           : n/a
Time Zone                   : -06:00
Daylight Savings            : Yes
Date Display Format         : Y/M/D
ISO                         : 400
ISO Expansion               : Off
ISO2                        : 400
ISO Expansion 2             : Off
Lens Type                   : G
Lens                        : 24-70mm f/2.8	  - Lens used 
Flash Mode                  : Fired, External
Shooting Mode               : Single-Frame  Choice excludes Self Timer use in same menu
Lens F Stops                : 6.00
Contrast Curve              : (Binary data 578 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Shot Info Version           : 0210
Firmware Version            : 1.10B
ISO2                        : 400
Shutter Count               : 37434		 - ** Users ask about this, here it is
AF Fine Tune Adj            : Unknown (0xd0d)
Custom Settings Bank        : A
Custom Settings All Default : No
AF-C Priority Selection     : Focus
AF-S Priority Selection     : Focus
AF Point Selection          : 11 Points
Dynamic AF Area             : 21 Points
Focus Tracking Lock On      : Short
AF Activation               : Shutter/AF-On
Focus Point Wrap            : No Wrap
AF Point Illumination       : Auto
AF Assist                   : Off
AF-On For MB-D10            : AF-On
ISO Step Size               : 1/3 EV
Exposure Control Step Size  : 1/3 EV
Exposure Comp Step Size     : 1/3 EV
Easy Exposure Compensation  : Off
Center Weighted Area Size   : 8 mm
Fine Tune Opt Center Weighted   : 0
Fine Tune Opt Matrix Metering   : 0
Fine Tune Opt Spot Metering : 0
Multi Selector Shoot Mode   : Select Center Focus Point
Multi Selector Playback Mode: Thumbnail On/Off
Initial Zoom Setting        : Low Magnification
Multi Selector              : Do Nothing
Exposure Delay Mode         : Off
CL Mode Shooting Speed      : 4 fps
Max Continuous Release      : 100
Reverse Indicators          : + 0 -
File Number Sequence        : On
Battery Order               : Camera Battery First
MB-D10 Batteries            : LR6 (AA alkaline)
Beep                        : Low
Shooting Info Display       : Auto
Grid Display                : On
Viewfinder Warning          : On
Func Button                 : FV Lock
Func Button Plus Dials      : None
Preview Button              : Preview
Preview Button Plus Dials   : None
AE Lock Button              : AE/AF Lock
AE Lock Button Plus Dials   : None
Command Dials Reverse Rotation  : No
Command Dials Change Main Sub   : Off
Command Dials Aperture Setting  : Sub-command Dial
Command Dials Menu And Playback : Off
LCD Illumination            : Off
Photo Info Playback         : Info Up-down, Playback Left-right
Shutter Release Button AE-L : On
Release Button To Use Dial  : No
Self Timer Time             : 2 s	 - But timer was not used, set OFF by Shooting Mode : Single-Frame
Monitor Off Time            : 10 s
Flash Sync Speed            : 1/250 s (auto FP)
Flash Shutter Speed         : 1/60 s
Auto Bracket Set            : AE & Flash
Auto Bracket Mode M         : Flash/Speed
Auto Bracket Order          : 0,-,+
Modeling Flash              : Off
No Memory Card              : Release Locked
Metering Time               : 6 s
Internal Flash              : TTL	 - Menu, but door was shut, so hot shoe flash was the Flash Source : External below
NEF Compression             : Lossy (type 2)
Noise Reduction             : Off
NEF Linearization Table     : (Binary data 624 bytes, use -b option to extract)
WB GRBG Levels              : 256 432 295 256	 - 256 times the "WB RB Levels" multiplier above
Lens Data Version           : 0203
Exit Pupil Position         : 107.8 mm
AF Aperture                 : 2.9
Focus Position              : 0x71
Focus Distance              : 3.35 m	 - Lens report, but zoom lenses are often grossly wrong
Focal Length                : 35.6 mm
Lens ID Number              : 147
Lens F Stops                : 6.00
Min Focal Length            : 24.5 mm	 - 24-70 mm lens used is shown above
Max Focal Length            : 71.3 mm
Max Aperture At Min Focal   : 2.8
Max Aperture At Max Focal   : 2.8
MCU Version                 : 149
Effective Max Aperture      : 2.8
Raw Image Center            : 2176 1434
Retouch History             : None
Shutter Count               : 37434
Flash Info Version          : 0103		 - iTTL version in camera
Flash Source                : External
External Flash Firmware     : 1.01 (SB-800 or Metz 58 AF-1)	 - which was in hot shoe flash and used
External Flash Flags        : Fired, Bounce Flash
Flash Commander Mode        : Off		 - Flash Commander mode, was Off 
Flash Control Mode          : iTTL
Flash Compensation          : 0
Flash Focal Length          : 35 mm		 - Flash head zoom
Repeating Flash Rate        : 10 Hz		 - Setting is not used in iTTL mode
Repeating Flash Count       : 1
Flash GN Distance           : Unknown (144)
Flash Color Filter          : None
Flash Group A Control Mode  : iTTL-BL	 - Flash mode, but Commander was Off this time (a few lines above) 
Flash Group B Control Mode  : Off
Flash Group C Control Mode  : Off
Flash Group A Compensation  : 0
Flash Group B Compensation  : 0
Flash Group C Compensation  : 0
Multi Exposure Version      : 0100
Multi Exposure Mode         : Off
Multi Exposure Shots        : 0
Multi Exposure Auto Gain    : Off
High ISO Noise Reduction    : Off
Power Up Time               : 2017:10:05 23:05:27
AF Info 2 Version           : 0100
Contrast Detect AF          : Off		 - Live View is off
AF Area Mode                : Dynamic Area (21 points)
Phase Detect AF             : On (51-point)		 - Viewfinder is used, Not Live View
Primary AF Point            : A5
AF Points Used              : A5
Contrast Detect AF In Focus : No
File Info Version           : 0100
Memory Card Number          : 0
Directory Number            : 101
File Number                 : 7308
AF Fine Tune                : Off
AF Fine Tune Index          : n/a
AF Fine Tune Adj            : 0
Preview Image               : (Binary data 109470 bytes, use -b option to extract)

---- Composite ----		 - Derived by ExifTool from other sections or values
Aperture                    : 5.6
Auto Focus                  : On
Blue Balance                : 1.152344
CFA Pattern                 : [Red,Green][Green,Blue]
Lens ID                     : AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
Lens Spec                   : 24-70mm f/2.8 G
Red Balance                 : 1.6875
Scale Factor To 35 mm Equivalent: 1.5	 - Crop factor
Shutter Speed               : 1/160
Create Date                 : 2017:10:24 13:43:08.00
Date/Time Original          : 2017:10:24 13:43:08.00
Modify Date                 : 2017:10:24 13:43:08.68
Circle Of Confusion         : 0.020 mm
Depth Of Field              : 2.27 m (2.56 - 4.83 m)   - Computed from lens focus distance, but zooms can be incorrect
Field Of View               : 37.8 deg (2.29 m)	 - Appears to be horizontal
Focal Length                : 35.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 52.0 mm)
Hyperfocal Distance         : 10.82 m
Image Size                  : 4352x2868
Light Value                 : 10.3	 - EV of settings adjusted to ISO 100 (also computed here)
Megapixels                  : 12.5

ExifTool seems awesome to me. It is an extremely major program. It is great, and well maintained, and it's free.

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