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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The great RAW versus DNG debate.

Being a digital photographer, it has come to my attention that between my wife and I, we are using digital SLR from the same company (in our case, Canon), but both produce RAW files that are a little bit different from each other. And this is a pattern that repeats from device to device and manufacturer to manufacturer. This leads to some issues concerning the archival safety of digital pictures as a whole. If everyone is using a proprietary format, where will that leave us in 10 years? Or 20 or even 30 years?

Adobe has been working on this issue for a few years and the result of their work has been the creation of an open standard labelled DNG. It is Adobe's hope that by creating a well and publicly documented with readily available specifications will lead to greater adoption amongst manufacturers while allowing changes in the technology to be easily accommodated as they appear.

Adobe lists some pretty convincing arguments for both hardware and software manufacturers, including:
  • DNG removes a potential barrier to new camera adoption, since raw files from new models will be immediately supported by Photoshop and other applications.
  • The DNG format allows R&D savings by reducing the need to develop new formats and by simplifying camera testing.
  • A common format allows greater control over the quality of conversions by third-party applications.
  • The specification allows the addition of private metadata to DNG files, enabling differentiation.
For early adopters, Adobe has made an application available for both Windows and Mac platforms, to convert RAW image files into DNG, in batches and great renaming functionalities. If you are a digital photographer, you owe it to yourself and your images to read up on this debate, as it may have a greater impact than you may be aware.

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