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Monday, June 18, 2007

The Digital Negative Format

Adobe's proposed standard RAW file format could be the key for the long-term protection and viability of image files

Gaining Traction

In an effort to foster the adoption of DNG, Adobe is now offering a free cross-platform file converter called the Adobe DNG Converter (visit www.adobe.com; registration is required for download). This converter supports all proprietary file formats currently supported by Adobe Camera Raw, which is more than 65 RAW file formats from more than 14 manufacturers—the broadest support from any commercial third-party developer. The Adobe DNG Converter will be updated on the same schedule as Camera Raw.

The Adobe DNG Converter will allow users to convert proprietary file formats to the publicly documented DNG format. Now users of different cameras can convert their files to a single format. This will greatly aid in ensuring long-term archival properties of digital photographs and offer users the choice of RAW processors, pending adoption of DNG by third parties. But until such a time that cameras actually can write DNG files directly, it's suggested you keep an archived version of your original RAW file as well as the DNG file.

The Road Ahead

Although it's too early to hope for the rapid adoption of DNG, photographers and other users of digital photography would be well-served to voice their opinions about the importance of working toward a RAW standard. While the camera companies may be excused for not having adopted a RAW standard until now—since there was no proposed standard—they must now seriously examine Adobe's proposal. The long-term viability of digital photography will demand that the proprietary RAW file format proliferation of the last decade cease.

Adobe has stated that DNG will be an open and documented format free of licensing fees or royalties and has even said that it would be willing to turn over custodial care of the DNG format to an independent standards body, if required. This is exactly what the photographic industry needs to spur adoption of an independent standard RAW file format, and the camera companies should be encouraged to accept it. It's not a question of if, it's only a question of when, with the early adopters receiving the benefits first.

Visit Jeff Schewe's website at www.schewephoto.com.

Key benefits to digital photographers:
•Publicly documented, nonproprietary file format
•Archival confidence for the long-term viability of images
•Provides users with a choice of RAW converters
•Ability to use the same software across multiple cameras, camera manufacturers and computer platforms
•No delays between new camera releases and software compatibility
•Adopting DNG as a standard will make working with RAW files easier, faster and enhance productivity for digital processing workflows. This will both facilitate and encourage a broader adoption of digital photography and help faster technological advances.

Key benefits to camera manufacturers:
•Compatibility-simplified software support for new cameras
•Removes barriers to new camera adoption
•Reduces R&D—no need for new proprietary formats
•Simplifies camera development and testing
•Improves third-party support and development
•Implements a single file format for all cameras and eases development of RAW file support for consumer cameras
•Still allows for brand differentiation through private metadata
•Adopting DNG as a standard would ease the burden now faced by camera manufacturers in the development of digital cameras, proprietary RAW file formats and proprietary RAW processing software.

Key benefits to the photographic industry:
•Savings of time and development budgets in supporting RAW file processing for all software developers
•Better-quality RAW file conversions due to a fully documented RAW format
•DNG-compliant software will support DNG-compliant cameras automatically
•Improves the long-term archival properties of digital photography
•Encourages the broader acceptance and adoption of digital photography




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