Making DNG a Standard

I make a point of reading John Nack on Adobe on a regular basis. John is Senior Product Manager for Adobe Photoshop, and uses his blog to let the world know what Adobe’s up to in a nicely open and friendly manner. Anyway, today’s post, in which he talks about Adobe’s DNG (that’s digital negative) file standard is a good one. The idea of DNG is that it’s a standard format for RAW camera data. Rather than every camera maker having their own proprietary formats that require either their own software, or updates to everyone else’s to open, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone agreed to use a standard format? This makes a lot of sense to me – quite apart from leaving application developers free to spend time writing new and improved features rather than yet more converters, it means that your files are much more likely to be still usable in ten, or twenty, or however many years. It would also mean that when you buy a new camera, you won’t have to wait for a software update before you can use it with your preferred software.

I’ve been using DNG as a second line of backup – in addition to having my Canon RAW files on my primary disk, my backup disk and offsite at Mozy, I convert them all to DNG and keep those separately. That means that even if by some bizarre means, Canon RAW files are not readable by some future software, I’ll still have the originals in a form that should continue to be readable. John mentions that a lot of Lightroom users convert their files to DNG when they import them. For some reason, I’ve never used that option, but I’ll certainly consider it. Most likely when Lightroom 2 is actually released, I’ll give it a new catalog by importing all my current images and convert them then.[1]

The next step is persuading more camera manufacturers to use DNG instead of (or as well as, options are fine…) their proprietary formats. While some do, the really big boys – Canon and Nikon – haven’t shown much interest yet. Maybe now that Adobe have done the sensible thing and submitted DNG to ISO to have it made into an independent standard rather than a nicely documented vendor one, things might begin to change.

Everyone’s managed to standardise on JPG as the format for files processed in-camera, now let’s see if they can manage to do the same for RAW files….

[1] As I have less than 8,000 image files, this is a reasonably painless operation, and I have plenty of disk space…