Which Raw Format?

Started Oct 6, 2012 | Discussions thread
Barry Pearson
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Re: a couple of questions
In reply to math guy, Oct 12, 2012

math guy wrote:

I am learning from this discussion. I didn't know until just now that DNG was not the primary raw format produced by Nikon and Canon camera. My pro friend who shoots Nikon always uses DNG, so I just assumed that was the norm for Nikon. Do you have any idea what the general preference of Nikon/Canon shooters is? Do most use the proprietary formats?

I'm pretty sure most Canon and Nikon users continue to use CR2 and NEF (etc).

I'm equally sure that most people who use DNG are Canon and Nikon users.

During DNG's first 5 years when about 38 camera models were launched that wrote DNG, Adobe software added support for about 21 Canon models, about 20 Nikon models, and about 22 Olympus models. Camera models that write DNG were, (perhaps still are, although I haven't checked), almost certainly launched at a much higher rate than camera models that support any other individual raw image format, including NEF, CR2, and ORF.

DNG tends to be used by niche and minority camera makers. (Pentax being minority). Without DNG niche camera makers would struggle to get their cameras supported by major software products, even by Adobe. By using DNG, major software products support them without the software developers even having to know about those cameras. (That is a necessary characteristic for an archival format, of course).

You make a good point. However, that would not really address the question of DNG vs PEF, correct? You're addressing the specific question of whether DNG is a legitimate archival format. And long-term archival is different from what is best for short-term ability to re-edit images, yes? In other words, DNG and PEF allow much more non-destructive editing; so even if you were to archive in another format, you'd still want to keep a raw file for editing (as long as current software can work with the format), correct?

Here are specific characteristics of DNG that make it an archival raw file format. (Now see if anything similar can be said about NEF, CR2, etc!)

  • Freely-available specification: this can be downloaded from the Adobe website without negotiation or needing justification.
  • Format based on open specifications and/or standards: DNG is compatible with TIFF/EP, and various open formats and/or standards are used, including Exif metadata, XMP metadata, IPTC metadata, CIE XYZ coordinates, ICC profiles, and JPEG.
  • Self-contained file format: a DNG file contains the data (raw image data and metadata) needed to render an image without needing additional knowledge of the characteristics of the camera.
  • Version control scheme: it has a version scheme built into it that allows the DNG specification, DNG writers, and DNG readers, to evolve at their own paces.
  • Freely-available source-code-based software development kit (SDK): there are 3 aspects - there is an SDK; it is source-code-based (as can be verified by examination); and it can be downloaded from the Adobe website without needing justification.
  • Documented to have no known intellectual property encumbrances or license requirements: there is both a "Digital Negative (DNG) Specification Patent License" which says that anyone can exploit DNG, and a statement that there are no known intellectual property encumbrances or license requirements for DNG.
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