Adobe is submitting its DNG 'universal RAW' format to the International Standard's Organization (ISO), in a move aimed at increasing acceptance and usage. The format is being proposed as part of ISO's TIFF/EP (electronic photography), standard. We spoke to Adobe about the move.

"It was a topic that came up for them, so we put this forward as a solution," Tom Hogarty, senior product manager at Adobe told us. The time was also right for such a move, he explained: "Early on in the development of a format, you want to make sure you can be responsive and adaptive - large bodies don't necessarily innovate as quickly as we can."

However, after four years and the many cameras that have been launched in that time, the standard has only needed revising twice, he said: "We've not had to rev[ise] the format because there are things missing, we're rev'ing it to add new features."

"Passing it over to such a body gives camera manufacturers further confidence that DNG is designed to be an industry-wide raw format, not an Adobe raw format," he said, but added that the move doesn't change the company's approach or commitment of resources to the project: "Handing over a format to another body isn't a short-term move."

It is now nearly four years since the DNG V1.0 specification was unveiled at the Photokina trade show in September 2004. In-camera support for the format is far from universal, though DNG-capable cameras from Casio, Pentax, Ricoh, Leica and Samsung have been launched. "A lot of cameras don't have the horsepower," said Hogarty, and confirmed discussions with manufacturers were continuing: "there is continual dialogue with manufacturers so we can support all the proprietary formats out there and make sure DNG has the features they need."

Hogarty says there are still benefits for photographers, as well as reducing "the acute pain of supporting all the different raw formats," for Adobe. In addition to being a comparatively future-proof archival format, there are workflow benefits, he said: "DNG supports lossless compression which can reduce the file size by around 10-15%. On some [Nikon] D3 files, it'll cut the file size in half."

Converting to DNG as the first step in a workflow allows metadata about the chosen 'developing' settings and ownership to be embedded in the file, rather than having to be stored in a 'sidecar' xmp file. Finally, DNG includes an editable preview file so that an archived file represents the chosen development settings, even in applications and operating systems that are not aware of specific proprietary raw files.

"There are three metrics by which we can measure its success: the number of applications that support it, the number of camera manufacturers that use it and the number of photographers that include it in their workflow." Hogarty said he could not put a timescale on how long any ISO acceptance might take but concluded the best result possible would be an increase in all three metrics.

Editorial: The process to have DNG accepted as an ISO standard is likely to follow the pathway Adobe pursued for the adoption of PDF as a standard. More of which can be read about here. However, DNG does not have the same advantage of already being a de facto standard in widespread use, so the process may well take more than the 12 months taken for PDF.

A codec to recognise DNG files within Windows Vista is now at "release candidate" stage and is available from Adobelabs.