Another 'convert to DNG or not' question

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rolfaalders Junior Member • Posts: 48
Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
1

Another question regarding DNF.
Actually, Another? Searching the DP forums most of the results on 'convert to DNG' are dated from 2012 or older. A lot of threads on how to convert, but much less regarding 'why to' or 'should we ' convert.

Currently my workflow in lightroom is set to 'convert to dng' (from Fuji RAF). I've set it like that in 2013 or so. The reason that I've set it to that is to make sure that the files can be used in the distant future.

Recently I'm picking op on photography again, after placing it a couple of years on the backburner. So now I'm evaluating my process etc, and DNG came to mind again.

My requirements:

  1. Future-proof: I want to ensure my photos can be used in the distant future. Not because I think my photos are that great, but just for the purpose of being able to hand them over to my kids (heritage)
  2. No vendor lock in: I want to be able to be as independent of the platform as possible. Currently I use Lightroom for years and I'm pleased about it. But what will be available in the future? I don't like the subscription based service. My catalog is setup OK, using tags and smart albums, so in that way I already have a vendor lock in. For now: fine.
    Post processing steps are included in the DNG, but what if I want to switch to another party? I want to continue using Lightroom, but if there is a need to switch in the future, I want it to be able to.

Obviously I can shoot in .jpg. I love the Fujifilm presets, but for now I really prefer to have the RAF file to have more post processing options and decide during post processing if I want to convert to black and white, or not.

Couple of questions

  • Can you point me to a recent thread regarding this topic? I did not find one.
  • Can you share your thought on this topic? To convert to DNG, or not? 

Thanks

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mdmarqphoto Regular Member • Posts: 174
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
9

I don't really consider DNG future proof.  It could turn out to be only supported by Adobe in the future, and if you don't continue to use Adobe products...

The closest thing to "future proof" is TIFF and JPG, but I also make sure I keep copies of the RAW converter installers around for the future (they can be installed in virtual machines if no longer supported by a current OS).

PerTulip Regular Member • Posts: 352
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
3

rolfaalders wrote:

...

My requirements:

  1. Future-proof: I want to ensure my photos can be used in the distant future. Not because I think my photos are that great, but just for the purpose of being able to hand them over to my kids (heritage)
  2. No vendor lock in: I want to be able to be as independent of the platform as possible. Currently I use Lightroom for years and I'm pleased about it. But what will be available in the future? I don't like the subscription based service. My catalog is setup OK, using tags and smart albums, so in that way I already have a vendor lock in. For now: fine.
    Post processing steps are included in the DNG, but what if I want to switch to another party? I want to continue using Lightroom, but if there is a need to switch in the future, I want it to be able to.

...

Both of your requirements don't justify the need to convert to DNG today. I leave all my RAWs untouched/ unconverted. Will there be support for then in the next 3-5 years? Yes. If at any point I notice new software versions not supporting them, Adobe dumping Lightroom, Adobe going broke or else, I can still do a batch convert .

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Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 6,230
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
4

rolfaalders wrote:

...

  1. Future-proof: I want to ensure my photos can be used in the distant future. Not because I think my photos are that great, but just for the purpose of being able to hand them over to my kids (heritage)

What makes you think DNG is more "future proof" than the original camera RAW files?

While the DNG spec is popular among some groups, it is not universally used.  The driving force behind DNG is Adobe, should they drop support, I suspect DNG would go away.

Adobe has a history of buying companies with competing products.  Once the merger is complete, only one of the products survives, the other is dropped.  Should someone make a better Photoshop, Lightroom, etc., Adobe might buy that company and drop their existing product.

The DNG "Spec" covers a lot of possibilities.   If your camera has unusual features, then you are limited to DNG software that supports those features.

DNG also supports a mode where your original raw data is demosacied and is essentially stored as a high bit depth, uncompressed RGB image.   One could argue that a TIFF file is a more compatible choice for this data than a DNG.

If you want to "future proof" your images, you want to save them in formats that are easy to decode, or so popular that there will always be a demand for software that reads them.  I would suggest that a high quality JPEG file is the most future-proof, as it is the common format.  There is a very strong market for software that reads JPEG files.  Next would be a simple, but well documented, uncompressed RGB file. Perhaps a TIF file.

Saving the native RAW data from your camera is inherently not future proof.   There's a reasonable chance that in 25 years we will have moved from Bayer Pattern sensors to some new technology.  At that point, it start to become difficult to find any software that supports demosaicing Bayer Pattern data.  That will be true whether the data is in RAW or DNG format.  The demand for such software will be quite low.

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Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 18,777
I stopped using DNG . . .
8

There was nothing wrong with image quality. But Lightroom/Photoshop is STILL the only software that fully supports DNG, and I had developed a strong desire to minimize my exposure to Adobe products, I didn't think they were serving me the way I wanted.

Most software OPENS DNG just fine, but few can do a DNG conversion or even embed development change descriptions to a DNG file, instead, they treat DNG like any other raw format with an XML sidecar file.

I went back to using my native raw (ORF), and saw no difference in quality or workflow in using one format over the other, except for the fact that I didn't have to create a DNG file. I could not think of a strong reason to continue to use DNG.

As far as 'future proofing', my crystal ball remains cloudy on this subject. Considering that part of the graphics software Industry that is NOT Adobe continues to prefer to NOT use DNG, and that the Camera manufacturers continue to believe they can do better than DNG with their own file formats, I believe the photo infrastructure will continue to support the proprietary camera formats.

As to the ongoing ability to support older file formats, I don't see much inclination on the part of software publishers to STOP supporting old cameras. The list of supported cameras for each publisher seems to get bigger and bigger each year. I convert my 'DONE' photos to tif files any way. I believe Tif and jpgs, will continue to be supported indefinitely.

But really, I'm leaving it up to chance either way. We ALL "Pays our money and takes our chances."

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newmikey Veteran Member • Posts: 4,716
Some things to consider
6

rolfaalders wrote:

My requirements:

  1. Future-proof: I want to ensure my photos can be used in the distant future. Not because I think my photos are that great, but just for the purpose of being able to hand them over to my kids (heritage)
  2. No vendor lock in: I want to be able to be as independent of the platform as possible. Currently I use Lightroom for years and I'm pleased about it. But what will be available in the future? I don't like the subscription based service. My catalog is setup OK, using tags and smart albums, so in that way I already have a vendor lock in. For now: fine.
    Post processing steps are included in the DNG, but what if I want to switch to another party? I want to continue using Lightroom, but if there is a need to switch in the future, I want it to be able to.
  • Can you share your thought on this topic? To convert to DNG, or not?

1. DNG conversion is a one-way street: you can always convert a RAF/PEF/NEF/CR2 to DNG but you can never go back.

2. DNG is no more future-proof than any other raw format. Once any raw format has been decoded (as one of the many examples in the dcraw source code or that of LibRaw), it will always remain available for coders to include. As an example, even the files off my very first digital camera which could be hacked into producing raws (the Casio QV4000) can still be converted to day, some 15 years later, by all of the raw converters I have used.

3. DNG is very useful as a tool to convince current raw converters into processing a file off a new-to-market camera as long as software manufacturers haven't released an update. Once they do, the benefit disappears in a puff of smoke.

4. The most-heard argument against proprietary raw formats is exactly thàt - they are proprietary and camera manufacturers have potentially hidden away some quirks in the EXIF makernotes which 3rd-party software cannot use. To me that is exactly the argument why you shouldn't convert to DNG which cannot be trusted to leave those Makernotes alone. Chances are that sofware enthousiast may in future decode those Makernotes and put them to good use.

5. DNG leads to vendor lock-in by design. The format invites you to store/restore processing steps in the file-structure. This extra information may prevent other software to properly decode the file in future.

6. DNG blurs the line between a real, forever non-editable, digital negative. It is the only raw format which can be written to and not even necessarily as pure raw unedited data. A proprietary raw is and will forever be your best proof of copyright and image ownership.

7. DNG conversion software itself is undocumented and could result in loss of data.

8. DNG conversion results in the camera-specific proprietary software (Canon DPP, Silkypix etc.) to lose the ability to closely mimic the camera OOC jpegs in color output but with higher detail and sharpness as well as the ability to vary WB and exposure on the PC.

I do not reject DNG outright, as stated above it is an excellent format to overcome the issues with software updates lagging behind camera manufacturer's new models. It can also be used to share raw files with other people for raw conversion challenges etc. without knowing what software others have available.

The other case is cameras which have DNG as native format - I see no issue with that as the camera manufacturer still has the ability to embed proprietary makernotes which could assist in conversion. When given the coice however, I'll use the camera-manufacturer raw format. With other words: I'll happily use DNG on my Ricoh GR as not other raw options are there, but I've selected PEF on my K-70 even though it has a choice between PEF and DNG for raw.

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Doug Pardee
Doug Pardee Veteran Member • Posts: 8,826
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
5

DNG offers few advantages and a number of disadvantages. It's getting harder to recommend as the years go by.

There were three main practical reasons that people converted their files to DNG:

  1. To allow using Raw files from a new camera model with an old version of Lightroom/Photoshop that couldn't be updated to support that camera model. The Adobe DNG conversion reportedly now produces a newer version of DNG that isn't compatible with many of the older Lightroom/Photoshop versions.
  2. To get compressed Raw files. Now that pretty much every manufacturer offers compressed Raw files straight from the camera, this isn't a big deal.
  3. To eliminate the XMP sidecar file. This only works when using a Raw converter that knows how to update the DNG -- most will produce their own sidecar files.

The disadvantages:

  1. Not all Raw converters handle DNG. Of the ones that do, not all of them handle it well.
  2. For mirrorless cameras, the Raw file often contains coded information on how to correct for the various issues (distortion, light fall-off, etc.) that result from the lens being so close to the sensor. Recent versions of DNG attempt to translate that information, but there's no guarantee that the translation is good, and many non-Adobe DNG converters ignore that anyway. To get the best handling of that information, you need to use the Raw converter provided by the manufacturer, and manufacturers' converters often don't accept DNG.
  3. For cameras with non-standard sensors, the Raw data may be demosaiced before it's stored into the DNG file. In that case, you lose many of the advantages of Raw and there's no way to get back. Also, the demosaicing is "baked in" to the DNG, along with any flaws or shortcomings of the process. Fuji owners learned this the hard way back in 2013 with the arrival of DNG converter 7.4.
  4. Every time you update anything in the metadata, the original DNG file is overwritten. Especially with modern zillion-megapixel sensors, that's a lot slower than updating the little XMP file. There's also a very very tiny chance that something could go wrong, causing the Raw data to be lost.
  5. It's one more step in the workflow.

There was also an emotional reason that people converted their files to DNG:

  1. Fear that one day their Raw files would no longer be readable. After almost two decades of Raw files, this hasn't yet happened. Furthermore, there's always dcraw that can process the most ancient of Raw files.

In My Opinion: converting to DNG is for dyed-in-the-wool Adobe enthusiasts using Canon or Nikon DSLRs. Once you get outside of the Adobe ecosystem, the advantages pretty much evaporate, and disadvantages can start appearing. And because DNG was designed for output from DSLRs with ordinary Bayer sensors, it struggles with output from mirrorless cameras and innovative sensor designs.

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PerTulip Regular Member • Posts: 352
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question

Well, the OpenRAW initiative tried to solve the problem...

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Bobthearch
Bobthearch Senior Member • Posts: 2,955
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
2

DNG is no more future-proof than the native raw files from major camera manufacturers.  It may be less future-proof.

Converting from the camera's raw -> DNG -> final output (jpeg et al) is an unnecessary extra step.

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Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 6,230
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
2

PerTulip wrote:

Well, the OpenRAW initiative tried to solve the problem...

The problem with any attempt at an open format (OpenRAW, DNG, etc.) is that they don't include support for technologies that haven't been invented yet.  As new technologies are invented, the format needs to be extended.   Old converters won't work with "OpenRaw" or DNG from the new cameras.  Extending OpenRaw or DNG can be problematic if the new technology uses a patented or proprietary technology.

For instance, prior to Canon's 5D Mark IV, there was no need to include dual pixel raw support in DNG or Open RAW.   If you had the raw data from a 5D IV, you needed a new version of the raw processor, whether or not the raw data was in a Canon .CR2 file, an Adobe .DNG file or an OpenRAW file.

Even with new DNG reading software, it is unlikely that they will offer full support to take advantage of the depth information embedded in dual pixel raw.

Common raw file formats are an obstacle to camera innovation.  Yet innovation is important if you want to sell a new camera to someone who already owns a perfectly good camera.

Eventually, "common" or "open" raw formats will either disappear, or the software that supports them will be limited to only certain types of cameras.

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digidog
digidog Forum Pro • Posts: 12,266
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
2

mdmarqphoto wrote:

I don't really consider DNG future proof.

Nothing is.

It could turn out to be only supported by Adobe in the future, and if you don't continue to use Adobe products...

Like TIFF.

The closest thing to "future proof" is TIFF and JPG, but I also make sure I keep copies of the RAW converter installers around for the future (they can be installed in virtual machines if no longer supported by a current OS).

Adobe owns and controls TIFF. Any complaints about DNG equally apply to TIFF.

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digidog
digidog Forum Pro • Posts: 12,266
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question

Doug Pardee wrote:

DNG offers few advantages and a number of disadvantages. It's getting harder to recommend as the years go by.

There were three main practical reasons that people converted their files to DNG:

  1. To allow using Raw files from a new camera model with an old version of Lightroom/Photoshop that couldn't be updated to support that camera model.

Not just Adobe's converters. There are a number of others, some 'better' (subjective) than the LR/ACR.

In My Opinion: converting to DNG is for dyed-in-the-wool Adobe enthusiasts using Canon or Nikon DSLRs.

Perhaps.

There are lots of advantages to the DNG format for some people in some workflows indeed:

http://digitaldog.net/files/ThePowerofDNG.pdf

https://www.cnet.com/news/adobe-offering-new-reasons-to-get-dng-religion/ http://thedambook.com/dng-verification-in-lightroom-5/

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Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 6,230
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
2

digidog wrote:

...

Adobe owns and controls TIFF. Any complaints about DNG equally apply to TIFF.

TIFF and DNG address different issues.  There are many complaints and issues about DNG that are not applicable to typical TIFF files.

Furthermore,  the use of TIFF files for non-compressed RGB images is far more common than the use of DNG files for raw images.

While the future is seldom certain, using uncompressed TIFF files for RGB images seems far more future-proof than using DNG files for raw data.

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digidog
digidog Forum Pro • Posts: 12,266
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question

Michael Fryd wrote:

digidog wrote:

...

Adobe owns and controls TIFF. Any complaints about DNG equally apply to TIFF.

TIFF and DNG address different issues.

They do, you missed my point about control of the formats.

There are many complaints and issues about DNG that are not applicable to typical TIFF files.

When you provide specific complaints about each, we can go there.

Furthermore, the use of TIFF files for non-compressed RGB images is far more common than the use of DNG files for raw images.

Then if you fear Adobe's control over DNG, you should fear their control of TIFF.

While the future is seldom certain, using uncompressed TIFF files for RGB images seems far more future-proof than using DNG files for raw data.

Different data very similar document structures, controlled and owned by the same, single company.

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Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 18,777
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
5

digidog wrote:

Michael Fryd wrote:

digidog wrote:

...

Adobe owns and controls TIFF. Any complaints about DNG equally apply to TIFF.

TIFF and DNG address different issues.

They do, you missed my point about control of the formats.

There are many complaints and issues about DNG that are not applicable to typical TIFF files.

When you provide specific complaints about each, we can go there.

Furthermore, the use of TIFF files for non-compressed RGB images is far more common than the use of DNG files for raw images.

Then if you fear Adobe's control over DNG, you should fear their control of TIFF.

While the future is seldom certain, using uncompressed TIFF files for RGB images seems far more future-proof than using DNG files for raw data.

Different data very similar document structures, controlled and owned by the same, single company.

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Andrew Rodney
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Well, there IS one significant difference about Tiff's position in the photo industry that DNG lacks.  That is the more enthusiastic support of Tiff by the non-Adobe software publishers.  Most (all?  Not sure!) of the proprietary layers capable file formats are based on Tiff files, and many of the programs also support Tiff files directly.  We don't see that level of support for DNG by third parties.

The fact that a more varied group of publishers more fully support Tiff, makes me at least FEEL more confident of Tiff's future.  Is that a rational feeling?  I don't know, but that's how I feel.  It has better roots in the overall photo industry infrastructure.

In the end, we all make our decisions based our faith in the future!

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digidog
digidog Forum Pro • Posts: 12,266
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question

Glen Barrington wrote:

digidog wrote:

Michael Fryd wrote:

digidog wrote:

...

Adobe owns and controls TIFF. Any complaints about DNG equally apply to TIFF.

TIFF and DNG address different issues.

They do, you missed my point about control of the formats.

There are many complaints and issues about DNG that are not applicable to typical TIFF files.

When you provide specific complaints about each, we can go there.

Furthermore, the use of TIFF files for non-compressed RGB images is far more common than the use of DNG files for raw images.

Then if you fear Adobe's control over DNG, you should fear their control of TIFF.

While the future is seldom certain, using uncompressed TIFF files for RGB images seems far more future-proof than using DNG files for raw data.

Different data very similar document structures, controlled and owned by the same, single company.

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Andrew Rodney
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The Digital Dog
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Well, there IS one significant difference about Tiff's position in the photo industry that DNG lacks. That is the more enthusiastic support of Tiff by the non-Adobe software publishers. Most (all? Not sure!) of the proprietary layers capable file formats are based on Tiff files, and many of the programs also support Tiff files directly. We don't see that level of support for DNG by third parties.

Thats true. TIFF has been around a lot longer too.

The fact that a more varied group of publishers more fully support Tiff, makes me at least FEEL more confident of Tiff's future. Is that a rational feeling? I don't know, but that's how I feel. It has better roots in the overall photo industry infrastructure.

The people that have the need for either or both, they are the same.

In the end, we all make our decisions based our faith in the future!

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fishy wishy
fishy wishy Senior Member • Posts: 5,267
Re: Another 'convert to DNG or not' question
1

Yet another one of tthese DNG "A solution looking for a problem" threads.

I mean, come on.

Have you seen how cheaply old computers can be bought?

All you need to do to keep on opening Fuji RAF files is keep an older computer and older operating system on with the Fuji software. You could probably run the hard disk inside a virtualised emulator anyway.

Instead you preferred an over-engineered solution to a problem that you don't know will exist. Why don't you try to build a bomb shelter in your garden while you're at it, for all the difference it will make in the apocalypse.

Dan Marchant Senior Member • Posts: 2,715
Wait until the future actually gets here
12

1. You are converting from one file format which may become obsolete to another file format that may become obsolete. As a result you may not only be wasting time/effort but will have to repeat the time/effort converting to another format.

2. The correct time to decide on converting files is when your RAW files are actually in imminent danger of being abandoned. At that time you will be able to choose whichever is currently the best option.

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42andreas Regular Member • Posts: 246
Re: Wait until the future actually gets here

For me Dan Marchant hit the point.

Since now raw-format ist supported well, why transfer in another format not knowing its future? You can do that when and of your raw-support is in sight. Maybe lightroom has to work a wee or two two convert those thousands of files, but who cares?

Additionally: I always reccomend jpg+raw workflow. Ou-of-cam jpgs are better then unedited raws, you always can use all your pics on any device (I do not know one not able to hand jpg..) and if you edit/process an raw-image simply update the jpg.With that you have you "estimated" / most likely future proof format all the time...

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digidog
digidog Forum Pro • Posts: 12,266
Re: Wait until the future actually gets here

42andreas wrote:

For me Dan Marchant hit the point.

Since now raw-format ist supported well, why transfer in another format not knowing its future? You can do that when and of your raw-support is in sight. Maybe lightroom has to work a wee or two two convert those thousands of files, but who cares?

Additionally: I always reccomend jpg+raw workflow.

Too bad only one is optimized in terms of exposure.

Ou-of-cam jpgs are better then unedited raws, you always can use all your pics on any device (I do not know one not able to hand jpg..) and if you edit/process an raw-image simply update the jpg.With that you have you "estimated" / most likely future proof format all the time...

There is no such thing as an unedited raw. It has to be rendered!

This IS yet to be rendered (really unedited) raw:

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Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EF 35mm F1.4L USM Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM +2 more
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