Fundamentals, Software for Retouching

DNG File Format – Pros and Cons

DNG Format is an Adobe product for formatting images so users can share them across different Adobe software platforms. The acronym is an abbreviation for Digital NeGative. DNG is a patented, lossless, open-access, raw image format. Hence, anybody can use it without patent, copyright, trademark, or other restriction.

Adobe’s Intentions With the DNG Format

Adobe launched the product with the intention of creating a universal format that would endure down the generations and our descendants would be able to access current data that we are producing today using current software.

The U.S. Library of Congress has endorsed DNG as the recommended alternative to other raw image formats. The American Society of Media Photographers has stated, “DNG files have proven to be significantly more useful than the proprietary raw files in our workflow.” Adobe has gone as far as saying it would be happy if a standards authority controlled DNG.

With that said, any artist who wants their creative to be immediately accessible across a wide variety of platforms – and perhaps endure forever – should therefore consider how to exploit the DNG format.

However, not everybody agrees with Adobe that DNG Format is the right vehicle.

What Is Preventing Adobe’s DNG From Becoming Universal?

Nobody has taken up Adobe’s offer to place the software under control of an independent regulator. Hence, if it achieved a semi-monopoly, it could introduce a premium version with must-have tweaks and updates.

Moreover, photographers and other creative people interested in digital photography claim the right of free expression. I for one will not be told what software to use, although I can be very sluggish about changing what I already have.

Perhaps this is why so many photographers prefer to keep their raw images in their original format – in whatever proprietary software the camera manufacturer decides, which may not be open access.

It is the unprocessed image, a bit like the undeveloped film so thankfully forgotten. We can use the manufacturer’s software to edit it, and when we are ready, we can convert it to more universal platforms, including of course DNG.

Adobe Headquarters in Downtown San Jose, California: Cool Caesar BY GNU 1.2

Lining Up RAW and DNG Images to Compare

Fans of DNG like to point out that DNG images work with any software that can read them, and many will. Moreover, it is easy to write changes to them and they can store the original RAW images too.

Finally, Adobe has made it easy to covert RAW to DNG and they are constantly upgrading the product.

Fans of other Raw formats point out that they preserve the original camera settings chosen, and also picture controls and focus points. For as long as camera manufacturers support the software, why bother with DNG conversions?

Besides, it is a myth that all manufacturers’ image-processing platforms talk to DNG.

Here’s a link to a thought-provoking article by a DNG naysayer who used to be a missionary.

Professional photographer Nasim Mansurov gets right to the point with these pithy remarks:

  • Converting raw data to DNG takes time, especially resolutions over 24MP. This becomes a burden when processing many images;
  • Whereas DNG does potentially save up to 50% of disc space, a similar benefit can be obtained by shooting compressed data with a camera;
  • A number of leading camera manufacturers have not bothered to be DNG compatible. We can speculate about the reasons;
  • Converted DNG images can be slow to open in non-Adobe software and confound customers with odd colors and effects;
  • Moreover converting back from DNG to camera format is not always practical, or possible. After converting RAW images to DNG, there may be no way back.

This is possibly the strongest point.

Once we convert to DNG – and delete the original RAW files, there is no way back. Hence, if we do use it, we probably end up with a second set of RAW files. While a universally readable format makes sense in the context of preserving knowledge forever, perhaps that should be somebody else’s task.

READ MORE: Introduction To Digital Imaging

In Summary, Then Why Bother With DNG at All

I allowed the argument to rage back and forth, because I didn’t want to nudge you in a particular direction. All RAW image software options are exclusive to an extent.

Adobe’s DNG is a bold attempt to cut across these boundaries, although its ‘corporate mind’ does not satisfy all creatives wanting the freedom to make their mind later. I can relate to this, although it may have something to do with my inertia to change.


Digital Negative by Wikipedia
Digital Negative by Adobe
Why I No Longer Convert RAW Files to DNG

Featured image: DNG Logo: Adobe Systems by Public Domain

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