Introducing the Digital Negative (DNG)

Up to this point in the digital-photography era, raw file formats haven't been uniform. Each digital camera manufacturer that offers raw in its digital cameras maintains a proprietary format. (Imagine what it would have been like if all camera makers designed their cameras only to work with their own proprietary film. Or how about driving cars that only run on one brand of fuel? You get the idea.) Unfortunately, due to a lack of industry standards, camera manufacturers are forced to offer their own versions of raw images.

As if to add confusion for photographers, manufacturers package software with their digital cameras — and it only converts raw images shot in their version of raw format. Some of these programs work very well, but if you also shoot raw images using other digital cameras from other manufacturers, you can't use the software to convert those images. Camera Raw, at least, works with raw images from most makers' digital cameras — a step in the right direction.

Adobe has recently announced and released its attempt at coming up with one standard file format for raw images — digital negative (DNG). The introduction of DNG recognizes the need for an industry-standard format for raw images — and it is indeed a major step forward. But a true industry standard hasn't arrived yet; camera manufacturers as a whole have yet to buy in on DNG. But don't be too harsh on the industry. The technology is evolving rapidly, and leading manufacturers have done a terrific job delivering products that photographers want, and rather quickly. Until a raw-image standard is developed, Adobe's DNG format and the Digital Negative Converter software utility (shown in Figure 2-7) make a great first step. You can get a copy of the Adobe Digital Negative Converter at Adobe's Web site (go to www.adobe.com).

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Figure 2-7: The Adobe Digital Negative Converter utility.

Figure 2-7: The Adobe Digital Negative Converter utility.

The potential advantages of using DNG include the following:

i Common raw format: If you're shooting professionally and need to submit images to publishers (or other clients who require raw images), DNG provides a common format for these images. DNG is a non-proprietary format, and it's publicly documented.

i Changes and additions to the raw image are embedded within the DNG: With other raw formats, when you make adjustments or add metadata to the raw files, those changes aren't saved to the actual raw file. Instead, they're saved to additional files called sidecar files. With DNG raw format, all changes and metadata additions are stored within the DNG file. This reduces the chance of the sidecar files not being copied or backed up with the original raw files when you move files around during image management.

i Longer-term compatibility: If it were easy to predict the future, we would all be millionaires! It seems likely, though, that software and computers will be able to read standard file formats (such as JPEG, TIFF, and possibly the new DNG) 10 or 15 years from now — maybe not so likely they'll be able to read the obscure (and proprietary) raw formats produced by some digital cameras.

One vital capability — available now — is software that's compatible across all digital camera platforms, with no delays between updates for your digital camera equipment and software.

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.

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