Posted Monday, September 27, 2004

Raw Forever: Adobe Announces Digital Negative Format

Adobe today announced the Digital Negative, or DNG, file format -- a standard method of storing the raw image data that a growing number of mid-range and high-end digital cameras support.

Along with the announcement comes a free utility, DNG Converter, for converting current raw-format files into DNG format.

If you shoot in JPEG format and use iPhoto, this announcement isn't likely to inspire you to hoist a brewsky in Adobe's direction. However, if you're an advanced amateur or professional who wants the extra control that raw format provides, Adobe's announcement is big news.

Why DNG is Important
The raw format isn't really a format, but simply the raw data that comes from the camera's light sensor. Each camera manufacturer has created its own method of storing this data, and that has made more work for Adobe. Every time a new raw format appears, Adobe's engineers essentially have to crack the code and update Adobe's Camera Raw plug-in to work with the new format.

(Indeed, Adobe has just released Camera Raw version 2.3, which incorporates support for 65 new cameras.)

The DNG format has the potential to eliminate these follies. Future cameras will simply write their raw data in DNG format -- either by default or as an option -- and any program that supports DNG will be able to open the file.

There's another huge benefit. In this brave new digital age, file formats tend to become outdated or obsolete over time. How many of today's programs support the VisiCalc format or the PixelPaint format? Digital photographers who shoot in raw format have had a cloud hanging over their heads: Will their raw files be readable next year? In ten years? In 100 years?

In a world where Matthew Brady's glass plates are still readable, the notion of a digital image becoming unreadable in a decade or two is a terrifying one for a photographer.

The DNG format eases that terror. Convert your proprietary raw files into DNG format, and they'll be readable by the Digital Photo iPod brain implant that your great-grandchildren will be using in 2084.

Learn More
There will undoubtedly be some bumps on the road toward this archival nirvana. To learn more about the DNG format, check out This new site is a recent addition to the Avondale Media network, and it's the place to go for links and leads to everything raw.

There's also a book you must buy: Bruce Frasier's new Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS is the definitive guide to working with raw images and maximizing their potential. It will also teach you volumes about how digital cameras work.

And finally, a shameless plug: if you like to learn by watching, check out the latest instructional DVD from us here at Avondale Media: Secrets of the Photoshop Masters, Volume 2. In it, Jeff Schewe, one of the most brilliant Photoshop gurus I've ever met, walks you through the process of converting raw files and taking full advantage of their imaging versatility.