"The DNG format was supposed to be the future, an open standard for RAW files that every manufacturer could use," writes Digital Photo Pro’s Dave Willis. "Here’s a look at how the revolution has panned out." Dave talks with my boss Kevin Connor about the problem that gave rise to DNG:
"Our philosophy on this from the beginning, sort of my personal belief," continues Connor, "is that eventually the proprietary system is just going to break. When we came out with the first camera RAW plug-in, we were supporting around 25 cameras. We’re now supporting more than 175 cameras—in other words, more than 175 different file formats. And when you’re talking about images, people don’t want to keep those images for just five or 10 years. Professional photographers want to know those images will be fine for 50 years—100 years—from now. If you think about the rate of new-camera introductions, how many new file formats will there be? A hundred thousand? It just seems that it’s going to reach a point when it becomes unmanageable."
It’s true that we haven’t yet seen big camera vendors like Canon and Nikon adopt DNG, though maybe we’ll see more progress now that DNG has been submitted to the ISO as a vendor-independent standard. In any case, the format is providing real-world benefits today:
- Converting to DNG saves disk space and eliminates the need to use separate sidecar files for raw settings. (I knocked 1.5GB off the 7GB of photos from our wedding photographer.)
- Because of these benefits, customer feedback indicates that 40% of Lightroom users are converting to DNG on import. (It’s a one-click set-and-forget option that’s also available in Adobe Bridge CS3.)
- DNG lets Adobe support new cameras in older versions of Camera Raw without having to constantly revise and test those versions. Photographers and use the free DNG Converter (Win | Mac) to process their proprietary raw images to DNG. The upshot is that we can spend our time building good new functionality instead of updating old software.
[Update: I neglected to mention that yes, Adobe will be providing a DNG-viewing codec for Windows Vista, making it possible to view DNG files right within the operating system. Expect this free download to be posted soon. –J.]