November 20, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Adobe taps the power of negative thinking

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Apple Computer, which sells raw-image editing software called Aperture, also finds DNG imperfect.

"We do support DNG, but only for those raw formats we currently support natively," said Kirk Paulsen, Apple's senior director of product marketing for professional applications. "When we open up the DNG, because we also have support for the underlying raw file, we can process the image and take advantage of the underlying data."

Another issue: Apple would like DNG better if it were a neutral standard, not one controlled by Adobe, said Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of applications product marketing.

Cameras that support DNG

"What would be ideal is if DNG could be turned over to a standards body, opened up and published, so everybody would know it can evolve in same way JPEG evolves," Schoeben said. And standards outlast companies, he added: "Today, you either bet on a camera company or a software company. I think people want to bet on a standard."

Adobe's ownership is an issue for camera maker Olympus, too. "At this time, we have seen no strategy for it to become a de facto standard across multiple platforms or software beyond Adobe," said John Knaur, senior product manager for digital SLRs at Olympus.

Adobe maintains DNG, but it shares full specification details (PDF here) and offers DNG supporters free use-related Adobe patents.

The company also indicated that it plans to relinquish control: "It's more efficient for one or two companies to jump-start a standards initiative, then hand off the results to a standards body, than to begin the process within a standards organization," Hogarty said.

Camera makers weigh in
DNG isn't widespread, but Adobe has won a few allies. Among them:

•  DNG is used in Leica's newly introduced $4,795 M8, the first digital model in the company's decades-old rangefinder camera lineage.

"When we design our cameras, we always think about the option to use the camera for a long time. We have kept the same lens mount for more than 52 years now on our rangefinder cameras. It says something about the brand Leica," said Christian Erhardt, Leica's marketing manager for North America. DNG has that longevity, he argued. "We hope you can open these files for the next 50 years," Erhardt said.

• Ricoh doesn't support raw on most cameras, but in one unusual case--the GR Digital, geared for landscape photography enthusiasts--the company chose to use DNG for image quality, said Jeff Lengyl, marketing manager for Ricoh cameras. But he said average camera buyers are happy with JPEG and aren't interested in the complications of raw formats.

• Hasselblad, a maker of very high-end cameras, initially used DNG in its 39-megapixel H3D, but an update this year removed the support.

DNG couldn't support a high-end feature that would automatically fix color aberrations from the camera lens. Neither could it support future features to correct lens distortion and a darkening problem called vignetting, said Victor Naranjo, a Hasselblad regional sales manager. "That's something at this time we're not able to do, shooting directly to DNG. In the future that might be possible," Naranjo said.

Outside those companies, support is hard to find.

Take Nikon, along with Canon, one of the digital SLR powerhouses. "Nikon currently has no plans to support the DNG format within its cameras," the company said. One concern is that DNG is a slow-moving standard that could slow Nikon's innovation, it added.

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11 comments

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RAW alternative for backup
Instead of using proprietary RAW formats for backup just save all images as TIFF 16 bit uncompressed. This way you are not loosing any color information and TIFF has been around for quite a while now.
Posted by dominicsotirescu (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TIF? No...
RAW files from my camera are 6.6 MB, but converted to 16-bitt TIFF these files are now 24+ MB. I take thousands of photos, and I don't want to try to store and backup 4X the number of Gigabytes of photos as I currently manage... I use the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) convertor and NOT DNG. I figure since they both come from Adobe, the chances of losing support for either one is about the same, and IF Adobe stopped support for RAW there are several other companies that provide suitable RAW convertor programs.
Posted by cecilw (9 comments )
Link Flag
Tif? No...
RAW files from my camera are 6.6 MB, but converted to 16-bitt TIFF these files are now 24+ MB. I take thousands of photos, and I don't want to try to store and backup 4X the number of Gigabytes of photos as I currently manage... I use the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) convertor and NOT DNG. I figure since they both come from Adobe, the chances of losing support for either one is about the same, and IF Adobe stopped support for RAW there are several other companies that provide suitable RAW convertor programs.
Posted by cecilw (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I use 16 bit iamges in the Pro Photo color space but...
I use a 16.6mp camera, and the raw files from it are about 20mb in
size. One of these, when processed and saved as a 48 bit (16 bits
per Red, Green & Blue channels) TIFF results in a file that is around
100mb. Translation: 10 of those TIFFS equals approx 1Gb of
storage to manage. As a professional photographer I can end up
with anywhere from 1 to several hundred frames, and that is after
editing, on a project. keeping up with Archiving is difficult enough
as it is . Can you explain to me why I would I want to increase those
problems 5 fold?
Posted by Ellis Vener (3 comments )
Link Flag
A Couple of Inaccuracies
First of all this article missed the newly-introduced, 10-megapixel Pentax K10D as an SLR that supports the DNG format natively.

Secondly, the article states "Raw images also let photographers adjust 'white balance,' ... With JPEG, photographers rely on the camera's best guess about the lighting conditions". This is simply wrong:
Virtually all digital cameras permit the photographer to manually select white balance while shooting JPEG's. The problem is that with JPEG you have to set it before taking the shot. The advantage of RAW is that you can set white balance after the fact (non-destructively).
Posted by robertstech (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
and with Lightroom
You can now change the white balance of JPGs after the fact as well just like with RAW.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Link Flag
Why no Pentax K10D...
Why isn't this new and now shipping camera listed in this article. It has been the hottest subject since it was announced. Shame on cNet, I expect better.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
new image format
I read this story and I found it made such good sense. A standard format which would improve the quality and longevity of digital photos. I know it is a challenge at this point but with technology and it's advances, there will become a point where a standard format should be established among all camera manufacturers. After all digital photography which can capture some artistic as well as historical photos should have a standard format which is cost-efficient as well as effective...I do agree though that it should be an independent source rather that a power house which might like to rule the market in profit, but a format devised working with all the parties involved...can certainly be achieved by taking the proper time and effort
Posted by canada-grade (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
new image format
I read this story and I found it made such good sense. A standard format which would improve the quality and longevity of digital photos. I know it is a challenge at this point but with technology and it's advances, there will become a point where a standard format should be established among all camera manufacturers. After all digital photography which can capture some artistic as well as historical photos should have a standard format which is cost-efficient as well as effective...I do agree though that it should be an independent source rather that a power house which might like to rule the market in profit, but a format devised working with all the parties involved...can certainly be achieved by taking the proper time and effort
Posted by canada-grade (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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