November 20, 2006 4:00 AM PST
Adobe taps the power of negative thinking
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Olympus and Canon have looked at DNG support, but won't say whether they'll adopt it. Digital SLR newcomer Panasonic said: "At this moment, we don't plan to support DNG format. But we will watch that format trend."
Espen Hildrup, a photographer in Oslo, Norway, doesn't expect camera makers to fully standardize, because they don't want to lose character such as Olympus' warm colors or Nikon's rich blacks. "By standardizing the raw format, I think these companies (would be) afraid of giving away their own formula, so they will hang on to their own files," Hildrup said.
Adobe's Story thinks raw images will spread, so consumers can extract better images from their cameras.
"For a consumer camera, megapixels are not the ultimate goal. We're rapidly reaching the end of the megapixel wars. You can get a 10-megapixel camera for $400," Story said. "We're shifting now to 'How do I get an edge on quality?' That's why raw formats exist. It's starting at the top and working its way down."
Canon, a dominant maker of SLR and compact cameras, sees things differently. Raw image quality on compact cameras isn't necessarily better than JPEG, said Chuck Westfall, Canon's director of media and customer relations. In fact, while the 7.1-megapixel PowerShot G6 supported raw, Canon dropped that support when it introduced the 10-megapixel G7 in September.
Increasing megapixels in a new-generation sensor means each sensor site becomes smaller. That in turn makes it harder to distinguish between signals produced by incoming light and those from random electronic noise in the sensor. Compounding the situation, compact cameras already use smaller sensors than SLRs.
The smallest sensor site on a Canon SLR is 5.7 microns wide, and on higher-end models they're 8.2 microns wide, Westfall said. A G7's sensor sites are less than 2 microns wide, in comparison, and therefore produce more visual noise and are worse at discerning differences in brightness.
"The net result is that even if the G7 offered raw image capture...there would be no discernible improvement in image quality compared to...Superfine JPEG mode," Westfall said.
The photographers speak
Adobe has certainly won some support among photographers.
"As quickly as the technology is advancing in this medium, I am, of course, concerned that at some point my backed-up files will be useless," said Eric Lawton, an amateur photographer in Milton, Pa., who shoots raw images 99 percent of the time.
Barlow believes DNG could be a bridge between the Nikon equipment he owns today and the Canon gear he's contemplating buying.
But Bill Frakes, a professional photographer who shoots for Sports Illustrated, is an illustration of the hurdles that remain. He archives his favorite images in raw, JPEG and TIFF--not DNG. And although he agrees with Adobe's standardization motive, he isn't optimistic it will prevail.
"I would love for there to be a standard out there," Frakes said. "I don't think it's going to happen."
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