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.

Raw proliferation
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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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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