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I'm aware of the difference between RAW and DNG file formats. The RAW format is proprietary to the camera manufacturer while DNG is an open standard. DNG files can be compressed without loss of detail, and can also include the photo metadata within. Both can be edited in Photoshop.

Would DNG be considered widely used today? I have a library of photos in NEF (Nikon D50) format that I have been contemplating whether to convert.

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Thanks for the feedback. I get the impression this is not something not to be rushed into, so I will sit on it for now, and investigate further. – Grant Palin Jul 21 '10 at 17:07
Only you can tell if it's worthwhile for you or not, so I'd suggest to reword the question to "what are the pros and cons of switching to DNG?". – Karel Aug 4 '10 at 5:54
If your reason for switching to DNG is that future software will better support it, that is almost certainly not true - there is a wealth of RAW editors out there and they support pretty much every manufacturer's RAW formats, and there are even open source RAW editors where this support has publicly available source code. – thomasrutter May 7 '15 at 4:31
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Whatever you do, do not throw away your original RAW files. DNG is not a replacement for them. Perhaps your workflow requires you to convert into DNG's, but for the love of god do not throw away the originals.

If you do, then one day you will find that you will want to use a piece of software that doesn't support the DNG format as input.

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... and at this point, there's really no point to having used DNG if you're also keeping the RAW files around. – ahockley Jul 15 '10 at 21:32
There might be, if you work for a company that uses a DAM system that works better with DNG's. – Dave Van den Eynde Jul 15 '10 at 21:34
@Dave, "If you do, then one day you will find that you will want to use a piece of software that doesn't support the non-DNG format as input." seems more likely. Are proprietary formats really more supported than the open ones? – Jonathon Watney Jul 17 '10 at 3:50
Curiously, I thought the idea behind DNG was future-proofing your files? – Grant Palin Jul 18 '10 at 1:38
@Sirber: I don't see how that is an advantage, today. – Dave Van den Eynde Aug 5 '10 at 5:14

agreed on not throwing away the original raw; Many import systems allow you to embed the RAW inside the DNG, so it's there if you need it; I personally do that on all of my images.

I use DNG primarily because that format includes the metadata sidecar as part of the DNG, where for RAW files, the metadata sidecar is generally a separate file. Bundling this all into one file simplifies workflow and makes it difficult to separate the two or lose the metadata, making housekeeping easier and reducing the risk of data loss. That alone made me decide to use DNG. It's convenient and if I ever need to unpack it, there are tools that can do it for me.

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+1 I have just made this jump for this exact reason and now have incorporated it as part of my workflow in lightroom 3 – Wayne Nov 4 '10 at 10:54

Think this way: maybe in the near future Capture NX may have a nice interface. You start using it but all your original NEF files are gone.

To my acknowledge Capture NX is one of the best sharpener for NEF files. Don't throw away your NEF files.

I was in the same situation as you. I converted all my NEFs to DNG. You know, DNG is "universal", smaller files etc. Big mistake. I wanted to edit some files in Capture NX but I couldn't because they were DNGs. I never converted a single NEF to DNG again.

And do backups of your files. Multiple backups.

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This makes sense logically: if you can convert from A to B but there is no way to convert from B back to A, then it is better to keep your files in the A format so you still have that choice. – thomasrutter May 7 '15 at 4:33

If you're happy throwing away the original RAW files then you can save a little disk space. I've converted CRW (Canon RAW) to DNG and I typically end up with files about 20% smaller with all the information there.

Of course disk space is cheap, and Canon and Nikon RAW formats are likely to be supported for a long time to come.

And Ricoh is another camera manufacturer who supports DNG - though that still leaves it fairly short of being widely supported by camera manufacturers. Though I would assume all major software packages should support DNG.

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Is DNG widely used? Not really. My Pentax K200D supported it, but not very well. Leica supports it in their S2.

NEF is very common (because Nikon is huge), enough so that I'm not worried about it going away. There is open-source software that can interpret current NEFs, so if (for example) Nikon disappeared tomorrow and took away all their software and specs and forbade third parties from creating NEF software, you could still get into the files.

I wouldn't bother converting preemptively.

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I use DNG with my Pentax K200D. What wasn't very well supported? – Jonathon Watney Jul 17 '10 at 3:40
I believe it was that the camera could not produce compressed DNG (even though it's in the spec), so the PEF files were much smaller. – Reid Jul 17 '10 at 3:51
Thanks. I think I'll stick with DNG since space isn't an issue and I hate extra files like side car files. – Jonathon Watney Jul 17 '10 at 18:32

It depends on what software you use to store/catalogue your photos. For example Lightroom understands NEF, and I'm perfectly fine with using NEF and not DNG.

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While Diskspace is cheap, RAW files continue to grow as well. My take: Converting to .DNG is not a bad idea at all. Why, because you should have a backup of you images anyways, so why not have a .DNG as a backup that does conserve some space at the same time. I would like to think that .DNG will not go away. It is such a common sense, no-brainer with respect to uniformity across software editors. Over time, if there are competing "open source" file formats, then conversion software will also follow that can convert .DNG to a new format.

Why it hasn't gained widespread acceptance is attributed to the proprietary attitudes of camera manufacturer's and the software they hope to sell to work with and view their "special" formats. I have used many Canon cameras and find that there are many Canon RAW file extensions such as .CR2, .CRW, and some software will not accept both formats, especially with respect to viewers.

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