What is a DNG file?

Remember VHS tapes? Or better yet – Betamax? And how about all those floppy disks that used to hold your precious files? Technologies can blow in one day and out the next littering the landscape with beloved memories locked away on obsolete equipment.

So how does this relate to photography? You probably have grandma’s photo album tucked away on your bookshelf but what about your own photos? Are they still stashed away on your hard drive? In 20 years will you able to open those files?

Enter Adobe.

In 2004, Adobe created the DNG file – a digital negative. Export your photos from your camera and you will see files with extensions such as .nef and .CR2.  Nikon owners will be familiar with the .nef file extension while and Canon photographers have seen both the .CR2 and .CRW formats. Those file formats are proprietary to Nikon and Canon, just as .orf, .srf and and .mef solely belong to Olympus, Sony and Mamiya. And the list goes on.

The DNG file is Adobe’s way of setting an industry standard for RAW files, open and free to all manufacturers. RAW files are the totally unadulterated files with all the data intact giving the photographer greater flexibility in the post-processing production. All RAW files contain similar information such a white balance, exposure and noise reduction but they store it differently. It is a completely lossless format, meaning no data is lost when the file is saved compared to the much more popular .jpeg format. And while .jpegs are popular right now, who knows what earth-shattering format is just around the corner that will put .jpegs on a dusty shelf.

DNG files specify exactly how the RAW file should be written, what information should be included and in what order. Once converted, DNG files are significantly smaller – 15 to 20 percent smaller without the loss of data. And it’s been submitted to ISO – the International Organization for Standardization.

Companies such as Apple, Google, Samsung, Pentax, Casio and Ricoh have climbed on the bandwagon either developing software support for the DNG or now offer in-camera direct support. That’s particularly helpful if a new camera model or brand comes to the market – you will have instant support.

Adobe provides a free DNG Converter that will run on both Windows and MAC OS. The DNG format is not dependent on the make or model of the camera, nor its specifications. And since many software manufacturers have come on board, you should have little trouble finding an application that will open your files. And what if sometime in the future you switch camera brands? Not a concern if all your photos are in the same DNG format.

With Adobe’s backing, photographers can have ease of mind that they will be able open their archived photos well into the future.

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