DNG vs. RAW – Which One Should You Choose?


Shooting RAWs is something a photographer ought to do whenever they are using cameras that support RAW files. New photographers will hear it all the time – how shooting RAWs is much better than shooting JPEGs. For those who shoot RAWs, there’s also a question of RAW vs. DNG. In what ways do these two differ? Why do people convert their RAWs to DNGs? Should you follow them?

Why do people convert their RAWs to DNG?

There are many reasons why photographers convert their camera RAWs to DNG. The first is when Photoshop, Lightroom, or any other photo editing software can’t handle the RAW files properly. This is a common problem for new RAW file formats. Software makers needed time to catch-up and bring the updates, so for the time being photographers resorted to converting the RAW file to DNG using the software from the camera manufacturer.

This reason is soon or already becomes obsolete since current photo editing software rarely takes their time doing the catch up. Unless you’re in a real hurry, waiting for the required software update should not be a problem.

Another reason is for archiving purposes.

Some photographers are worried that one day their favorite photo editors will no longer support RAW format in the future. They convert all their RAWs and store both the RAWs and DNGs for safe-keeping.

Some say it takes a really paranoid photographer to go the extra mile of converting all their RAW files to DNG. Even the RAW files from images taken a decade ago are still supported and readable by current software. Chances are, two decades from now, you’re bound to find new software that can read and manipulate the RAW images you shoot today.

Can you blame those who archive in DNG? Of course not. If your portfolio means the world for you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. After all, DNG format includes a checksum validation feature so you can check if the DNG file is corrupted or not. For archival purposes, ensuring file integrity is a huge deal.

So, Converting To DNG Is Good Then?

Yes, DNG is an open format. Any developer can read the file format specification (which is based on the TIFF 6 standard) and develop software that read and write DNGs. This open nature means DNG is a good choice for long-term file preservation.

Converting RAWs to DNG is still a viable option for photographers who do not wish to be locked into software upgrade cycle every time a new version is released. If you loathe the Adobe’s “software rental” move, you’ll understand this.

When you convert the RAWs to DNGs, you can use whatever photo software of your choice, free or paid.

All things said, whether you choose to stick with the RAWs or convert them to DNGs is a matter of preference. Your situation may differ from everyone else’s and that’s normal.

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