Things have quieted down here a little bit lately, and will probably stay that way in the short term. I’ve got a number of things percolating, but they’ll take time to execute. So things may be less photograph-related than they are photography-related for a while.
I’ve been posting an awful lot about film lately, so I should probably knock it off for a while. I’ll talk about a different kind of negative today: Adobe’s Digital Negative file format, or DNG. With Chase Jarvis’ workflow video making its ripples around the internet, now’s as good a time as any.
If you shoot, I’m sure you’ve heard that you should shoot RAW — in layman’s terms, a considerably bigger file format that holds an awful lot more data one can manipulate during post-production. The thing nobody really mentions is that RAW isn’t actually a file format in the same sense that JPG or DOC is. Nikon cameras save their RAW files as .NEF, Mamiya as .MEF, Canon even has two: .CRW and .CR2, the latter being current and the former deprecated.
That last example is the troubling part. While jpegs have been around for ages, and can be viewed and worked with on pretty well any computer made in the past 20 years, some RAW file formats are already old news. There’s no reason for software of the future to support the .CRW format except for legacy use, and that never holds up for very long (unless you’re Microsoft).
Adobe has shown great foresight in this area, and in 2004, launched the Digital Negative format. It’s lovely for one chief reason: Whereas every other RAW format, as far as I know, is proprietary, DNG is free and open. Anyone can implement and use it. Assuming it sees widespread support and use, this is a huge benefit for photographers — if, in 2025, I want to sell an image I made in 2010, I won’t have to worry about whether I can actually open the file or not. The format has been slow to take off, but considering Adobe has the muscle to sell this to photographers, i.e. Lightroom, the format hopefully will see that support.
The one area where support would be most welcome is actual in-camera support, as opposed to conversion upon digestion of digital images. For reasons I cannot fathom, disappointingly few manufacturers allow photographers to shoot DNG files natively, Leica being the most prominent among them. It’s one of those things I just don’t understand about the photo business, along with the megapixel war. (Okay, that’s a lie — I understand the megapixel war, from a marketing perspective, I just wish it would go away.)
If it sees the backing it deserves, Digital Negative could be the best photo archival format since Kodachrome — maybe better. Shoot RAW, save DNG.