Monday, January 3, 2011

DNG, why I use vs RAW NEF

Every few weeks you always see a thread about "WHY DNG" ?

First it's Adobe :)
My most used programs are Lightroom v3.3 and Photoshop CS5 for images ... both Adobe.  duh :)

I have been using DNG  from the first Lightroom Beta  ... that is how much I trust Adobe to come thru on this format.
and imho,  Adobe has come thru with support and development of DNG over the years.

Recently, I have not been keeping up with Adobe development on DNG.
But, here is what I just discovered today.

* DNG  now carries within it  pretty much all the Edit information you need in the one DNG file.  imho, when you are working across a network , with multiple computers , Hard Disks , file formats ... the last thing you want is more than one file for a single RAW file .. we don't need those "stink-ing" sidecar files, that you get with a NEF in LR :).  DNG consolidates everything into one file for me.
And you can inbed the original RAW into the DNG if you want.  I do not.  I do not even keep the old NEF.
Never have, Never will....  and in all the years since the Lightroom Beta I have never had a single problem with a DNG.

My big gripe "Before"  v3.3 of Lightroom (which I have expressed on the Adobe forum) ... was it did not have the "Crop"  information from Lightroom in the DNG.  and working with Lightroom across a Network was not always , what you would expect.

* But, today I was on my laptop ...  I went across my WiFi Office network , in Lightroom v3.3 ... imported my DNG files that was partially worked on ...
and AFTER the import  ... Lightroom brought up  ALL my previous edits ,  Star ratings ...   and CROPs (something it did not do before, "crops")   ... 
Not sure what version of Lightroom or DNG this changed , but  this was a  happy discovery today.

At this point ,  I am not sure if it is better Networking support in Lightroom v3.3 that is doing it ... or the DNG  information that is being stored.  
My guess is that it's in the DNG  ... because that is all I did.   Import the DNG files.

Another cool discovery is ... I can keep my edits local ... OR  save my edits to the original DNG file "across the network".

and on the "other side"  I can  Keep my Local Edits , OR  "READ" the original file  (if I have made changes to it).

Sounds complicated ,   it's not  ...   and if you work with files across a Network and do Edits on more than one computer ... OR have an assistant working on "your" files on a network  ... you will know what I am talking about.

So,  I was happy with DNG before  ... now I am even more confident in my decision to  convert my RAW Nikon files to DNG and delete the original NEF.

***  Other notes:

On a D700  a  DNG file is actually Smaller than a NEF
NEF = 15.3
DNG = 14.0 Med JPG inbed
DNG = 14.9 Large JPG inbed

When I shot OLY ... the differance was larger. the  ORF OLY raw was "much" larger than a DNG.

* Interesting info on RAW and DNG  (you can go down to the DNG section)
This artical is from 2009  ... things might have changed a little, but still an interesting read.

*  on Keeping NEF , just to be safe:
or NEF's, keeping something you never use:

This is interesting ... because I have never felt the need to get any information from a NEF that I did not have in a DNG.

and then, if the image is really important to me ... I would have probably worked it in a PSD file. So, I also have another copy there too.

When I really think about it ... how many times have you gone back on a RAW file.
(yes, when LR went to v3.3  I have reconverted some of my old DNG D700 files shot at very high ISO , for a cleaner  noise processing from the Newer version of Lightroom ... but really anything at or below iso1600 was so clean I did not bother lol  ....  that being said,  a D700 DNG processed in LRv3.3 has a 1-Stop improvement of Noise processing vs LR v2 (Adobe rebuilt the processing, and gives you a choice to go with the OLD process or NEW , always go with the NEW) , and the sliders are new and improved , and gives you more control ... that's almost like "upgrading" the already great Nikon FF sensor)

and do you really believe the DIFFERANCE between a DNG file and NEF will be a deal breaker???  Really?

Some client will walk up to you and say ... Hmmm , did you process that RAW from a NEF or DNG? , it looks like you lost some bits of data.

imho, I think it is enough that I am "already" saving my RAW data at 14-bits. and going out to PS CS5 in 16-bit ProPhoto color space (native to LR)
any bits of data that I lose from a NEF to DNG conversion ... I probably have not missed , and certainly did not notice.
Note: I also trust that Adobe will continue to improve this.  Why?  guess what group of  photographers use Lightroom and DNG ...  PRO's,  and they are a vocal bunch :). 
So, in general ... I feel pretty safe.

Any BIG changes that I "really" notice ... happens AFTER the RAW conversion to DNG ... in LR or CS5. Maybe that's just me.

* For me, IF, you are saving your RAW files at "16-bit" , you probably plan on doing some CHANGES ... and "those changes" are what is important to you.

and you ("Me" actually) might not even be concerned with what is "real" or perfectly real (but, it helps, ONLY as a starting point).
a side note: If you "only" show what is real. Are you not "limiting" what you can can express?   limiting what you show as your vision, your feelings of what was there?   and is "that" being creative?

For me, I  just need to get it in there FAST , with a FAST workflow ... and have it Malleable , so you can shape it to your own vision.

I am also a "Expose To The Right" (ETTR)  RAW shooter ... so, my OOC (Out Of Camera) JPGs is not what I end up with, just to begin with.

Hope this helps someone,
Ross Hamamura 
Tourist of Light  :)

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