I did a quick look at my lightroom Concert Catalog the other morning and realized that I had used 12 different cameras over the 2 years and in doing so, I have a variety of different RAW file formats. I have used the following Nikon cameras; D1x, D2X, D70, D700, D2h and the D200 along with some files i shot with a friends D3. Then there are the Sony files from the A200 and the A700 along with some Canon files from a borrowed camera.

The problem isn’t that the files aren’t backed up, its that with all the different file formats, what am I going to use in the future to open them? Right now, each concert is backed up onto a Drobo and burned to a DVD. The DVD’s are stored off site and I am starting to backup online as well. I fell that the files themselves are pretty safe but what happens five years down the road? By that time I’m sure Nikon will have released 10 or more new cameras, all with slightly different RAW file formats and may longer support the older files produced by the D2H or the D1X.

I believe the solution is in the hands of Adobe and with the DNG file format. According the Adobe:

The Digital Negative (DNG), a publicly available archival format for the raw files generated by digital cameras. By addressing the lack of an open standard for the raw files created by individual camera models, DNG helps ensure that photographers will be able to access their files in the future.

In addition to the Digital Negative specification, Adobe provides the free Adobe DNG Converter (Windows®Mac OS), which easily translates raw files from many of today’s popular cameras.

This lets me not worry as much about the older files I have backed up. Having a copy of of the DNG Converter stored with the backup files lets me convert my older files into the DNG format if and when I ever need them. On a side note, the DNG converter also lets owners of newer cameras use older versions of Photoshop. If you have for example a Nikon D3x and need to open the file in Photoshop CS2, you will first need to convert the Raw NEF file to a DNG file since the only version of Adobe Camera Raw that will open a Nikon D3X file is in Photoshop CS4.

The big question for me is how to proceed from here. Do I convert all my new files to DNG when I import them or do I stick with the camera Raw format?  One big consideration is the following:

The DNG file format doesn’t need a separate sidecar file like the Raw files from the camera manufactures. What this means is that the changes made to a DNG file in Lightroom will not create an extra XMP file to store the changes. This makes it much easier to move, backup, and not lose any of the changes made.

From now on I will be converting the Raw files to DNG files on import. This is done in Adobe Bridge or in Lightroom easily and there is even an option to embed the original file into the DNG file which will create a bigger file.

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I hope that Adobe supports the DNG format for many many years to come, otherwise i will be at the mercy of the camera manufacturers and you know how well they treat their customers.

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