Copy as DNG is an option to covert the file format to DNG .
Its will only change the file format and will not edit the image.
If you have not made any changes to the image after importing to Lightroom and have exported it from Lightroom then it would be same as the one you have imported.
May I know what do you mean by Final DNG here? If you are not making any changes to your image while its in Lightroom.
When you make adjustments using Lightroom, those adjustments are not applied directly to the image file but rather are stored in the Lightroom catalog. So if you make adjustments to your DNG files and then simply try to use them outside of Lightroom the adjustments that you have made will not be seen. By exporting DNG copies, those copies will include all of the adjustments that were made to the original DNG file.
There is one option that you can change that might have an impact. Some users choose the option in Lightroom Preferences to write changes to XMP files. Choosing this option should write the changes to the DNG file itself. I haven't done it. Some have reported that not all adjustments and metadata get written to the file. Others have reported that writing changes to XMP slows down the Lightroom operation. Although the option is to write changes to external XMP files, that is only true in the case of original raw files from the camera. DNG files and other file formats that Lightroom supports has the changes written to the file itself.
This is an option that you can try to see if it works satisfactorily for you. If it doesn't, then exporting DNG copies is probably your best choice.
By "Final DNG" I mean a DNG file that could be viewed elsewhere on another computer after uploading to the database and would have all of the "develop presets" applied. My understanding is that manupulations applied within LR yield "pointers" that LR uses to render the image and then Develop and Export must be done to generate usable images. I am querying exactly how this works for the import functionality.
We are using the "copy as DNG" functionality for the import (along with the develop presets as part of the import), so we are generating DNG files. The answer suggests that these develop presets are impacting the actual import process, which I am curious about.
My real question is: In the IMPORT functionality does LR actually create the DNG image using the "develop presets" during the import, or does it just set up a set of "pointers" that it uses each time the image is viewed in LR? (And would be presumably applied to the image in an export)
Yes, Carl in Lightroom you just see the preview for the DNG files, which has a pointer to the original image. Lightroom do not work on the original files and at export as well it creates a copy of the image with the edits done within Lightroom.
So you are required to export the image from Lightroom in order to see the changes outside.
Update: We did some experimentation and what we found was that if you use "import with DNG copy with develop presets" function that the DNG file generated has all of the changes in the develop preset applied to image in the DNG file.
Our experiment: Starting with the 2 identical copies of the same RAW image, we did the import with DNG copy twice - once with our develop presets applied and one without any develop presets. We then exported the each of the images as a DNGs, yielding an "import only" and an "exported" version of each image. We then compared the 4 images (on another computer without LR) It is clear that there are no differences between the DNG generated via "Import with DNG copy with develop presets" and the images after export.
Thus, it is our conclusion that there is nothing to be gained from the export function for DNG images that were generated using the "import with DNG copy with develop presets" function.
Note: We are using LightRoom CC 2015.3 Release, Camera Raw 9.3
We hope this is helpful to other users!