19 Replies Latest reply on Jan 7, 2011 4:42 PM by Cornelia-I

    Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?

    TurnstyleNYC Level 1

      Is there a conventional wisdom as to whether it's best to use "Copy as DNG" vs. just importing camera-specific raw files? It would be very helpful if you might add any advantages and/or disadvantages of converting to DNG, thanks!

        • 1. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
          dj_paige Level 10

          Very simple answer for me: No. I do not convert to DNG. Why? While I would like the smaller files that DNG provides, I choose not to have the disadvantages, mainly that to do an incremental backup, if I change a photo's metadata, with DNG I would have to backup an 8-9 MB (that's megabytes) file, while with RAW, I have to back up a 10-20 KB (that's kilobytes) .xmp file. I simply don't buy the argument that the existing RAW files will become unreadable at some point in the future — I think that's simply scare tactics.

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
            TurnstyleNYC Level 1

            Yes. I found more threads about DNG, and agree that it isn't a good fit for my backup strategy -- meaning, the benefits of switching to DNG don't seem to outweigh the hassle of the impact on my backups.

             

            Two related questions:

             

            1) If I import as camera-specific raw, can Lightroom later easily convert the raw files to DNGs keeping all the process changes?

             

            2) Can you configure Lightroom to NOT alter the DNGs? If so, do DNGs then have the advantage over raw?

            • 3. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
              bogiesan-gyyClL Level 3

              We're still experimenting.

              We shoot Nikon NEF and import into Lightroom3 as NEF.

              Most of our work is passed on to Photoshop geeks who have differing levels of comprehension of Adobe Camera Raw

              We use Canto Cumulus as a our digital asset management catalog and asset library maintenance system.

              We convert to DNG upon export ofr ingestion into Cumulus.

              The DNGs are smaller than the NEF originals and they preview in Cumulus in about 1/3 the time required to open NEFs.

              We keep the original NEFs in our Lightroom libraries.

               

              Additional rationale (not that you asked):

              Like most of you, we return from an important job with hundreds of images. We do initial culling in Lightroom, hopefully we only pass a few dozen of the best NEFs up the line. We discard useless images and separate the remainders into a taxonomy (that is still evolving).

              Back in Lightroom, we try to apply most of the metadata immediately while it's fresh in our heads and, if we use the templates correctly (still learning that part) we can apply the md in efficient batches and it will always remain with the originals.

              We have a group of designers and disinterested third parties who help us determine which images should be added to the Cumulus catalogs and which can be safely ignored or discarded. They also help apply additional keywords and descriptors to the images that will make finding them easier for the casual user who is browsing for images who knows nothing about the particular assignment or the exact content of any images. These folks have been invaluable because they look at an image and get a completely different set of words in their heads than I do.

               

              So we have two types of photographic output: a small number NEFs that go directly to the specific project's art directors and designers and a much larger set of DNGs that go into our massive DAM. Our systems are still evolving though. We're trying to eliminate steps, improve how images flow from the camera to the suer, and

               

              david boise ID

              • 4. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                clvrmnky Level 4

                Since you are asking for /opinion/ I'l give you mine.  I will not debate these points further, as they are opinion and there is no way anyone can win this argument via debate.

                 

                I ditched vendor specific raw files as soon as possible, and have never looked back. Proprietary formats have no value for me, and they have little value for most of us. They have the most value for the camera vendors, and this is by design.

                 

                Previous formats have been rendered obsolete (someone could stroll down Kodak lane to see which ones), so it will happen again, however likely or unlikely. Fast-forward a few decades and then we can have that conversation.  If you think Nikon will care I still have NEFs made from a D80, you are way more optimistic about Nikon than you ought to be. Hell, companies rarely live beyond 80-90 years after the founders die.

                 

                I don't sync metadata, and few of us have to, so I could care less about that. For those files where one wants to do this, disk space is cheap.

                 

                The bottom line is that raw files are essentially negatives. I prefer to archive my negatives in the most neutral format possible, and I don't care to have to managed a bunch of formats because I changed bodies a few times over the years. I didn't have to do this for my 35mm collection, so why should I do this for my digital negatives.

                 

                The new paradigm is how we will manage our digital data stores well into the future, and how we will access that data.  By the time I am dead I suspect I'll have over a petabyte of personal data archived somewhere. Making that as easy as possible to manage in the future is key to that.

                 

                So, for example, I don't store music in Sony mini-disc format or WMV. The same goes for image data.

                • 5. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                  bogiesan-gyyClL Level 3


                  clvrmnky wrote:

                  I don't sync metadata, and few of us have to, so I could care less about that. For those files where one wants to do this, disk space is cheap.

                   

                  I'm sure you mean that you "could not care less."

                  The convenience of syncing metadata is not clearly explained for many casual Lightroom users. The value of metadata is unimaginable. Consider the notes your great-grandmother made on the back of photos from the Old Country. She did not anticipate the value of that information. For her, writing on the photos may have just been a way to remember the event and the people. I want my images to be as interesting as my grandmother's; I want future viewers of my photographs to know what they are looking at, to get excited about being able to touch the past.

                   

                  > Specific metadata in selected photos can be synchronized with metadata in another photo. This provides a fast way to add information and IPTC metadata to photos. Synchronizing metadata saves you the effort of repeatedly typing the same metadata into photos.<

                   

                  clvrmnky wrote:

                  The bottom line is that raw files are essentially negatives. I prefer to archive my negatives in the most neutral format possible, and I don't care to have to managed a bunch of formats because I changed bodies a few times over the years. I didn't have to do this for my 35mm collection, so why should I do this for my digital negatives.

                   

                   

                  Lightroom is way more complicated and offers many tools than most users need or will ever learn to use, true. Professionally, my needs are different and my resources are different. IT will handle the backups of the servers and they will handle the retention of vital or historical files. I print some of my best work but, come to think of it, I don't write anything on the backs of the prints. Maybe I need to rethink that.

                   

                  clvrmnky wrote:

                  The new paradigm is how we will manage our digital data stores well into the future, and how we will access that data.  By the time I am dead I suspect I'll have over a petabyte of personal data archived somewhere. Making that as easy as possible to manage in the future is key to that.

                  So, for example, I don't store music in Sony mini-disc format or WMV. The same goes for image data.

                   

                  Excellent example. I can hold photographs in my hands that were printed 100 years ago. Who will be able to view my NEFs, DNGs, or jpgs in 100 years?

                  Are you using MP3? That is not a neutral format, it is patented (although it is not proprietary unless you consider special decompression software is necessary to use MP3 files) it has undergone several changes and might be replaced at any moment. So, how does one choose to store music these days? On the CDs? Try to locate it on vinyl? Audio tape? The only video format that still has legs even after 30 years is VHS. My 3/4" and BetaCam (not Betamax) tapes are literally useless because the oxide is falling off the base.

                   

                  david boise ID

                  • 6. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                    dj_paige Level 10
                    Excellent example. I can hold photographs in my hands that were printed 100 years ago. Who will be able to view my NEFs, DNGs, or jpgs in 100 years?

                    Are you using MP3? That is not a neutral format, it is patented (although it is not proprietary unless you consider special decompression software is necessary to use MP3 files) it has undergone several changes and might be replaced at any moment. So, how does one choose to store music these days? On the CDs? Try to locate it on vinyl? Audio tape? The only video format that still has legs even after 30 years is VHS. My 3/4" and BetaCam (not Betamax) tapes are literally useless because the oxide is falling off the base.


                    I am left cold and unimpressed by these examples.

                     

                    In these examples, the actual physical medium and hardware to make use the physical medium changed. Yes, these technologies become obsolete over time as the hardware became unusable and/or newer media provided more advantages.

                     

                    Software, and the bits and bytes that are digital computer files, seems much more permanent. If we know how to read a Nikon D80 NEF file today, we know how to read it indefinitely into the future. The file may be stored on some future (unimaginable today) technology, not a hard disk, CD, DVD or blu-ray disk. The file, and the computer software needed to make use of it, will undoubtedly be transferred to newer media and newer storage technology. But the file itself, and the technology to make use of the bits and bytes in the file, is not going away.

                    • 7. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                      areohbee Level 6

                      Advantages of DNG:

                       

                      1. Lightroom supports updating of jpeg preview in DNGs, not so for other raw formats.

                      2. DNG supports embedded profiles, although you can use a DNG to create a profile to apply to other raw formats.

                      3. Embedded XMP.

                       

                      Disavantages of DNG:

                       

                      1. Non-Adobe software can often not read them.

                      2. Embedded XMP.

                       

                      Whether these advantages / disadvantages affect you depends on your workflow.

                       

                      I don't use DNG mostly because I want to reserve the option to open with NX2 (or DPP), or other software that supports camera raws but not Adobe's implementation of DNG.

                      • 8. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                        Pete Marshall Level 4

                        I store all RAW files as DNG. Unless anybody comes up with a better format I will continue to do so. It is very likley that DNG will become the ISO format for RAW files and in the meantime there is no other standard to use.

                         

                        Propitiatory format are always to be avoided. Unless you are willing to use propitiatory software from each manufacturer for each type of file and have numerous different bits of software installed all that read the same data, DNG is the way to go. I would have to have a Canon application, a Nikon application and whatever applications support Panasonic and Olympus formats on my computer! Any decent none propitiatory RAW processes can read DNG, if it can't it isn't worth using. Nikon and Canon are worse for this with applications that only read their own formats! Like buying a car that can only use petrol sold by the manufacturer, what a load of nonsense!!!

                         

                        The arguments against it are usually based on misinformation and a lack of understanding about what a RAW file is. Data is data, storing data in a propitiatory format is always a mistake once there is an alternative.

                         

                        If you don't like how LR renders your RAW files, use something else. But still store the RAW file as DNG. If the application doesn't read DNG then I think you should seriously think about using a different application as that would be a serious flaw in any half decent RAW processing engine.

                        • 9. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                          areohbee Level 6

                          - NX2 can not read DNG

                          - DPP can not read DNG

                          - DxO Optics Pro's DNG support is limited and/or buggy.

                          - Bibble's DNG support is limited and/or buggy.

                          - CaptureOne Pro's DNG support is limited and/or buggy.

                          - ACDSee's DNG support is limited and/or buggy.

                          (you see where this is going, right?)

                           

                          The most "standard" format (today) for your raws is the one they came in.

                           

                          Note: Although you can transcribe your original raws to DNG, you can not transcribe DNGs into the original raw format.

                           

                          If you decide to convert to DNG, I strongly recommend that you do NOT discard your original raws - or at least not for another decade or so...

                           

                          Rob

                          • 10. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                            Pete Marshall Level 4

                            areohbee wrote:

                             

                            - NX2 can not read DNG

                            - DPP can not read DNG

                            - DxO Optics Pro's DNG support is limited and/or buggy.

                            - Bibble's DNG support is limited and/or buggy.

                            - CaptureOne Pro's DNG support is limited and/or buggy.

                            - ACDSee's DNG support is limited and/or buggy.

                            (you see where this is going, right?)

                             

                            The most "standard" format (today) for your raws is the one they came in.

                             

                            Note: Although you can transcribe your original raws to DNG, you can not transcribe DNGs into the original raw format.

                             

                            If you decide to convert to DNG, I strongly recommend that you do NOT discard your original raws - or at least not for another decade or so...

                             

                            Rob

                            NX2 can only read Nikon files

                            DPP can only Canon files

                            The others are all supposed to use DNG. I can see no reason why the shouldn't or it be "buggy". I used Capture One for many years and never found it "buggy", but if it is it would be nothing to do with the file format. DNG is fully published and documented no application builder can have a problem building something to read them.You are certainly going to be safer with a fully documented format and a third party application than you would be using undocumented formats.

                             

                            You can, if you wish, extract what you call the "original" format from a DNG, by the simple process of embedding the information within the DNG in the various locations used by the propitiatory formats. In reality all the information present in the original files is embedded within the DNG in published and documented locations, so no information is lost I bet all those who kept the old Kodak formats wished that DNG had been around back in the day as they would be able to use some of the earliest RAW files in the latest processors. That is the point of DNG any RAW file once the information is placed within a structure that a newer processor can use, can be used. Given that Canon already abounded for a time (eventually relenting after some pressure) support in the later versions of DPP for earlier formats, I think it very unlikely that even if Canon still make DPP in 10 years you will be able to use CRW files with the latest versions. My oldest RAW files, from six and seven years ago all work with processes 2010 in LR.

                             

                            There is no agreed standard format for recording the data from digital sensors. The present proliferation of proprietary formats is clearly a ridiculous system. DNG is offered as that standard format and has been submitted to the ISO. If accepted it will be the standard format.

                             

                            Data is data....the format it is retaining in is the question, not some magical idea that somehow the NEF, or CRW or whatever format contains some special unknown, undocumented and completely mysterious recipe. If the NEF or CRW formats are so good, why don't Canon or Nikon offer them to the ISO? Because by creating their own "special" format they can convince people their particular magic ingredient is indeed magic. It isn't.

                            • 11. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                              areohbee Level 6

                              ambienttroutmask wrote:

                               

                              If accepted it will be the standard format.

                               

                              Agreed - its just not there yet.

                               

                              I support DNG, I just want to make sure people don't get confused between what today's reality is and what tomorrow's reality might be...

                              • 12. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                                WCA01

                                Get the best of both worlds.  Copy as DNG and make a second copy to another HD.  The second copy will be in the original file format.  It will have any filename you have assigned.

                                 

                                When and if you need the original file format, it is right there with the filename you have assigned..  I do this and then backup both to a third HD.  That gives me two copies of each.

                                 

                                Good Luck,

                                Wil

                                • 13. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                                  areohbee Level 6

                                  Sounds like a good "compromise" - thanks for the recomendation.


                                  • 14. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                                    areohbee Level 6

                                    Sounds like you've already made your decision, but I wasn't sure these specific points had been addressed - forgive if wrong - didnt read everything close...

                                     

                                     

                                    TurnstyleNYC wrote:

                                     

                                    1) If I import as camera-specific raw, can Lightroom later easily convert the raw files to DNGs keeping all the process changes?

                                     

                                     

                                    Yes.

                                     

                                    TurnstyleNYC wrote:

                                     

                                    2) Can you configure Lightroom to NOT alter the DNGs?

                                     

                                    No. You can make them read-only, but then you can't save xmp, and you'll get a metadata conflict buger smeared on your photo if you try.

                                     

                                    I've been pushing for this option, as have others - and other others think we're crazy ;-}

                                     

                                    PS - You can do this with Bridge.

                                     

                                    PPS - virtual copies have no xmp support - maybe factor that into your backup considerations (catalog backup required to get the virtual settings).

                                     

                                    R

                                    • 15. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                                      areohbee Level 6

                                      ambienttroutmask wrote:

                                       

                                      You can, if you wish, extract what you call the "original" format from a DNG

                                       

                                      No - you can't. Not with any software available today. Maybe tomorrow...

                                       

                                      PS - the phrase 'what you call the "original" makes it sound nebulous or subjective - its not: You can't convert a DNG to a NEF, period.

                                       

                                       

                                      ambienttroutmask wrote:


                                      The others are all supposed to use DNG. I can see no reason why the shouldn't or it be "buggy".

                                       

                                      I have no personal experience with this whatsoever. But if you read the forums for the various raw converters I mentioned previously, you'll find lots of recent posts from people bemoaning their DNG format mistake due to problems in their software of choice being able to handle them properly, followed by huge sighs and thank yous to the people who helped them recover. DNG support has only been recently added to many of them and is not as solid as their support for in-camera raws, today. Maybe tomorrow... Even Eric Chan chimed in on one post about this, saying "the problem is with the other software's DNG implementation..." - be that as it may the bottom-line for the individual was a dialog box containing an error message.

                                      • 16. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                                        areohbee Level 6

                                        I dont know why people tend to get all evangelical about this.

                                         

                                        I say "convert to whatever format you need to be able to do what you want to do, or not - if the original format suits your needs as well or better."


                                        And, if you dont care about losing interoperability with some software that you dont expect to use, then delete the originals too.

                                         

                                        PS - Consideration of the future and kodak mishaps is avoidable simply by converting format before the software that does it is no longer available - whatever format they happen to be in. On the other hand, if you are the kind of person thats gonna end up with photos on DVD that you'll want your grandchildren to be able to resurrect in 100 years, then DNG may be a better choice for you - just make sure you leave them a working DVD drive too (with maintenance doc and spare parts...) ;-} Oh wait, they may also need a copy of Lightroom 3 and a working computer to run it. Hmmm... - I guess I haven't really thought this through...

                                        • 17. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                                          clvrmnky Level 4

                                          bogiesan wrote:

                                           


                                          clvrmnky wrote:

                                          I don't sync metadata, and few of us have to, so I could care less about that. For those files where one wants to do this, disk space is cheap.

                                           

                                          I'm sure you mean that you "could not care less."

                                          The convenience of syncing metadata is not clearly explained for many casual Lightroom users. The value of metadata is unimaginable. Consider the notes your great-grandmother made on the back of photos from the Old Country. She did not anticipate the value of that information. For her, writing on the photos may have just been a way to remember the event and the people. I want my images to be as interesting as my grandmother's; I want future viewers of my photographs to know what they are looking at, to get excited about being able to touch the past.

                                           

                                          > Specific metadata in selected photos can be synchronized with metadata in another photo. This provides a fast way to add information and IPTC metadata to photos. Synchronizing metadata saves you the effort of repeatedly typing the same metadata into photos.<

                                           

                                           

                                          You are conflating two totally different things.  There is syncing metadata to discrete files, and there is syncing metadata across images.  These are different gestures that you are incorrectly asserting are related in a manner further than they both have to do with metadata. I am well aware of the usefulness of metadata.  This is why I want it in the file, or in a database where I can manage it.

                                           

                                          I  do not sync metadata to the file, though you make a good point why you might want to. Though, since we are splitting hairs, the reason given for not using DNG in this context was because the file changes make backups too large, whereas with proprietary files it syncs to a small side car file.  I'm not sure you can count on that sidecar file always following the image file.

                                           

                                          In your example, this is not the same as writing on the back of the print, but more like labelling a mounted photo. You are hoping that label follows the image.  It will not always do so. History is on my side here.

                                           

                                          Anyway, we are talking about negatives here, not prints.  I treat my raw images as negatives, which always required some sort of cataloguing.

                                           

                                          And, anyway, if I wanted to save metadata to the image file, I can.  I don't think the backup delta size argument holds up, given the gigabytes I am already backing up.

                                          • 18. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                                            clvrmnky Level 4

                                            bogiesan wrote:

                                             


                                            clvrmnky wrote:

                                            I don't sync metadata, and few of us have to, so I could care less about that. For those files where one wants to do this, disk space is cheap.

                                             

                                            I'm sure you mean that you "could not care less."

                                             

                                             

                                            I meant exactly what I said.  The idiom is well-established in North America.

                                             

                                            http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ico1.htm

                                            • 19. Re: Do you "Copy as DNG" when importing raw files into Lightroom?
                                              Cornelia-I Level 4

                                              Hi TurnstyleNYC,

                                               

                                              Yes, I do convert my proprietary RAW-files into DNG directly during import, while making a 2nd copy to my network storage (this necessarily in orginal format).

                                              The 2nd copy is there primarily for backup reasons, because I want to cleanse my camera cards (in camera, never by other devices or software), but then only a copy on a laptop hard drive is not enough.

                                               

                                              I rely on DNG longterm and find them more convenient, as this format is basically a wrapper - with a dedicated section for xmp and - should you wish - the original proprietary raw file as well. Unwrapping is not convenient, but possible with another free tool from Adobe. Then of course file size is big, not quite twice. I have read from professional photographers that they use this for long-term archiving format.

                                              I am only an enthusiast photographer, and a *lazy* one as well: I do not want to deal with several softwares (Nikon NX2 and Canon DPP), I have not seen a competitive edge in raw development over LR with them. On the other hand I find it inconvenient to deal with separate sidecar-xmp-files.

                                              Neither would I want to be tied to one specific software vendor forever, even if I like LR best for the time being.

                                              So I do feel an urge to save metadata to xmp so that other software can also read this.

                                              Most of it, that is - I prefer virtual copies to snapshots, which would be lost outside LR.

                                               

                                              When I am done with my workflow so that I move the images from my laptop to network storage (RAID backupd) I could delete the proprietary raw files.

                                              But I postpone this until I need the space on my network storage - at current increase rate in about 5 years from now.

                                              From today's perspective I would delete them, let's see what my opinion will be in 5 years or if additional storage space will then be cheap enough to still keep them and invest earlier in more space. It may also depend if I will still like LR then or if I might turn to alternative software. In which case my LR developments and metadata enrichments would be lost.

                                              Note: I do not put the proprietary raw files into my catalog - they are unknown in my setup.

                                               

                                              With the same justification you could also wait with your DNG-conversion for some 5 years, though.

                                               

                                              To really cover the 100year-ambition I would not go entirely for digital.

                                              I also like to create fotobooks, to be printed on paper. They may fade (but not as ugly as colour prints from the 1970s...), they are also vulnerable to flooding and fire, but at least they are uninteresting for any burglars and they work unplugged. Of course you use only a selection for a fotobook, but then these are likely the best ones to tell the story.

                                               

                                              For individual print-outs in shoe boxes or similar *archiving media* there is a good feature in LR to save the work of hand-writing metadata on the back: put them in the caption field and add this in the print module - it is a small area deducted from e.g. a 10x15cm print, but better readable and less prone to smear . My (grand-)parents' generation still appreciates foto sharing in this form...

                                               

                                              To tell stories I also like slide shows, converted to several other electronic formats - PDF is already far more advanced as standard than DNG. But I hope the same for DNG and I appreciate Adobe's effort to create standards.