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Thread: DNG vs NEF

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    MajaMolly's Avatar
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    DNG vs NEF

    I know I've read on here before the differences between DNG and NEF files, but can't find any threads.

    When I upload files from my memory card into LR... should I leave them as the NEF or change them to a DNG?

    Is it okay to change to DNG before any processing?

    Thanks!

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    I'm no expert on the subject; and I don't use Lightroom: BUT, I noticed when quick processing some Santa Claus parade photos using Adobe Camera RAW a few years back that the reds in Santa's suit were clipped, and showed banding (particularly in the shadows), whereas they showed perfectly smooth gradients when processed in Nikon Capture NX2.

    I haven't used anything but Capture NX2 to process my NEF images into TIFFs since; because I don't want to waste my time looking for problems that shouldn't be there in the first place.

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Hi Maja, NEF (Nikon Electronic Format) is Nikon’s RAW file format that features image information and metadata received from the camera’s sensor. It, like most propriety camera manufacturer formats, requires a converter that any one imaging software may or may not have. Obviously Nikon's NX2 DOES have this converter.

    Digital Negative (DNG) is an open lossless raw image format written by Adobe used for digital photography. Its goal is to be a RAW file industry standard that (hopefully) all imaging software manufactures will accept.

    By converting my NEF files to DNG in Lightroom as I read them from my camera's memory card, I am hoping to be able to use the RAW DNG files in any current or future imaging software releases in addition to the suite of Adobe products.

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    MajaMolly's Avatar
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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Thank you, Frank.

    So, if I am understanding correctly- I should convert from NEF to DNG upon import and then proceed to process? I process is LR and CS.

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by MajaMolly View Post
    Thank you, Frank.

    So, if I am understanding correctly- I should convert from NEF to DNG upon import and then proceed to process? I process is LR and CS.
    For me that is the easiest way to go as I am using LR and CS5 for all of my basic post processing and although I have NX2, I haven't used it since getting LR and CS5. Once I've converted the images from NEF to DNG I don't bother to save the NEF files but I do retain all of the DNG files for any future processing that I might want to do from the original (DNG) RAW.

    I also use Photomatix for HDR and the Topaz Bundle for ancillary tasks such as de-noise, capture sharpening, masking, and special effects as these tasks are easier in a Topaz plug-in than in Photoshop. I could accomplish everything I do with Photoshop alone if need be.

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by MajaMolly View Post
    Thank you, Frank.

    So, if I am understanding correctly- I should convert from NEF to DNG upon import and then proceed to process? I process is LR and CS.
    If you use the Adobe software to import your images, converting them to DNG is a matter of taste, as both processes use the Adobe NEF conversion engine. I find that it takes a bit longer to read and write the DNG file.

    If you use ViewNX2 or Capture NX2 and use the Nikon software the way Andrew does, no, the moment you run your RAW data through the Adobe RAW engine, you negate the benefits of using the Nikon RAW engine.

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    MajaMolly's Avatar
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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    For me that is the easiest way to go as I am using LR and CS5 for all of my basic post processing and although I have NX2, I haven't used it since getting LR and CS5. Once I've converted the images from NEF to DNG I don't bother to save the NEF files but I do retain all of the DNG files for any future processing that I might want to do from the original (DNG) RAW.

    I also use Photomatix for HDR and the Topaz Bundle for ancillary tasks such as de-noise, capture sharpening, masking, and special effects as these tasks are easier in a Topaz plug-in than in Photoshop. I could accomplish everything I do with Photoshop alone if need be.
    It is my understanding that DNG files take less space than NEF?

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    On average, I've read on the Web (I haven't measured to be sure) that the DNG RAW format is 20% (or more) smaller than the NEF files.

    One of the differences is that the changes made to NEF files are saved in a separate side-car file and changes to the DNG files are saved within the file. Either way, the original data in the file is not altered but in the NEF case you need to keep the side-car file with the NEF file and in the other case it's embedded and can't get lost.

    I searching the web there are those that always retain the NEF files and don't use DNG and those that always convert to DNG and never save the NEF file so you are in good company regardless of which way you go. The bottom line is that either RAW format allows you to go back to the original image before any changes were made to it. Kinda a Ford/Chevy, Pepsi/Coke or Nikon/Cannon logic it would seem.

    Hope this helps!

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew1 View Post
    Personally I will do as much as I can with the software that was developed for the manufacturers data files. In my case, NEF so that means ViewNX2 or Capture NX. They know their own information better and are widely recognized as getting the best results, to a point. Some, like myself, don't take it too far with Capture NX. Development and support by Nikon has been negligible in the last 5 years and they have allowed Adobe to get far ahead in some aspects, ( I think Nikon relied to much on what they perceived as a superior brand-name position and hired the marketing monkeys from Honda motorcycles). Anyway, the next step for me after NEF is to convert to TIFF which will retain more information after hand-off for further data manipulation. Herein lies a problem. Adobe developed DNG with the hope of getting the camera manufactures on-board and allowing Adobe to control the format. Unfortunately, Adobe didn't do that great of a job and in Lightroom 4 and CS6 is still trying to get it right. So rather than put some effort into working with the camera manufacturers or making improvements in DNG, they went the way of MSN, Nortel, GM, and many others(think 'empire building') Adobe bought the rights to TIFF and is letting it languish into obscurity. Zip for major R&D improvements in over ten years and TIFF is still ahead of DNG. Eventually you won't have a choice unless one of the GNU developers comes up with something revolutionary. Until then, work your post raw data in TIFF and convert when necessary for your final product. That's jpeg for web or prints 8x10 or smaller. For prints larger check with your printing professional as they may decide a full TIFF is better. So far that method works just fine for me. I'm always open to improvements though.

    PS Google bought NIK for Snapseed. Will they put R&D $$$ into NX or will they let NEF go as well? It will be a major step backwards if an upcoming release of Canon or Nikon raw is transitioned to DNG.
    Adobe is not allowing tiff to languish into obscurity. Adobe has added improvements to TIFF in recent years. tiff now has the ability to save layers, previously you had to use psd files to save layers. You can open an HDR image (32bit floating white point file) into Lightroom and make adjustments to it. This is only possible with tiff files. Not with psd etc. This is a new development in Lightroom 4. So, tiff is very much alive at Adobe. As a matter of fact, the following quote is from the supported file formats page in the Lightroom 4 section at Adobe Lightroom 4 Help
    Notice the part at the end of the quote about tiff being the recommended file format for transferring images between Lightroom and Photoshop. Tiff, not Adobe's own psd. So Adobe is not allowing tiff to languish into obscurity.

    "TIFF format:
    Tagged-Image File Format (TIFF, TIF) is used to exchange files between applications and computer platforms. TIFF is a flexible bitmap image format supported by virtually all paint, image-editing, and page-layout applications. Also, virtually all desktop scanners can produce TIFF images. Lightroom supports large documents saved in TIFF format (up to 65,000 pixels per side). However, most other applications, including older versions of Photoshop (pre-Photoshop CS), do not support documents with file sizes greater than 2 GB.

    The TIFF format provides greater compression and industry compatibility than Photoshop format (PSD), and is the recommended format for exchanging files between Lightroom and Photoshop. In Lightroom, you can export TIFF image files with a bit depth of 8 bits or 16 bits per channel."
    Last edited by Bryan Conner; 3rd October 2012 at 08:29 AM.

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Your quote only describes in general terms what TIFF is. I guess it depends on what is called major. Staying within the same version is not usually referred to as a major update in software and the shortcoming has been highlighted by people much more familiar with this stuff than I am. I've just been doing my homework before making some purchases. Adobe documentation shows a couple of changes as it applies to their own programs but that's it.

    "TIFF has not had a major update since 1992, though several Aldus/Adobe technical notes have been published with minor extensions to the format, and several specifications, including TIFF/EP (ISO 12234-2), TIFF/IT (ISO 12639),[4][5][6] TIFF-F (RFC 2306) and TIFF-FX (RFC 3949)[7] have been based on the TIFF 6.0 specification."

    Additionally, a quote from a link off of the Adobe site...
    "The TIFF format is owned by the same company that also owns PSD though, and as such, it is not very surprising that it has been more than a bit neglected over the last decade or so. That is probably the single most important drawback of TIFF: it lacks standardized support for advanced imaging features that were developed over the last couple of years."

    As I indicated, any huge advances will probably come from someplace other than Adobe. Perhaps here

    http://www.awaresystems.be/imaging/tiff/bigtiff.html

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    MajaMolly's Avatar
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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    On average, I've read on the Web (I haven't measured to be sure) that the DNG RAW format is 20% (or more) smaller than the NEF files.

    One of the differences is that the changes made to NEF files are saved in a separate side-car file and changes to the DNG files are saved within the file. Either way, the original data in the file is not altered but in the NEF case you need to keep the side-car file with the NEF file and in the other case it's embedded and can't get lost.

    I searching the web there are those that always retain the NEF files and don't use DNG and those that always convert to DNG and never save the NEF file so you are in good company regardless of which way you go. The bottom line is that either RAW format allows you to go back to the original image before any changes were made to it. Kinda a Ford/Chevy, Pepsi/Coke or Nikon/Cannon logic it would seem.

    Hope this helps!
    Helps immensely. Thanks!

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by John Morton View Post
    I'm no expert on the subject; and I don't use Lightroom: BUT, I noticed when quick processing some Santa Claus parade photos using Adobe Camera RAW a few years back that the reds in Santa's suit were clipped, and showed banding (particularly in the shadows), whereas they showed perfectly smooth gradients when processed in Nikon Capture NX2.
    I too have had a similar problem with a sunlit sunflower shot. ACR 5.4 added a lot of blue to it's sRGB rendition - on-screen and in it's output to PSE6. I concluded that it did not handle out-of-gamut colors as well as any of the other converters, including Adobe's free RAW to DNG converter, SPP, IrfanView, DCraw and even Picasa. My experience was with a Sigma X3F file, not a NEF though.

    In spite of early promise, there appears to be little support for DNG from the camera manufacturers. Also, reams of advice abound in the literature for LR, ACR, et al but next to nothing for DNG, so - could it be DyiNG, i.e. going the way of BetaMax?

    If Maja Molly converts from NEF to DNG, and then dumps the NEF she is stuck with Adobe's conversion which, as stated above, may not always be perfect!

    DNG vs NEF

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew1 View Post
    Your quote only describes in general terms what TIFF is. I guess it depends on what is called major. Staying within the same version is not usually referred to as a major update in software and the shortcoming has been highlighted by people much more familiar with this stuff than I am. I've just been doing my homework before making some purchases. Adobe documentation shows a couple of changes as it applies to their own programs but that's it.

    "TIFF has not had a major update since 1992, though several Aldus/Adobe technical notes have been published with minor extensions to the format, and several specifications, including TIFF/EP (ISO 12234-2), TIFF/IT (ISO 12639),[4][5][6] TIFF-F (RFC 2306) and TIFF-FX (RFC 3949)[7] have been based on the TIFF 6.0 specification."

    Additionally, a quote from a link off of the Adobe site...
    "The TIFF format is owned by the same company that also owns PSD though, and as such, it is not very surprising that it has been more than a bit neglected over the last decade or so. That is probably the single most important drawback of TIFF: it lacks standardized support for advanced imaging features that were developed over the last couple of years."

    As I indicated, any huge advances will probably come from someplace other than Adobe. Perhaps here

    http://www.awaresystems.be/imaging/tiff/bigtiff.html

    What kind of advances are you hoping for? Tiff can accommodate any color space, it can accommodate 8bit, 16bit, and 32 bit files. Yes, Tiff has not had a major update since 1996, but there have been additions to it's capability in the form of TIFF Extensions. JPEG compression and Layers are two of the many additions over the baseline TIFF.

    I am only curious as to what I may be missing concerning TIFF. Maybe I can learn something from you.

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew1 View Post
    I hope to be able to use the NEF > TIFF route until something better comes along but from what I've read that certainly isn't DNG in it's present form. My opinions were not specific to a present shortcoming only to mention the potential of having good options removed from our catalogue of choices.
    I also use the NEF > TIFF route for processing my images and have no intention of changing that approach. I don't think that TIFFs are neglected, I just think that they are pretty well what they need to be and there isn't much more that can be said there!

    As I mentioned elsewhere, TIFFs are a bitmapped format, with each pixel being given a unique registry value on a standard Cartesean X/Y axis. That is the major strong point of TIFFs - that they do no lose information with processing but register and retain it on a pixel level of accuracy - but at the same time that kind of sums up what TIFFs can and can't do.

    The TIFF format was invented by Aldus, who developed Pagemaker for desktop publishing (which initially was competing with Ventura Publisher and QuarkExpress) and Photostyler for editing images. Adobe acquired ownership of the TIF Format when it bought out Aldus; and as powerful as the Pagemaker / Photostyler combination was, the Adobe Creative Suite has taken that game several levels beyond where Aldus had set the bar back in the early 1990's.

    Initially, Adobe was a type foundry that specialized in electronic protocols for laser printers. It's first commercial software venture was Adobe Illustrator, which was based upon protocols developed for type.

    Sumner Stone has a great interview available where he outlines that time at Adobe:

    http://vimeo.com/50347948#at=0

    Anyway, part of the 'problem' (and it really isn't) with file formats such as TIFFs is that they are meant to be generic, so doing anything which would lessen their compatibility with other programs (and that usually means retroactively rendering them incompatible with older software versions) really defeats their whole reason for being out there in the first place.

    So, you might say that TIFFs haven't had a major update since 1992; but you could also say that TIFFs should be compatible with any software developed since 1992: and, that's a good thing.

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Another thing about TIFF: for many years it was a major electronic means by which Industrial Companies archived their drawings and images. I suspect that nothing has changed (archive file format-wise) for the obsolete but, of necessity, retained stuff. As recently as 2004, I was looking at TIFFs while consulting at Rolls-Royce, Inc. So, although TIFF has not been highly "developed" it is most unlikely to ever go away.

  16. #16

    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by xpatUSA View Post
    I too have had a similar problem with a sunlit sunflower shot. ACR 5.4 added a lot of blue to it's sRGB rendition - on-screen and in it's output to PSE6. I concluded that it did not handle out-of-gamut colors as well as any of the other converters, including Adobe's free RAW to DNG converter, SPP, IrfanView, DCraw and even Picasa. My experience was with a Sigma X3F file, not a NEF though.

    In spite of early promise, there appears to be little support for DNG from the camera manufacturers. Also, reams of advice abound in the literature for LR, ACR, et al but next to nothing for DNG, so - could it be DyiNG, i.e. going the way of BetaMax?

    If Maja Molly converts from NEF to DNG, and then dumps the NEF she is stuck with Adobe's conversion which, as stated above, may not always be perfect!
    I believe it is mostly a business decision by Nikon and Canon.

    1) A company cannot allow itself to be so dependent on another company. Would Adobe offer to sign a contract that would provide 100% free use (no license fees) of DNG format/technology to the end of time? Not likely.

    2) By having their own raw format they can, potentially, develop their own raw processing advantages relative to each sensor sold.

    3) When in browser mode, why does Adobe not have a simple on/off option in their software to show the nef embedded jpeg preview file? Adobe is not really cooperating fully to help Nikon/Canon but instead is trying to push their DNG container format. I would be very happy if they added such a simple option in the near future and would probably not need Photo Mechanic.

    Just some thoughts.

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Quote Originally Posted by photomy View Post
    Would Adobe offer to sign a contract that would provide 100% free use (no license fees) of DNG format/technology to the end of time?
    DNG is an open format (based on TIFF/EP which is a combination of subsets of the TIFF and EXIF specifications with some extensions), unencumbered by any copyrights, patents or other restrictions so that anyone may use it at no cost for the purposes of reading and writing DNG files.

    Quote from Adobe DNG licence: "Adobe hereby grants all individuals and organizations the worldwide, royalty-free, nontransferable, nonexclusive right under all Essential Claims to make, have made, use, sell, import, and distribute Compliant Implementations."

    A compliant implementation is one that provides the facility to read or write DNG files in either hardware or software. There is only one exception that will result in revocation of the license and that is that Adobe retains the right to withdraw licence from any individual or organization if they bring any patent action against Adobe related to the reading or writing of files that comply with the DNG Specification.

    Which is as close as you will find to a completely open licence from any commercial vendor and one that they would find prohibitively expensive and time consuming to go back on.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    In other words, Adobe's offer would make the lawyers from Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc. very nervous. An open standard does not have any "baggage" associated with it and is usually administered by a quasi-independent third party or at other times co-owned by a number of stakeholders.

    One can see what the business advantages to Adobe (and end users) are, but certainly there is nothing in it for the major camera manufacturers.

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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    One thing I have not seen anyone here mention re the NEF or DNG is what Adobe calls a "sidecar" file. When I take my NEF's and process them in Camera Raw, Adobe has to store all the information about how that file was processed. If you leave your images as NEF Adobe writes a file that has to be stored with that NEF - this is a sidecar file. When you convert your images to a DNG (which you can do at download if you want) Adobe incorporates all that info in the DNG file, thus eliminating the need for the sidecar file. The advantage is two fold. If I process a NEF and then want to send that Raw file to someone else with all the information about how it was processed, the sidecar file must go with it - otherwise the person you are sending it to will not be able to view the processed image. Of course this does not apply if you are not sending the Raw file. With the DNG format all the information is in one package, so you don't have to worry about making sure the sidecar file is exported also. As to quality and processing, I have not been able to tell the difference. I have processed my files in both formats and can't tell the difference. For me it came down to workflow and simplicity. I am not going to use Nikon's image processing software (I have tried it) - learn their system, save in TIFF, and then take that shot into Photoshop CS6 to do some additional work or use some filters etc. As far as I can see, Adobe is the way to go, and I now convert my files to DNG when I download them. That's my 2 cents, and probably only worth about that!

  20. #20
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    Re: DNG vs NEF

    Thank you for posting this Molly...

    There is a lot of information to digest here, and I wonder if someone could simply answer if there is any need to convert one's raw files to DNG files? I ask because I was reading in my Adobe Elements book that raw files might become obsolete one day, and that is the reason that DNG files were created...

    I have enough on my plate (and in my computer memory) with raw and jpeg files... So if I never convert my photos to DNG is that alright? Or will the day come that raw files are obsolete and the loss of all my raw photos because no program can work with raw files anymore?

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