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Adobe toys with standardizing DNG raw photo format

Adobe's Digital Negative format hasn't caught on widely. Standardizing might help, and Adobe has given DNG to a major standards group to evaluate.

Adobe Systems is discussing potential standardization of its Digital Negative (DNG) format for digital images, a company executive has said.

Most people are fine with plain-old JPEG for their images, but higher-end cameras can produce more flexible and higher-quality "raw" photos that are encoded with camera makers' proprietary formats. Because different cameras produce different formats, companies such as Adobe whose software deals with raw files face a daunting engineering challenge understanding.

DNG is designed as an alternative to the profusion--what Adobe calls a Tower of Babel--but it hasn't caught on widely. Ricoh, Casio, Pentax, and a few other camera makers sell cameras that can record DNG files, but the two heavyweights, Nikon and Canon, along with Olympus and Sony, so far have given it the cold shoulder.

Maybe that will change if Adobe can get DNG standardized. The company has submitted DNG to the International Standards Organization for it to consider, said Kevin Connor, Adobe's senior director, professional digital imaging, in an interview with Digital Photo Pro.

He wouldn't promise anything, though.

"It's sort of premature to speculate whether a formal standard will come out of that or not," Connor said. Standardization "can take a long time, with many parties involved and different viewpoints. The good thing is that there's a discussion happening."

Standards have several advantages over in-house technology, whether proprietary like most raw formats or well documented and freely shared like DNG. Having them under control of a neutral standards body can give confidence that multiple companies can have a say in a standard's future, for example.

There are disadvantages, too. Standards typically are slow to be approved and slow to change..

Separately, Adobe said it plans to release a DNG codec for Windows to let it display thumbnails. Doing so requires installation of Microsoft's Windows Imaging Component (WIC), which is a free download but also built into Windows Vista and XP SP3.