Tech Industry

Adobe offers standard for raw photo formats

The company is also offering a free tool to convert photos stored in other formats to the new Digital Negative specification.

Adobe Systems on Monday unveiled a digital photo format that it hopes will become an industry standard, plus a tool designed to convert photos to that format from the many that are used today.

With the company's new Digital Negative specification and converter tool, users can translate and store raw files, which contain images prior to any in-camera processing, from more than 65 types of cameras. This process is different from storing the images as JPEGs or TIFFs, which are altered from an image's raw file.

One concern about the myriad raw formats currently in use is that they're tied to specific camera models, creating a risk that over time, the formats used to archive some photos may not be supported, Adobe said.

The Digital Negative, or DNG, format can be used in digital cameras, printers and software products for free, without legal restrictions.

Similarly, the company's converter tool is available for free download on Adobe's Web site.

Adobe's strategy is similar to others it has taken with attempts to make its products de facto standards. Adobe, for example, publishes the PDF (Portable Document Format) specification under liberal terms that enable other software makers to use it as they please.

"Clients and publishers have difficulty working with disparate raw file formats, and nobody can be sure that today's raw formats will be supported 10 years from now," Bryan Lamkin, Adobe senior vice president of digital imaging and digital video products, said in a statement. "Adobe customers asked us to work on a unified, public format for raw files, and that's what we've delivered with the new, Digital Negative specification."