Future of DNG Format


Today’s Question: Is it a mistake to convert the raw capture originals to Adobe DNG when importing into Lightroom Classic? I wonder if for any reason Lightroom Classic disappears or I cannot use it anymore will I have a useless archive of DNG photos? Or what is the future of DNG?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I don’t think it is a mistake to convert proprietary raw captures to the Adobe DNG file format upon import to Lightroom Classic, but I don’t consider it to be a significant advantage either, all things considered.

More Detail: I prefer to keep my proprietary raw captures in the original file format when importing new photos into my Lightroom Classic catalog. This is in part because I like the notion of retaining the original capture file. In addition, this ensures I have the flexibility of being able to take advantage of special features that might only be supported by using a proprietary raw capture format in conjunction with software from the camera manufacturer, even though I don’t really anticipate needing to take advantage of that option.

There are some advantages to the Adobe DNG file format, to be sure. Among those benefits is the fact that the DNG format is openly documented, so that if for some reason Adobe decided to stop supporting the format in their software, other software companies could still provide support for the file format.

That said, more than a few companies (including Adobe) have reverse-engineered the various proprietary raw capture formats in order to enable their software to process those raw captures. In other words, there isn’t really much of a risk that it would be impossible for a given file format to be supported by software.

The bigger issue in my mind is that over a longer period of time, certain file formats may lose support very broadly. This isn’t something that would just happen overnight, but it is something that you should maintain an awareness off.

For example, the relatively new HEIC file format is a viable replacement for the JPEG image format, and so over time it is quite possible that software would discontinue support for JPEG images. Sometime before that were to happen you would want to be sure to convert your JPEG images to another image format. But again, this type of change is something that could be anticipated over time, as long as you were paying attention to changes in the overall world of photography and imaging.

In terms of the Adobe DNG file format, I don’t think there is any real risk of a lack of support for the file format in the near term. And if there were indications that Adobe was going to phase out the file format, I’m sure there would be a good amount of warning from others in the industry, including myself.