Importance of Proprietary Raw Capture


Today’s Question: What could I lose if I did not keep a proprietary raw file?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Assuming you discard a proprietary raw capture only because an appropriate derivative image was created to take its place, the only risk would be losing camera-specific metadata proprietary to the camera manufacturer.

More Detail: Today’s question is a follow-up to an earlier question about converting proprietary raw captures to the Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) file format. In my answer to that previous question, I mentioned that one of the reasons I prefer to retain the original raw captures rather than convert to DNG is to ensure I retain all original capture data without the risk of losing some information.

For most photographers with most typical workflows, this is not really of any concern. If you’re not taking advantage of unique features of your camera that require proprietary metadata, then you aren’t at risk of losing that metadata by virtue of the information not being applicable to your workflow.

Put another way, if you were taking advantage of features that depended upon proprietary metadata, you would have a workflow that made it reasonably clear that was the case.

For example, one example of this sort of proprietary metadata that could be lost if you convert a raw capture to DNG is automatic image cleanup information, which is a feature of some Canon cameras. To take advantage of this feature, not only do you need to enable it on the camera, but you need to use the software from the camera manufacturer to leverage the feature.

So, if you are using a workflow that revolves, for example, exclusively around Adobe software, then you obviously aren’t taking advantage of any features of your camera that require software from the manufacturer of your camera to take advantage of. If that’s the case, in my view there is no real risk in converting raw captures to the Adobe DNG format.

Having said that, I still personally prefer to retain the original proprietary raw captures from my camera, without converting them to Adobe DNG or any other file format, at least in terms of the original capture (as opposed to creating derivative copies of selected photos).