OpenRAW and Digital Media

Some time ago, I had to transfer files from an old PowerBook 180 to my PowerMac. At first I thought that I was out of luck, because I had no machine which could read floppy disks anymore (I had sold my Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh a year ago). Although I found a solution using my Farallon iPrint Ethernet Adapter, I was irked that the floppy disk, so prevalent just 10 years ago, has been rendered obsolete.

Today, I store my files on CD’s, DVD’s, and hard drives. You would think that these formats are here for the long run, but who’s to know in 10 or 20 years down the line?

A similar situation exists in the digital camera space. Although JPEG is the dominant image format for the time being, many manufacturers have proprietary RAW image formats. As any RAW enthusiast will attest, shooting in RAW is much better than shooting in JPEG. You can adjust the exposure, white balance, and several other settings after the fact. Sure each image takes up more space on your memory card, but the benefits in my mind outweigh the size disadvantage. I wish I had started shooting RAW earlier, but back then I was more concerned with the number of photos that I could take as opposed to the number of good photos that I produced. In a nutshell, RAW is the digital negative. “is a group of photographers and other interested people advocating the open documentation of digital camera RAW files.” From their website:

After Canon dropped support for their Canon D30 DSLR in their latest software release and Nikon removed features of their own RAW converter Nikon Capture, plus the encryption of features in Nikon’s D2x digital camera RAW format (NEF), some members of the mailing list D1scussion founded the OpenRAW mailing list to coordinate their efforts to motivate camera makers to openly document their individual RAW formats.

Of course, Adobe has DNG for an “open” RAW format. It remains to be seen if that will become the primary vessel for transmitting RAW data between digital cameras. While I’m sure that RAW image converters will support DNG, I’m currently skeptical that the big digital camera manufacturers (i.e. Canon and Nikon) will sign on initially.

5 thoughts on “OpenRAW and Digital Media

  1. Adam, interesting post and link. What do you think about Apple’s direction as far as hi-res image storage software, particularly iPhoto 5? I will most likely upgrade soon, but my main reason is the new book formats. Now with the integration of RAW with iPhoto…seems like a good combination.

  2. iPhoto5 is wayyyyy tooo slow for my workflow, got no time to wait. Plus, i dont have a top of the line G5 at home.

  3. iPhoto 5 is getting there, but it’s still too much of a consumer tool at the moment. For cataloging photos, I use iView Media Pro.

  4. Hi Adam

    Thanks for mentioning the OpenRAW initiative
    on your website. I’m one of the photographers
    working to help make it happen, and all
    the meme-buzz we can get is good.

    I’m confident that once camera-makers understand
    the issues, and the money-making opportunities,
    the dominoes will fall, and they’ll doc their RAW

    After that happens, and converters appear that move
    image data ‘tween a superset format like DNG and
    the proprietary-but-documented formats, the final
    bit of evolution will happen, and camera makers will
    start to output the superset format in addition to
    their own.

    Anyways, thanks again for posting about this
    important subject. Our great great great great
    grandchildren will thank us as they chortle over
    images of our lives and times.

    — stan

  5. Open RAW and Image Management

    Adam Talks about over at his site. I think this is an absolutely necessary thing to take place. However, I don’t think it’s just about getting the camera guys to document their formats. I think it’s also about getting…

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