• Ed Dozier

Reasons Why You Would Actually Want To Use DNG Format

I’m a hardcore RAW format shooter. For Nikon, raw is spelled “NEF”. I never take jpeg photos in-camera, since it immediately puts you into a straitjacket and limits the possible future of your pictures.

Why in the world might I consider using DNG format instead of sticking with the Nikon NEF format? Let me try to explain this act of seeming lunacy.

First of all, what exactly is DNG? This is an Adobe invention, and it stands for “digital negative”. This was their attempt at defining a “generic” raw format they someday everybody would standardize on. That day never came; hardly anybody uses DNG.

What follows are some reasons that you might want to consider using DNG.

The DNG format doesn’t lose any quality; it holds the same image information that Canon, Nikon, Sony, et al. raw-format photographs hold.

My Nikon testing shows that the DNG format files are actually smaller than even my lossless-compressed NEF files. The difference isn’t huge, but often in the range of 8 to 10 percent. I don’t ever recommend deleting your original raw photos in favor of their DNG versions, but you might consider archiving the original raw photos to offline storage and just use the smaller DNG photos for editing.

You can use new cameras with old software. Since every camera model’s raw format is unique, it’s very common to have software that cannot recognize your new camera raw files. Most photo editors, however, do understand the DNG file format. Also, most photo editors let you update their DNG version to newer DNG versions as they become available. If your photo editor cannot use newer-version DNG files, then the DNG converter program actually lets you convert into an older version of DNG that you can use with your editor.

The DNG converter 14.4 is supposed to even support the new Nikon Z9 HE* raw format. This would then let you use the very small file size in your editors that at least understand newer DNG formats. I don’t (yet) have a Z9, so I can’t verify this claim. I have heard that Apple/Mac may still have trouble with this new version, but Windows 10 is fine.

Adobe Digital Negative Converter Program

The DNG format continues to be supported by Adobe. They still offer their “DNG Converter” program, and it’s free. Here’s a link to their Windows/MacOs converter program: https://helpx.adobe.com/camera-raw/using/adobe-dng-converter.html

The Adobe DNG converter program is very fast, and it lets you batch-convert the files as well. In this way, it takes very little labor or time to convert your shots.

For programs that only support specific older DNG formats, the DNG Converter program lets you convert your camera raw photos into a specific version. An example of this is Adobe Photoshop CS4, which can only use DNG files up to version 5.7.

Convert into a specific version of DNG for older programs

After installing the Adobe DNG converter, you can execute it in Windows by running it from the Programs list.

The most common way to use the DNG converter is to just click on the “Select Folder…” button that lets you tell it where your raw (e.g. .NEF, .CR2, etc.) files are. This button is located in the “Select the images to convert” section.

Next, click the “Select Folder…” in the “Select location to save converted images” section. This assumes you also select the “Save in New Location”; you can also combine the new DNG files in the same folder as your raw shots, if you wish.

If you need the DNG version number to be compatible with older programs, then click the “Change Preferences” button to pick another version.

Finally, just click the “Convert” button to start converting your camera’s raw files into the DNG format files. Your original raw files won’t get modified, to they’re safe.


Knowledge is power, and it’s better to know about what the DNG format can do for you than to remain ignorant about it. Adobe had a good idea, even if it never gained much traction.

If you, like me, want to keep using older photo editors such as the stand-alone versions of Photoshop or Lightroom, then DNG may be the only option in the future to keep using raw-format camera files.

Long live Raw.

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