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To stay with NEF or convert to DNG? #1
pondball's picture
by pondball
August 18, 2015 - 3:01pm

That is the question!

I’m about to start my DAM using LR6 and will be using both On1 Perfect Photo Suite and Affinty Photo as my final image editors. 

I’ve been reading (too much as usual) about converting my Nikon D700 NEF files to DNG upon import into LR6… but is this really a necessary step? Can I just leave them as NEFs and if I do will that affect how they are dealt with in both On1 PPS and AP?

I understand how DNG clumps the data with the photo itself as opposed to the saddlecar file that accompanies an NEF file, and that DNG is supposed to be the “universal” file format of the future (according to Adobe anyway)… but is there more hype involved with this. I don’t see Nikon going away any time soon, therefore I also don’t see NEF going away either!

If you don't have a solution you don't have a problem!

pondball's picture
by pondball
August 20, 2015 - 9:14pm

hmmm… thought this would have been one of my simpler questions!

I’ve assumed many of you are shooting in RAW format but would like to know, for those shooting Nikon, who leave their files in NEF and/or if they are converting to DNG in LR… and of course, if there are any issues with converting to DNG? Right now I’m leaning to leaving them all in native NEF format.

If you don't have a solution you don't have a problem!

Walter Rowe's picture
by Walter Rowe
August 23, 2015 - 12:59pm

I have tens of thousands of DNG files from years ago, but I leave all my current images in NEF format. Adobe seems to produce the same quality output whether DNG or NEF, but other products, Capture One for example, claim there is more information that helps them produce better output in the native NEF format. Capture One does produce a better quality image in my opinion, but I have not taken an NEF and converted a copy to DNG and looked at the output of both via Capture One to see for myself. That said I do trust their software developers if they say the NEF file allows them to produce a better baked image.

pondball's picture
by pondball
August 23, 2015 - 8:24pm

Thanks Walter… that helps narrow it down for me. The fact that you have used both formats and now retain the NEF format for external editing purposes makes sense to me. If I were just using LR and PS I suspect I might switch to DNG, but I’m only using one Adobe product, LR, with the others being non-adobe… Affinity Photo and On1 PPS. I’ve also heard that some contests disallow images that have been through any conversion process including NEF to DNG

If you don't have a solution you don't have a problem!

Bob Rockefeller's picture
by Bob Rockefeller
September 26, 2015 - 6:35pm

I’ve always stuck with the original RAW format for my files; NEF, in this case. Adobe doesn’t seem to get ALL the metadata transferred into the DNG.

For example, when I used Aperture, I could display the focus point selected with a NEF, but not with a DNG.

I’ve just never seen the supposed advantages of converting to the DNG format.

Bob Rockefeller
Midway, GA

Walter Rowe's picture
by Walter Rowe
September 26, 2015 - 7:59pm

Having moved from Adobe to Aperture and now moving in to Capture One, I think it is safe to say that sticking with the original camera native raw file is the right answer for me. If one were to select Adobe and never, ever leave it, then selecting DNG would be fine.

Over the last six months I evaluated Lightroom and Capture One as the destination for all of my images that I had previously moved into Aperture. My archives include over 30,000 DNG files. Lightroom is much more consistent in handling DNG and NEF files equally. Capture One is inconsistent with DNG files in that DNG files from some camera models produce stellar results in Capture One while DNG files from other camera models require significantly more effort to get right and simply don't compare to what Adobe can do with the same DNG files. Adobe seems to be able to produce the same output from DNG and NEF alike. Capture One not so much.

I have to hand it to PhaseOne who produces Capture One. They have listened to me and have looked at sample image files I have shared with them and they agree they can do a better job and are committed to improving their DNG file format support. Having shown them that Aperture handled DNG files just as well as it handled NEF files has convinced them they can do better. I look forward to future enhancements to Capture One for DNG raw file support.

The point of all this is to re-enforce my earlier statement that DNG support is very much NOT universal, and even image processing software that claims to support it may not support it as well as Adobe supports it. For that reason I feel that the camera native raw file is still the best file format to retain and process in all software. Maintaining the ITPC metadata in the sidecar XMP files is universal. Other aspects of metadata like ratings and labels is less consistent, partly because different tools offer different labels.

The most significant benefit to Adobe's DNG file format is that it contains all of the raw image data, all of the metadata you apply to the image, and optionally a copy of the original camera native raw file. It is a single container holding all of the information associated with an image so you don't risk losing metadata in sidecar XMP files. DNG would be enormously attractive if all software makers provided the quality of support that Adobe provides. That is not the case. Software makers invest in decoding camera native raw files and see little to no benefit in also investing in decoding DNG raw files. The one exception most make is for cameras that produce DNG as their native camera raw file format such as Pentax and Leica.

Stuart's picture
by Stuart
September 27, 2015 - 1:07am

Walter, you hit when you stated “very much NOT universal”. I had tried DNG for a while a couple of years ago. But started to run into problems with some software. If you stick with Adobe in most cases you are fine. But since switching from Canon (5DM3 and 7D) to Sony Mirrorless A7R then A7M2 and now added the A7RM2 I stick with Sony format (ARW). I am also starting to use Capture One Pro more now then Lightroom. Did use Aperture at one time. One item that keeps me from moving completely to C1 from Lightroom is the fact I can upload to Flickr, 500PX, and SmugMug very easy via plug-ins. However there are some work arounds with C1.  For me I just export the finished photo to Lightroom using the Recipe feature which works great. Then just use the plug-ins with Lightroom to upload. 

Another item I like about C1 is I have had a couple of issues and filed a report and had a response back ASAP. Each time the problem was resolved. I should also add that I spend a lot of time and still do watching their Webinars and viewing there training videos. Must admit the Webinars are well done. Usually they have a new one once a week. 


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