How to convert raw formats to DNG

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Adobe DNG Converter 8.3 running through wine-1.7.12 in a 64-bit Gentoo.

Digital photography cameras can most often save your images in the JPEG format, as well as dump the raw values from each of the millions of photosites which make up a sensor and store them, along with some metadata, in a proprietary format. Some cameras also let you choose DNG (Digital Negative) as the raw format, which is a free and lossless format developed by Adobe. Unlike JPEG images, which are already "developed", these raw files (both proprietary and DNG) contain raw data (ergo the name "raw file" - do not capitalize it, it is not an acronym!) which must first be processed before an image is obtained.

There are numerous benefits in converting your raw files to the DNG format:

  1. It has universal (or should I say "earthly"?) support. You may be able to use your DNG images in programs which do not have support for your non-DNG raw format.
  2. It is not a dead format - it is constantly maintained.
  3. Adobe's DNG Converter includes color matrices and white levels in the converted DNG files - these are usually not present in non-DNG files, and Adobe's ones are often more accurate than those from dcraw. This leads to more accurate color and lowers the chance of color casts in clipped areas.
  4. DNG files are often smaller than your original raw files due to better lossless compression.
  5. Even if your camera supports shooting straight to DNG, your camera's implementation of DNG is likely outdated. In some cases it may be warranted to re-convert your old DNGs to a newer DNG specification using the newest version of Adobe's DNG Converter. Possible reasons could be that the newer color matrices might be more accurate, lossless compression might be improved, improved support for defective pixel marking, inclusion of new opcodes, injection of new useful metadata tags, etc.

If you do convert your raw files to DNG, you should always first test your DNG files to make sure everything in your workflow still functions correctly before deleting the source files. Having said that, issues with DNG are very rare, unlike the FUD surrounding it which is in no hurry of dying down.

Adobe's DNG Converter is not the only program that converts raw files to DNG. There is, for example, the kipi-plugins DNG Image Converter which uses LibRaw and libkdcraw, however it is unknown what matrices this converter uses or where it gets them from, therefore it is safer if you stick to using the official Adobe DNG Converter.

Get the latest version of Adobe DNG Converter here:

  1. Adobe DNG Converter for Windows (get this if you're using Linux)
  2. Adobe DNG Converter for Mac OS X

Run it and you're done.

Unsupported sensors

Adobe DNG Converter 8.3.0 set up to convert raw files with unsupported CFA and sensor layouts to demosaiced DNG files. Do not use these settings for raw files natively supported by RawTherapee!

Some cameras have sensors with color filter array layouts and sensor pixel layouts unsupported by RawTherapee. Though you cannot directly process these files in RawTherapee, you can convert them to a supported demosaiced format using the Adobe DNG Converter. To do so, you need to use the following settings:

  • "Custom" compatibility mode using "DNG 1.4"
  • "Linear (demosaiced)" must be ticked.

The resulting DNG files may end up being larger than the input files - as an example, an input RAF file resulted in a DNG file 142% the size.

These demosaiced DNG files can now be used in RawTherapee (or any other DNG-supporting program), though as they are already demosaiced the tools in the "Raw" tab will be disabled.

Note that RawTherapee supports Fujifilm's X-Trans sensor type camera models such as the X100S and X-Pro1 from version 4.2 onwards. Loading these files in versions older than 4.2 will likely lead to a crash and requires that you convert them to linear DNG as described above.


Linux

Adobe DNG Converter is not designed for Linux, but it runs perfectly fine through wine. Follow these steps:

  1. Install wine (preferably using your package manager)
  2. Download Adobe DNG Converter for Windows
  3. Install Adobe DNG Converter:
    WINEPREFIX="$HOME/wine-dng" wine /path/to/DNGConverter_version.exe
    It will install to "$HOME/wine-dng/drive_c/Program Files (x86)/Adobe/Adobe DNG Converter.exe"
  4. Run Adobe DNG Converter:
    WINEPREFIX="$HOME/wine-dng" wine "$HOME/wine-dng/drive_c/Program Files (x86)/Adobe/Adobe DNG Converter.exe"
    To make using it easier so you don't have to type all of this, make a shortcut to it:
    echo "alias dng='WINEPREFIX=\$HOME/wine-dng wine \"\$HOME/wine-dng/drive_c/Program Files (x86)/Adobe/Adobe DNG Converter.exe\"'" >> ~/.bashrc
    Now just restart your console and the shortcut works, so type "dng" and it starts. Magic!

You are done.


For your information - wine prefix

When you run wine it will create a basic Windows system by default in $HOME/.wine. That is called a "wine prefix". While it's fine to leave it like that, you can run each Windows program in its own wine prefix, so that you can easily and cleanly remove all traces of one program without affecting the others. For example you might keep Adobe DNG Converter in its own wine prefix in $HOME/wine-dng and decide to try out some proprietary Windows HDR program. You might find out that you don't like this program, or that the trial period has expired, or that it simply doesn't work. Uninstalling it, if the uninstaller even works, is known to leave things behind. If, on the other hand, you installed this program to its own wine prefix, say $HOME/wine-hdr, you could simply delete that folder and that program would be gone without a trace, without affecting Adobe DNG Converter. Creating a new wine prefix is very simple. All you have to do is to put WINEPREFIX=$HOME/some-folder before the "wine" command. If that folder does not exist, wine will create it for you. It is recommended that you do not use hidden folders (ones with a period before the name, like $HOME/.wine) for Windows programs, as some of them will not display them. The above steps use a non-hidden custom wine prefix.