Photoshop Blog

September 13, 2016 /Other news /Product News /

Adobe DNG Leads the Way for High-Quality Photos on Smartphones and Tablets

Today marks an important day for photographers and photo enthusiasts. With the release of Apple’s iOS 10, the Lightroom for mobile app has been updated to support the capture of Adobe raw DNG on iOS devices. Now anyone who wants to have the highest quality photographs and the greatest level of editing flexibility can use their iPhone or iPad to capture photos in the Adobe raw DNG file format.

Many of you know Thomas Knoll as the man behind Photoshop, but he’s also the architect responsible for the creation of the Adobe DNG file format. Now that Adobe DNG is integrated into iOS and Android and is the default raw format for high-quality mobile photography, we’ve asked Thomas to discuss the history and benefits of DNG in his own words.

With that, I’ll hand it off to Thomas.

Twelve years ago, I created the Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) file format while I was working on the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) plug-in for Photoshop. I was spending a lot of time making sure that ACR could accept a variety of raw photo formats—I had to code for each camera’s specifications because they all used their own proprietary raw file format. And every time one manufacturer updated its file format, I had to do more coding. While this was a problem I faced every day, I also knew it was a problem that customers were facing on a regular basis with their own photography workflows.

I felt like there was a better way.

The big breakthrough came when I realized the metadata wasn’t all that different from camera to camera. This realization allowed me to create a file format that could read the metadata without needing specific knowledge about the camera. With that, the Adobe DNG raw photo format was born.

The Benefits of Raw

Photographs captured and stored in a raw file format are great for anyone who values quality and control over their photos. It gives higher image quality and more headroom to edit. When you take a photo you need to think about a lot of different variables—settings for exposure, white balance, noise reduction, and sharpening. The beauty of using raw is that you have the ability to revisit all of those settings after the shot has been captured to a degree that isn’t possible with other file formats. In contrast, once you take a photo using the JPEG file format, certain aspects like white balance, sharpening, and noise reduction cannot be edited—they are set forever. This drastically limits how much you can edit the photo when compared with what you can accomplish with raw files.

Mobile photography adds an additional challenge since the camera sensor is smaller than in a traditional DSLR camera, and editing after the fact plays a much bigger role. The benefits of raw, therefore, become even more pronounced when a photo is captured using a mobile device.

In the end, using raw and Adobe Lightroom allows you to create extremely high quality images whether or not you used the perfect settings when you initially took the shot.

The Value of DNG

In a perfect world, people would be able to shoot raw without the frustrations associated with having an array of raw file formats. With proprietary raw file formats, you need to wait until the software that matches your camera and file formats is released. Then, if that software needs a patch or an update, you have to wait for those releases. Multiply this times the number of cameras you own and it can quickly become an enormous headache.

As a photography enthusiast myself, I can attest to how frustrating it is to not be able to edit files because the software you are using can’t open those files. I also used to worry about my ability to open and edit these files in the future.

Since it is an open-source standardized raw format, DNG solves all these problems and that is why it is so important and valuable. That is even truer today with the release of iOS 10.

Becoming the Industry Standard on Mobile Devices

Apple’s new iOS 10 release moves us one step closer to this perfect world. Adobe DNG is the standard file format for raw photographs on iOS 10 and Google’s Android OS. With the two dominant mobile operating systems in the world utilizing Adobe DNG as their standard, raw photography is becoming more accessible for more photographers. This is wonderful news if you care about the quality of your images.

After a 12-year journey, the adoption by Apple and Google of Adobe DNG as their default raw photo format validates our vision of a need for a universal, open-source format. To work with Adobe DNG photos and take your photography results to the next level, be sure to download Adobe Lightroom for mobile. You’ll be able to immediately capture, edit and share your raw photos directly from your mobile device.

– Thomas Knoll

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Join the discussion

  • By Adam - 6:35 PM on September 13, 2016  

    Really excited about this update. I’ve shot RAW and converted to DNG for years. Having it on my mobile devices is a dream come true. But what about the bit depth? Is it still an 8-bit file?

    • By Stephen - 4:15 PM on November 17, 2016  

      I was wondering the same thing myself.

  • By Mickey Anderson - 7:55 PM on September 13, 2016  

    Shooting in RAW is a must for great photography.

  • By Lanny Ziering - 1:31 AM on September 14, 2016  

    After downloading iOS 10 I tried it but I am totally confused by the workflow. I have no idea how to get a DNG file into LR on my MacBook. Help!

  • By Mirela - 10:53 AM on September 15, 2016  

    So excited about improvements! Waiting to give it a try!

  • By Chris Ogden - 11:04 AM on September 15, 2016  

    Wonderful news indeed!

    Are the actual files written via Apple API and thus same quality (all else equal)? Or do various camera apps have different file contents (eg, the LR Mobile, ProCam, Manual (not yet updated: 645, Camera+))?

    Do you have sense for best default LR develop settings for iPhone DNGs on import (eg, sharpening)?

    re:LR Mobile: using LR as a camera can be a Pain. They make it very hard to get at the DNGs quickly (requiring LR Mobile synching, not allowing bulk deletes except wiping all data, etc.) Since they don’t store on the camera roll, can’t quickly grab via USB cable (esp. when remote location and no WiFi, let alone high speed cloud access). LR doesn’t even allow exporting the DNG to the Camera Roll (it converts to JPG). Ugh.

    Also, I’m getting strange optical barrel distortion between JPG and DNG when load into LR.

    Moreover, LR’s camera functions are very limited compared to 3rd party camera apps which have been on the market for ages. It’s really simple/clunky (no volume button shutter, no manual focus, no separate focus/exposure points, etc.).

    I guess, if one’s goal is to shoot and edit DNGs on an iPhone/iPad using LR’s camera saves a step. But otherwise, I’m not seeing the attraction (and this coming from a full-time pro photographer with 326,271 images in my main LR Catalog).

    Have you noticed that the DNGs limit LR edit functionalities:
    * LR iPhone DNGs don’t allow applying proper LR Lens Profiles – the “Make” dropdown completely skips “Apple” (regardless of which photo app I use: Lightroom Mobile, ProCam, Manual, etc.)

    * Similarly, Lightroom doesn’t allow choosing a Camera Calibration Profile for iPhone DNGs (only “Embedded”).

    Lastly, it is nice that LR Mobile embeds the name of their camera app into DNG IPTC data (as “Source Software,” overwriting the iOS verwion). Otherwise, it’s hard to tell apart the various (virtual) cameras now.

  • By CRW - 2:35 PM on September 16, 2016  

    This is great news. Hope Adobe could put some pressure on Google to fix Android’s incorrect DNG timestamp bug:

    The issue’s been around for over a year and a half now, but Google seems to be unwilling to fix it.

  • By Omer k - 8:26 AM on September 18, 2016  

    That’s amazing thanks for the update. Any word on 5Dmarkiv raw support update?

  • By Elit Apart - 12:21 AM on September 19, 2016  

    Thank you Tom Hogarty. This is benefit blog.

  • By NancyP - 5:05 PM on September 19, 2016  

    What’s the difference between “Adobe DNG” and plain old “DNG”?

  • By Odbitka - 5:55 AM on September 24, 2016  

    Wow, great news and amazing tool, thank you

  • By Viswambarareddy - 9:16 PM on October 17, 2016  

    I m using android os based mobile- Asus zenfone 2.5 laser with 13 megapixel camera but when I’m capturing photo through light room mobile i didn’t get DNG raw file format option can plz explain what is the problem
    suggest which android device supports Adobe DNG raw file support

  • By sing my song tap 3 - 10:23 PM on December 3, 2016  

    Thank you