Why I stopped using the DNG image file format ...


"What is critical to note about Capture One is that it doesn’t ignore the camera metadata. It doesn’t set all images to a default state. In fact, this is what I think is in Capture One’s secret sauce. Instead of assuming all raw files are the same, and even offering to convert your raw files to its own format on input, Capture One uses that data as the fundamental building block upon which the rest of its raw processing is built.

"By having integrated countless camera brands, makes and models, Capture One knows how each one of those camera models is built and how each model’s specific sensor interpolates the light hitting its surface and how the camera stores that data in its raw file. Sony makes a majority of the world’s camera sensors (including all Nikon sensors), but the sensors in the Sony A7s and Nikon D810 are vastly different. As are the sensors in the Fuji X100T, the Phase One IQ3 backs, Mamiya Credo 60, Canon 60D, etc.

"While the images these cameras produce under the same conditions may not be that noticeable to the human eye, they are incredibly different to a computer program that knows how to read and interpret that raw data. This is why I believe the computer is the defining tool in the photographic process. We can now take the captured data and do extraordinary things with it, but how extraordinary is, as I’ve stated, dependent on the tools we use.

"If you take the same raw files (not DNG files!) and open them in both Lightroom and Capture One, side by side, without doing anything to the files, you will notice immediately — IMMEDIATELY — that Capture One does a much better job of accurately rendering the image. The colours are better. The exposure is better. Everything is just better.


"The DNG file format is, by design, meant to create a universal standard for raw image files, or digital negatives. When raw files from your camera are converted to DNG, they are converted to a universal standard through a process that Adobe has developed to best interpret the data in your CR2 (or NEF, etc.) files. The problem is, it just doesn’t do anywhere near as good a job as Capture One."

A little bit geeky for most, but for serious professional photographers, this bit of observation is fascinating stuff. There was a time I considered converting some of my RAW image files to Adobe's DNG standard, but somehow I didn't get around to doing it. Reading this now makes me glad I didn't. And yes, of course, this makes me want to try Capture One. In a sense, this is what Apple's defunct Aperture should have been or could have become.

Learn more, here.

UPDATE: You can download the 30-day free trial of Phase One's Capture One Pro, here.