Something I totally forgot to mention here is OpenRAW. Leave your wife, get rid of your kids, but don´t forget to sign up for OpenRAW if you care about the future of your digital image files. Remember: if you bought a Canon EOS D30 for a lot of bucks in the year 2000, you won´t be able to open your old files with the actual version of Canon´s professional DPP software 1.6.1.
OpenRAW is not a company, it´s a very fresh movement like OpenSource or the Wikipedia:
This site was created to give photographers and everybody interested in an open documentation of proprietary RAW formats a place to voice their opinion and to encourage camera makers to openly document their proprietary RAW formats.
In the short history of digital photography, manufacturers have released numerous cameras with constantly evolving RAW formats. This has lead to the existence of a vast number of RAW "dialects," even within each major brand, that store image and camera setting data in a different manner.
In some cases manufacturers have even encrypted the data within newer RAW files. Intentionally or not this encryption has placed full access to the images stored in these files out of reach of the photographers that took them. Unless, of course, they limit themselves to tools sold by the camera manufacturer.
To date, this vast number of RAW formats has been hidden by the transparent support offered in RAW converter software, provided by both the camera manufacturer and various third parties. At the time of writing, the open source dcraw converter currently supports no less than 163 formats. However, as manufacturers lose interest in their discontinued products, and drop support for them, the true impact of all of these "dialects" will be felt.
Photographers will find their older images inaccessible, as future software versions lose support for older cameras. In the worst cases, entire brands may disappear, as has already happened with Contax.
Shortly, these problems include:
- Limiting processing choices and creative freedom
- Reducing choices for software that matches workflow needs
- Increased probability that as time passes a RAW file will be unreadable or cannot be used to reproduce the photographer's original interpretation
- Increased costs and slowed development of image processing software
The OpenRAW solution wants camera manufacturers to publicly document their RAW image formats -- past, present, and future -- and the adoption of a universal RAW format.
On the recently launched website of OpenRAW, Michael Reichmann (of The Luminous Landscape) and Juergen Specht published an article called "The RAW Flaw" (May 2005) highlighting some of the existing problems and concerns.
Aimed at Longhorn, here is "OpenRAW's response to RAW support in next version of Microsoft Windows".
For those new to the techniques and problems OpenRAW has set up a very informative FAQ-resource.
Regarding Adobe´s new DNG format, the publicly available file format designed and documented by Adobe Systems for the long term archiving of the RAW files produced by digital cameras also promoted to camera manufacturers for use as an in camera RAW format (see also "Getty, Corbis, National Geographic, ASMP, ASPP... Everyone Loves Adobe´s New .DNG Format"), OpenRAW states:
Currently the Adobe DNG format does not meet the goal of OpenRAW. At this time (May 18th, 2005) no available cameras write DNG format files. To use DNG files, existing RAW formats need to be converted. Unfortunately, since most current RAW formats are not fully documented, the conversion from RAW to DNG is still based on reverse engineering of undocumented metadata (tags). Therefore it is possible to misinterpret or lose critical information. Billions of existing RAW images have already been archived. Only open documentation of past and existing RAW formats can ensure full utilization of these archived RAW files.
DNG also allows "private data" to be stored in the DNG file. This private data is only known to the camera company that wrote the private data. Third party software that reads and/or writes DNG files will ignore private data recorded by the camera. Only the software written by the camera maker will read the private data written to the DNG file by its camera. Some of this private data might be important or useful information needed by a RAW converter. Adobe's DNG format does not eliminate the problem of undocumented RAW files but transfers the problem into another "container", the DNG file. By allowing private (undocumented) data in the DNG file, DNG does not meet OpenRAW's goals.
PS. Personally I´ve stepped back to film. From the image processing lab, I get prints, an overview print, a CD with all the files and -- negatives/slides. The problem is that it has become hard to find a lab capable of processing B/W-films. But that´s another story.
Here´s a related and very good blog enry to some concerns of Joerg Colberg/Conscientious that created quite an upset for a lot of people: "Thoughts about digital photography". Later Joerg points to another post of Bruce Barnbaum, "Thoughts on digital photography".