Just saw Tom Hogarty speak at the San Francisco Photoshop User Group. Mostly he was talking about Lightroom (he is the LR product manager), but he also discussed the benefits of converting your RAW files to Adobe’s DNG File Format. He made a pretty compelling argument. If not a somewhat boring one. File formats are just not sexy and exciting no matter how you spin it. :-)
The main benefit of DNG is that it’s an open format in the sense that the specification is publicly available. So even if Adobe were to fail, it’d still be possible for other software developers to read the format. With so many RAW file formats out there (every camera has a slightly different file format), the possibility that the RAW files won’t be accessible sometime in the future is very possible. Still, such a problem is a ways off. So what are the immediate benefits?
The big immediate benefit is that the thumbnail and metadata is built into the format. No more sidecar files that are easy to lose or not copy over when moving your photos around. This benefit alone was enough to convert me to DNG. While I don’t care about the thumbnail files, I’ve definitely had to redo my RAW settings due to not copying over an .xmp file. Stupid mistake, sure, but something that should be avoidable in the first place by a well thought out file format.
The DNG files are also smaller by about 25-33%. So that makes them easier to backup and transport around. The reason for this, as explained by Tom, is that when you’re shooting the camera is just concerned about getting the images on your card. So the compression is fast, but not as robust as it could be. When you’re creating the DNG file on your regular computer, time isn’t such an issue so a better but slightly slower compression algorithm can be used. All the data is the same.
So I’m a fan and I recommend you take a look at it. It really does seem to solve some very real problems.