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Image Preservation Through Open Documentation 193

Posted by Hemos
from the the-right-step-to-take dept.
OpenRAW Group writes "The OpenRAW Working Group launched a website today at http://www.OpenRAW.org designed to solve issues crucial to the future of photography. Digital technology is revolutionizing the photography industry, and an emerging part of that technology is the set of RAW camera file formats. Most professional photographers prefer using RAW image capture because it offers the highest quality and the greatest creative control. The grass roots OpenRAW group arose out of photographers' frustration with camera manufacturers' refusal to openly document their proprietary RAW file formats. That lack of file format information inhibits innovation, limits image processing choices, and endangers the long-term accessibility of millions of photographs. The goal of the new website is to obtain complete documentation by manufacturers of their RAW file formats."
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Image Preservation Through Open Documentation

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  • by LegendOfLink (574790) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:36PM (#12338482) Homepage
    ...a camera that will etch the image into a chunk of granite!

    Let's see somebody try to encrypt stone, baby!

    *off to the USPTO
  • by Hulkster (722642) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:37PM (#12338486) Homepage
    For those interested in the recent related Slashdot stories that are very relevent to OpenRAW's efforts, there was discussions last week [slashdot.org] and also this weekend [slashdot.org] about Nikon encrypting the white balance information. Michael Reichmann asks a rhetorical (IMHO) question of Do You Really Own Your Own Raw Files. [photoshopnews.com]

    Enjoy my fun little christmas hoax [komar.org] - help me do it for real in 2005! ;-) [komar.org]

  • What about ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by foobsr (693224) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:38PM (#12338498) Homepage Journal
    ...taking the position that manufacturers deprive photographers of the proper future use of their IP if the format is not open? IANAL etc ...

    CC.
  • Adobe DNG (Score:5, Informative)

    by shirai (42309) * on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:38PM (#12338509) Homepage
    I know the story is about getting manufacturers to open up their RAW formats but I think the preferred goal is to have camera manufacturers standardize on ONE format.

    Note that Adobe has already developed an open raw format called DNG (Digital Negative). They have a good track record with open formats with PDF files. You may or may not like them, but you they certainly can be generated by non-Adobe products and as far as I'm aware, nobody pays any license fee for that.

    Another plus for DNG is that Adobe has a free DNG converter which will convert RAW files from many popular cameras to the DNG format.

    You can find more info here about DNG [adobe.com].

    Note that Photoshop (the most common photo processor) supports RAW formats for over 80 cameras. You can See a complete list here [adobe.com]
    • Re:Adobe DNG (Score:2, Insightful)

      by myc_lykaon (645662)
      but I think the preferred goal is to have camera manufacturers standardize on ONE format.

      How can camera manufacturers standardise on one raw format, unless they all agree to use exactly the same technology to capture the image in the first place? I thought the idea of raw was that it's what is pulled off the CCD (or whatever other technology is there) with no preprocessing? Unless all manufacturers agree to have a set of given 'constants' in camera manufacture it ain't gonna work.

      • I would expect that a company like Adobe that currently supports over 80 RAW formats would have thought of that and built it into the file format. Plus the DNG page states that the format is extendable to allow it to contain camera specific meta-data.
      • You are perhaps confusing a standard method of encoding with a standard method of getting the best photo out of a RAW file. Certainly most cameras can encode a RAW file in the same format but each would require a different set of decoding curves to get the best picture out of it. But that is where great tools and a community willing to share processing files can be a great benefit.

        With few exceptions, all digital cameras use the same type of CCD where the pixels are read in an RGBG square (red green blue g
    • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:58PM (#12338729)
      Standardized RAW files don't make sense precisely because they are "raw".

      Each camera, particularly as technologies progress, has its own peculiar nuances regarding how the image is captured. It's up to the manufacturer to decide the appropriate way to store that data in a "raw" format. Complying with a standard for unprocessed data will add unnecessary bulk and/or change data values (wrecking the point of "raw" image files).

      I don't want a standard RAW format; I want the camera to give its data unmodified. If I need a camera-specific driver to interpret that data into a useable form, fine. If I want the camera to produce standardized formats, pick TIFF or JPG or such from it's menu. There is a place for standards; unprocessed data is not it. I want the unprocessed data unprocessed.
      • I answered this in a separate post but don't confuse a standardized format with a format that cannot adjust to the capture parameters of a camera.

        For example, DTS (for home) is a digital encoding system for sound but it is very flexible. You can specify the bit depth, the encoding rate, the number of channels and the amount of compression. In other words, you can encode anything from AM radio to 6.1 (and higher I think) all in the same format.

        In the same way, a RAW format could easily support multiple bit
      • It would be pretty straightforward to standardize on a single format. You just have to have a header that explains how the data is encoded:

        manufacturer
        camera model
        bits per sensor
        colour sensor order
        number of layers (foveon, fuji's highlight sensor,etc)
        camera settings (iso, WB, etc.)

        It should be doable.

      • "I don't want a standard RAW format; I want the camera to give its data unmodified."

        That is essentially what you get with DNG [adobe.com], which is an extension of the TIFF 6.0 spec, to allow for the most common camera features and an extension mechanism (TIFF provides one, so there's nothing new here) for camera-specific data. Cameras can choose how to handle masked pixels, byte order, and a host of other parameters without having to craft their own metadata, and thus the vast majority of images will be readable by e
      • Have a look at XML. Standardised file and yet really easy to add new information, no?

        Designing a file format so that every application can extract at least the basic information is pretty easy. It isn't even that hard to organise the extensions in a nice heirachy so that certain applications support some more sophisticated features without having to support the entire spec.
    • The DNG specification may be patented [adobe.com]. Adobe grant a license to those wishing to implement DNG-compliant code, though the license (in particular, the revocation clause) may be GPL-incompatible. (Disclaimer: IANAL)
    • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Monday April 25, 2005 @02:42PM (#12339195)
      If you read the DNG spec carefully, you'll note that some camera data is normalized into plain old RGB values - still logarithmically arranged to keep the most of the sensor data, but still not the exact RAW data obtained from the sensors.

      This is because the DNG file format can essentially hold two kinds of sensor data - Bayer grids, and RGB values as mentioned before. If you start to do anything different (like the diagonal arrays of the Fuji cameras or stacked sensors of the Foveon chip, the format just has no way to hold the "real" RAW data and has to transcode it.

      For that reason I think the OpenRAW group is a much better idea, because as sensors evolve open specs are the only way to get real raw processors built. DNG is just not enough to handle a space that is still evolving very quickly.
  • by disposable60 (735022) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:41PM (#12338539) Journal
    These camera makers obviously don't want professional photographers buying their equipment. If I (hobbyist) can't use the Industry Standard photomanipulation package (PhotoShop; my own money, too) with my prosumer camera's highest-quality-mode's files, I ain't buying the camera.

    Pinhead control freak MBAs have ruined everything.
    • You CAN use Nikon digital images with Photoshop, you just have to run Nikon's software first to convert the images into a form that Photoshop can read (possibly losing information in the process.) Obviously Adobe would prefer to read these images directly. Couldn't Nikon make a plugin for Photoshop that would handle reading their RAW format, thus making it possible to use Photoshop easily without giving away their proprietary format?
    • Professionals won't go home they will just buy a more expensive camera. Which might be exactly what the "pinhead MBAs" want.

      A lot of times when you pay for a device that has more features, what really costs extra is to disable those features on the cheaper version.

      That is why competition is so important, because a company will always try to upsell you on one of their other products, even if that means that they intentionally create lower quality versions of a product which don't actually cost any less
      • " Professionals won't go home they will just buy a more expensive camera. "
        It is unlikely that anyone will go home. If you have spent a pile of money on Nikon lenses you will most likely live with what ever Nikon gives you as a raw format.
        As long as you can get the photoshop plug in most users will not care a whole lot.
  • OpenRAW? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:41PM (#12338545)
    Somehow I'm feeling a little uneasy about clicking on a link which points to www.openraw.org.
    • I did, and the stupid filtering policies in our company's proxy wouldn't let me enter a "nudity" site.

      Oh, well... it's not the best name for the domain, is it?
  • Most professional photographers prefer using RAW image capture because it offers the highest quality and the greatest creative control.

    I won't argue the second point, that there is more creative control on a computer, be it a jpeg or anything. To do minor editing in a film lab takes great skill, anyone can edit with photoshop.

    But what about quality? Will digital ever come close to the quality film when blowing up an image to full page size or more? Will digital ever be as true as film, can an algorithm

    • >Will digital ever be as true as film, can an algorithm on a camera that converts colors and images to zero's and one's be as good as film which reacts naturally to the light?

      Not an expert, but analog pics ARE no diff from digital - it's just that they come at a very high resolution (20mpix IIRC, so we're about half-way there).
      20 years ago we had the same discussion of CD vs. LP - sampling, interpolation and all that crap.
      To "image nazis" it'll never be the same, to most folks who don't print it already
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:54PM (#12338689)
      Good digital cameras already exceed teh resolution of 35mm film. You can blow their images up to 8x10 or larger and they look flawless.

      Well digital ever look the SAME as film? No, probably not. They deal with light in different ways. However that doesn't mean film is better, just different.
    • The problem is not with the digital algorithms, the problem is with the resolution an color accuracy of the CCD capturing the image. I beleive you can create digital images with the same resolution as film, but then each of those images takes over 200MBytes of disk space to store... meaning for now you're still better off using film if your intention is to blow up just a small portion of the picture.
      My rough estimates say that humans can't perceive a resolution greater than about 16 million pixels anyway --
    • Much of what we finally see as images (be it in movies or magazines or billboards, etc.) already goes through a digital processing step, anyway. It doesn't really matter that it was captured in analog and printed out in analog because it went through a digital step (for photomanipulation, color balance, special effects, whatever). By acquiring directly in a digital format, we can lower the quality losses inherent in the analog-to-digital conversion.

      In terms of resolution, I see no reason why a digital came
    • This is the same argument that goes on in every other area where there are digital and analog ways of storing data.

      Just remember -- you don't see the same colours with your eyes that I see with mine; even the colour skew will be slightly different.

      As for quality of enlarged photographs, digital images have pixel halos, but these can be compensated for with digital algorithms; with a digital camera, *every* aspect of what has been recorded is a fixed known value.

      With Film-based photographs, there are many uncontrollable variables that go into the recording process; not all films are identical, film is not 100% even across its surface, and most importantly, film is not your retina. When enlarging images recorded on film, there will be a grain effect caused by lack of information in the film. To combat this grain effect, many people *digitally scan* the film and use a computer algorithm to reconstruct the lost pieces. Sound familiar?

      The main thing is that film and digital imaging are *both* lossy, and store different bits of visually captured information. Both can be of exceptionally high quality (much higher than the human eye can detect), but both have different limitations on what data actually gets recorded. Film has been around long enough that we accept it, with all its flaws, as "standard". Eventually, this spot will probably fall to digital imaging/storage, as a new generation of people who aren't used to seeing film-based images grow up.

    • Will an analog camera ever give me instant feedback on what I just shot? I think not. (Polaroids aside.)

      I mainly shoot analog, simply because I do not yet own a digital camera. I can't wait do buy one though, simply because of the great learning effect instant feedback can provide. Certainly there are some things that digital will never be able to do (cross-processing and other lab tricks come to mind), although with Photoshop you can emulate a lot. And I'll definately won't stop shooting film, becaus
      • I can't wait do buy one though, simply because of the great learning effect instant feedback can provide.

        I have a friend who is a photographer and refuses to use digital (he's also a programmer so it's not because of some fear of modern electronics). His claim is that with regular film you have to learn how to take a picture and get it right the first time, whereas with digital you get instant feedback and can therefore afford to be sloppy.

        He laughs about the behavior of digital photographers which h
        • You can learn a lot by instant feedback. I never really learned advanced lighting techniques until I got a digital SLR a few years back. The lag time to have the slides developed was too long and expensive to make experamentation worthwhile for me (lazy and an abysmal note-taker).

          That being said, I still shoot a **lot** of film. I personally prefer the results I get with 35mm over digital. I sometimes chimp with my D2H before shooting the same scene with my F100 or FM2.

          No format is better than the other i
        • His claim is that with regular film you have to learn how to take a picture and get it right the first time, whereas with digital you get instant feedback and can therefore afford to be sloppy.

          You can learn the same thing with digital with less costs (no more rolls to develop) and less time (instant feedback on experimentation).

          How can I learn to use the lighting for example of a particular moment or catch a special mood when by the time I get my results the moment is gone? With digital I can try and t
    • But what about quality? Will digital ever come close to the quality film when blowing up an image to full page size or more? Will digital ever be as true as film, can an algorithm on a camera that converts colors and images to zero's and one's be as good as film which reacts naturally to the light?

      Uhh, Yes. Most professional photographers shoot digital now. Photojournalism, sports, wedding, editorial, even the commercial studio guys. Full page size? You mean a single page or a double truck at 11x17?

    • Decent digital cameras already have the same visual resolution as film cameras, and in many cases, their color fidelity, saturation, hue, tone, and dynamic range are better than all but the most expensive film and development processes.

      Now, as for blowing up a picture to "full page" or more, any 6-8Mpx DSLR camera will generate magazine-quality images at 8x10, assuming you've got a decent photographer who is reasonably adept at working his/her camera.

      And what about quality? Will film ever be as versitile
    • Digital can be at the same quality level as film.
      Look at the images from a high end digital SLR.

      Consumer digital cameras aren't a fair comparison, most of them have smaller lens and sensor sizes making it impossible to have the same quality image.
    • Will digital ever be as true as film, can an algorithm on a camera that converts colors and images to zero's and one's be as good as film which reacts naturally to the light?

      Yes. Analog is just digital with a poor resolution. The grainy photos are grainy because of the chemical limits of analog photos. The minimum resolution (and there is a minimum resolution) is the "grain." Sure, it isn't the same every time, and it can be changed and corrected for to some degree, but there are already pictures out
    • "Will digital ever come close to the quality film when blowing up an image to full page size or more?"

      Certainly, unless you mean affordably. It's coming close as it is, at least resolution wise. Dynamic range is another story.

      "Will digital ever be as true as film, can an algorithm on a camera that converts colors and images to zero's and one's be as good as film which reacts naturally to the light?"

      Different film gives different results in exactly the same environment. Take a Kodak film against a Fuji fi
    • It will be a looongg time before a digital CCD can match the quality of a drum-scanned 4x5" piece of film. Even with a cheap $300 flatbed scanner at 2400 DPI, you get a 135 megapixel image with stunning quality.

      Has digital surpassed 35mm film? Sure except in rare circumstances where Velvia still retains more detail.
    • But what about quality? Will digital ever come close to the quality film when blowing up an image to full page size or more?

      I'm not an expert, but I used to support high end digital film scanners, aka DataCines (film as in movies, btw).

      The particular one I worked on came in 2k and, recently released, 4k varieties. 2k means 2k horizontal lines of resolution, and the resulting image of each frame is 2000x3000 pixels, 4k is 4000x6000. With the release of the 2k scanner there were some complaints of some str
  • by chill (34294) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:43PM (#12338571) Journal
    ...was the domain "nikonsucks.com" already taken?
  • by cpuh0g (839926) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:48PM (#12338625)

    Good article here [kenrockwell.com] on why RAW is really unnecessary for almost all photographers, no matter how "advanced" you think you are.

    • much of his criticism is based on the fact that current cameras use proprietary RAW formats. Open RAW eliminates that.
      Granted a large percentage of photographers will never need RAW, but there are plenty that would prefer processing the image themselves and not have worry if they will be locked out of their collection next adobe upgrade or whatever.
    • by Hays (409837) on Monday April 25, 2005 @02:12PM (#12338865)
      That guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Well, most of what he says isn't factually wrong, it's just very misleading. He makes it sound like it's a bad thing to process your RAW files later instead of having your camera apply some half-baked conversion on the fly. It's like arguing that film camera's are crap because polaroids can do the conversion for you on the fly.

      Shooting in RAW is very powerful.
    • Ken Rockwell is very opinionated - and not always right. This is one such case.

      For a very casual user, sure, JPG is fine. But if you are starting to talk about larger prints or crops then it only makes sense to use the most computing power possible to make your JPG look as good as it can. Cameras can only have so much computer power in them and so the results from them are not always as good as what a real computer can give you.

      Furthermore, using JPG only is a little like keeping only the nicest print
    • Here [luminous-landscape.com] is a more balanced view. There are pros and cons to both methods but the bottom line is that if you shoot anything other than RAW, you're losing information. Many people wouldn't care about that but that's not really the point. A RAW file is like a negative. It can be reprocessed down the road with different parameters. Once it's been converted to a jpeg, all you can do is work with the information you have.

      cheers,

      Kris
  • Double Edged Sword (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:55PM (#12338699) Journal
    I generally applaud anything to do with opening up data standards. I have heard that several camera manufacturers include things like focal distance and exposure time, etc. to their image formats. Perhaps this is the norm, I'm not really into the specifics of digital photography. We now live in an age where it is trivial to retouch photographs for propaganda or to tamper with evidence. With adequately safeguarded setting info it becomes much harder for digital forgers to do their work. If you can easily get to all that data you can easily alter it.

    Granted those with enough motivation, time, or money can circumvent any protections against forgery, but in trying to open up the standard it should be done in such a way to make it an nonreversible process, such that you can manipulate the images, but not be able to push them back into the original format.

    I predict that at sometime in the future Digital Camera manufacturers may taught their cameras has having "evidence quality" data integrity. Perhaps some already do.

    Granted this evidence integrity argument almost certainly has nothing to do with why most manufactures might choose to close up their data formats.

    • Most of the major manufacturers of DSLRs already provide addons to make them usable for law enforcement (by signing each image when it's taken).
    • I predict that at sometime in the future Digital Camera manufacturers may taught their cameras has having "evidence quality" data integrity.

      It's a non-issue. Law enforcement agencies don't care, and neither do the courts*. It's simple enough to tell if a picture has been modified, regardless of whether it's digital or film, as long as you know what you're looking for.

      * My wife and brother-in-law are cops in California. YMMV.

    • We now live in an age where it is trivial to retouch photographs for propaganda or to tamper with evidence.

      I'm tired of hearing this same thing over and over again. Yes, any idiot can modify a picture in some small way that will fool a casual observer, but it's not going to fool experts. The same visual clues that allowed them to verify a picture on film was not forged, also allows them to verify a digital picture was not forged. If anything, the digital format of pictures just adds more info that they

  • * Host a project in a country without DMCA-like rules.
    * Create a utility that understands all of the RAW formats out there and translates them losslessly into a new "OpenRAW" format.
    * Distribute freely

    The utility would be able to interface with Photoshop and a bunch of other software so that it could be easily installed and used. The OpenRAW format should be clearly documented so that camera makers could have the option of adopting the format in their latest firmware update. :)
  • RAW (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    RAW IS WAR!

    Batista is a false champion!

  • ...other than their opinions, which are redundant, since that is already known. In other words, what do they give back? Software? Money? Sponsoring open standards developers? Surely this isn't just a bitch site. That would go against the spirit of "open."
  • by Valleye (858254) on Monday April 25, 2005 @02:28PM (#12339042)
    Access to this web page is restricted at this time.

    Reason:
    The Websense category "Nudity" is filtered.

    URL:
    http://www.openraw.org/comments/?id=47

  • I think we can rely on individual photographers to decide to save their images in a format of their own choosing. We rely on them to take the pictures in the first place, and to decide which images to keep and throw away.
  • You should always take your RAW images and post process to a different format as soon as convient (ie. same day in most cases). You keep the raw file but you also keep the image in a less flexible but standard format for posterity. You back up both images to hard drive, burn to CD/DVD, or whatever other strategy you use to keep pictures. Worst case if you can't decode the RAW in 10 years time, you'll still have a copy of the picture in some format.

    At the time you take the picture, if you don't have any way

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