“Digital Negative” app promises raw DNG from your iPhone UPDATED


posted Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 2:39 PM EDT


Part of the problem with using an iPhone for photography is how little direct control you have over the process. Now a new app called "Digital Negative" has popped up for the iPhone that's promising to give you the uncompressed raw data in the commonly used DNG file format. The question now is how much extra editing can this format handle, and is it actually raw in any meaningful way?

Digital Negative is a $2.99 download through the iOS App Store, and bills itself as the following:

Digital Negative is the first app that captures uncompressed images that retain all of the information recorded by the camera sensor. These Digital Negative (DNG) pictures are much like the negatives from a film camera, and the serious photographer can use standard raw editing programs or Digital Negative’s built-in raw editing tools to develop the photograph and display all of the features in the image.

This feature was previously only available on high-end cameras like digital SLRs, but now your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, can do it too. Digital Negative has the tools needed to preview images quickly, view all of the EXIF information, and can develop them on the go.

It's hard to avoid the fact that serious photography with the iPhone is on the rise (it seems you can't go even a couple of days without hearing of a wedding, war, or sports event that was shot with an iPhone), so the ability to shoot raw with the device would seem an obvious boon. However, it might not be as straightforward as that.

Around a year ago, another iPhone app popped up promising to shoot raw. Called 645 Pro, it was originally billed as being able to record raw photos. However, the company behind the app later backtracked slightly, instead calling the format dRAW or "developed raw", essentially an unmodified TIFF. It wasn't quite raw data from the sensor, but it was before the iPhone did all of its native image processing.

To the best of my knowledge (and I could be wrong) no one has managed to pull raw data directly from the iPhone's sensor before. So if Digital Negative has succeeded in doing so, that's quite an impressive feat. Conversely, if it's the same TIFF information that we've seen before, just packaged in a DNG (which is based on TIFF anyway), then this isn't anything particularly new.

If any of our readers have taken this app for a spin, and are willing to weigh in on the raw capabilities, we'd love to hear your take.

UPDATE: It looks like we were right, this isn't true raw, but rather a modified TIFF. CNET talked to the developers, and it's the uncompressed RGBA data before it gets processed down to JPEG, but not true, direct from sensor, raw. And when PopPhoto took the app for a spin they were less than impressed with its capabilities, especially with regards to recovering information lost in highlights and shadows.

UPDATE 2: See the comment from reader HTH below - He/she reports finding JPEG artifacts in the DNG files. If that's true, then all the app is doing is capturing a standard JPEG and simply reformatting as a DNG file. We haven't tested it ourselves, so can't confirm or deny this, but if true, it would mean the app's claims of capturing uncompressed data were false.

(via Phoblographer)