Dotphoton Raw Makes Raw Quality with JPEG File Size a Reality

Dotphoton Raw Makes Raw Quality with JPEG File Size a Reality

In a perfect world, raw files would be as light as JPEGs. Even better yet, every camera manufacturer would use a similar and open format such as DNG. Unfortunately, as we all know, we don't live in a perfect world. However, one company named Dotphoton is about to change it all!

Changing it all may sound presumptuous, especially as there hasn't been much evolution in terms of raw file format since digital cameras have been around. Most raw formats are proprietary, aren't well optimized, and aren't designed with perpetuity in mind. But Dotphoton is genuinely about to break most of the issues raw files present while retaining all the benefits.

Enter the World of True Lossless Raw Compression

You've probably already seen or heard of lossless raw files. Many companies offer this option, Nikon being one. However, even with this option, my D810 files are still quite large and make archiving a pain as well as a costly business expenditure! I've even come to ask myself multiple times if keeping raw files was making any sense and if I shouldn't just keep the final file.

But a few weeks ago, I was introduced to Dotphoton Raw. What it offers with its solution is a way to compress raw files while retaining all useful data. So you may think this is too good to be true, and that compression is just like what's already available in camera when enabling the lossless compression. Well, the result is actually very far from what you've ever seen. Files can be compressed to a third or a fifth of their original size!

On the left is the original raw file from my D810 (NEF file), it takes over 40MB on my hard drive. On the right is the compressed raw produced by Dotphoton Raw and it's only around 12MB. This is one example, but in my testing over the past two to three weeks, I haven't had a file that wouldn't get compressed by less than three times.

Both files look similar and the metadata are recognized by Capture One.

Is It Truly Lossless?

Now, let's answer the question that you should be asking: is there truly no loss of quality with this compression system? Well, it seems like it! I couldn't say yes or no for sure, but it definitely feels like there is no difference. What I can tell you about are the different experiments I've done so far.

When Dotphoton gave me access to its app, I was extremely excited and compressed files from my last shoots, then opened them up in Capture One. At first, I thought it was too good to be true. So I looked closer at the files in Capture One and started looking for differences. After pixel peeping for a bit, I noticed a slight difference in certain colors and how they were rendered. The shift is very minimal, but still present.

Click the image to better see the values.

On the left is the same original file as before, with L.A.B. values sampled on different areas. On the right, the compressed file with the same areas being sampled – and yes, these are precisely the same points on the images as they are placed automatically by Capture One. As you can notice, there is a difference, but it's minor, and I doubt most people would even see it without color readouts. From what I understand, the problem lies in how Capture One interprets DNG files – yes, the compressed files are DNG, but more on that later. The difference in Capture One probably won't bother +95% of photographers, and Dotphoton has told me that its team is working to improve the color rendering with Capture One. So hopefully, we should see an improvement on this side with the upcoming updates.

So I brought my files into Photoshop, opened them up with Camera RAW, no adjustment, selected ProPhoto RGB and 16 bits to be sure to get a fair comparison. I then placed the compressed file as a layer on top of the original and changed the blending mode of the compressed file layer to difference so that I could see if there was any difference. All sample images gave me the same result, a fully blacked out image, meaning there is absolutely no difference between the two layers. And that was the case even if I tweaked the images in Camera Raw with similar settings.

From Proprietary to Perpetuity and Interoperability

There is a lot of debate on the web as to whether to use DNG or not. I used to rely on DNG when I was using Lightroom as it saved me a bit of space on my hard drives. But when I moved to Capture One, I stopped bothering with it as the saving wasn't all that great.

However, there are other advantages to DNG format, and they are often overlooked. It's an open format, designed to help preserve digital images, and offer a file format that can integrate into different workflows. For companies and professional photographers who want to archive files so that they can be preserved for decades to come, it's easy to understand that DNG is the superior choice compared to camera manufacturer proprietary formats. If you look at Canon, since 1997, they've moved from CRW to CR2 and are now transitioning to CR3 while DNG is still DNG since 2004.

Isn't It Too Perfect to Be Real?

That's what I thought right away. How can it be possible to save space, get a better file format, not lose any data, and no one is talking about it? If it's not better known, it's probably because Dotphoton is a young startup. It was created two years ago, and Dotphoton Raw is being released this week.

It also comes with a few limitations. First, it's not compatible with all cameras out there as the magic behind it is apparently different for each camera. So far, the most popular cameras are supported:

Supported cameras at launch

The company is also working hard to add any other relevant cameras, and you can even vote for the ones you'd like to see being added first. In the upcoming weeks, we should also see the Fujifilm GFX 50S/R, Nikon D750, and Canon 1DX mark II added to the list of supported cameras.

For professional working with Phase One or Hasselblad medium format cameras, unfortunately, it's not supported yet. However, I've been told there would be another dedicated product tailored explicitly for MFD systems, but no estimated release date was given to me. Hopefully, we can see it being integrated right into digital backs! It'd be an absolute dream to see such a solution being available directly into a camera, especially with digital backs now offering a resolution of 100 or even 150 megapixels.

Another development we should see are plugins for better integration with the different photo editing solutions on the market. One example I hope we'll see improved – and from what I understood should be improved – is the integration with Capture One and Lightroom. The workflow with Dotphoton Raw isn't bad but isn't the best when shooting tethered. The problem is, the compression app is a standalone solution. Meaning when shooting tethered, at the end of the session, you have to take all your camera raw files and put them through the Dotphoton Raw solution to get the compressed DNG. Then import these back into Capture One or Lightroom and copy/paste the settings you had previously applied. For wedding photographers or anyone who doesn't shoot tethered, the workflow won't change much though. It's just a matter of letting the app convert your files, which require a bit of time, but it's quite reasonable, and then import them into your photo editing software of choice.

Conversion process sped up

Price

At the time of writing the article, the Dotphoton Raw solution isn't available for everyone. It will be released the week of 27th May for $49, tax not included, per year.

What I Liked

  • Ease of use.
  • Storage space saving.
  • Choice of DNG format.
  • Pricing is very attractive when compared to the money you would otherwise spend on hard drives and storage solutions.

What Could Be Improved

  • Lack of camera support – should be improved within the next couple of months.
  • Lack of Windows support – should be supported once MacOS growth is stable.
  • Integration with Capture One or Lightroom when shooting tethered is not the best – future plugins should help.

Conclusion

Dotphoton Raw is so far the best thing I've discovered this year. I haven't been excited about an app, solution, or even product in general for quite a while. It's not perfect yet, but for a first release, it's very stable and showing great opportunities for the future. I genuinely can't wait to see how it's going to be evolving with future plugins and updates.

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49 Comments

EL PIC's picture

The only difference most will ever see from RAW vs JPEG is the consumption of disk space

Rob Davis's picture

Sounds like someone’s been reading Ken Rockwell.

Thomas H's picture

...or Toni Notorious.

Simon Patterson's picture

True. However, I have on many occasions gone back to old raw files and been very thankful that I can now reprocess them using all the available dynamic range, even though I didn't have the know-how to post process the image properly when I shot it.

JetCity Ninja's picture

this.

plus, as i change and my tastes change, some photos are truly timeless and can benefit from being reprocessed to match my changing tastes. sometimes it can better reflect the moment when looking back or improve upon the processing as i learn new skills.

Dan Marchant's picture

This +1

I am currently reprocessing images from 2014 for a new project. That processing requires making extreme changes of the images WB (both globally and locally) that wouldn't be possible in JPG.

Will Murray's picture

Noting your use of the word "most"; I think you may have ruffled a few feathers. I suppose using RAW files makes us special.

$49 or ~3.75TB worth of HDD space. Pass.

Michael Desert's picture

Tried it, just amazing. $49 is nothing compared to the price of TB on my Mac. And the quality is just raw...

Rob Davis's picture

The third account with only one comment that is just in awe of this app. Gosh. So genuine!

Rayann Elzein's picture

And doesn't even bother to get a profile picture to make it look more real :-))

Rob Davis's picture

Oh it just did! At least we know it’s a human writing fake comments and not a bot.

Sock-puppeting is an astonishingly effective way of losing credibility for your product. Please don't do it.

Eugenia Blaysheva's picture

Hi Peter,
We don't. This comment comes from the beta testers of the app. I hope he has a right to say his opinion too and I am thankful for his support. :)

Cheers,
Eugenia from Dotphoton

Rob Davis's picture

People who create accounts on a website only to leave glowing praise is a pretty common and sleazy tactic. One, it says your company has questionable ethics. Two, it shows a lack of respect for users.

Dan Marchant's picture

Sorry but this simply doesn't ring true.

1. Real people who like a product go to communities they are already members of (and where they are known/know people) to extol the virtues of whatever it is they like. They don't go around signing up to new communities to convince people they have never met (unless they are being paid/encouraged to do so).
2. The chance of a real person deciding that they must sign up to some new community just to post such a message in tiny. The chance of three of four doing it at the same time is simply not real. Especially when.....
3. The comments are clearly "boiler plate" enthusiasm. Real people who this new products are good write real comments about the product that will help the other members (and they do it in communities they are already part of/care about.

Sorry but big negative marks.

Eugenia Blaysheva's picture

Hi Dan, Well, I think if you look form the human point of view it will look different. 1. I am a professional photographer and yes, I have registered here only to answer the questions about this company. The registration process takes literally one minute. Not a rocket science really. I have been reading Fstoppers for years without registration. 2. People commenting are beta users who spent months with us testing, debugging and became kind of friends. The comments are super enthusiastic because we are all very happy that there is an article about the company right the first day of the release and a very good article. We are very proud about it and surely have shared the link on all our social networks. So, it is a thumb up message for the team as well or their feelings that finally they have a non beta version of the app they helped us to build. 3.I am sure, Dan, if let's say, one of your photos wins an award and is published on a certain website your friends will comment online and say " Amazing photo, Dan!" even if they are not experts in photography. There is a chance that you have three such friends who care enough. I would understand if you were making so much fuss about hundreds of comments, but 3! Come on, there is quantum physics, DNGs good or bad, will Lightroom disappear in 5 years from now and TONS of other interesting and relevant topics which could be discussed here, rather than 3(!) comments of people who simply wanted to support us.
Cheers,
Eugenia

Possibly licensing the tech to manufacturers would be the best avenue to get it widely adopted

Rob Davis's picture

Storage is cheap and the whole argument about DNG never made any sense to me. 99.999% of people will process their files within a year. Raw format obsolescence is mostly an imaginary problem. What you really want to do is losslessly archive your final result. For that we have TIFF. TIFF will be around as long as there’s ones and zeros.

Wow, so good! Finally happening!

Rob Davis's picture

Another account with only one comment that LOVES this product. What are the odds?!

Oh my... Gonna save so much time and money. Can't believe it's true :-D

Rob Davis's picture

Wow. This enthusiastic comment is the only ever made on your very recently created account on your account. Seems legit.

Thomas H's picture

Sounds so good, and yet, the proliferation might be a problem. Lets look at the archaic JPEG, how enduring its presence is. Every now and than someone publishes a new format, beating JPEG in almost every aspect (remember J2000?... or PNG?) and yet nobody bites. Most recently Apple embraced HEIF, and at first I thought that with their record of success in establishing new technology finally JPEG will be replaced by something better, having more than 8bit per color. Not so, even them cannot go through the inertia.

The less it will happen with the zoo of the raw formats. However, if they are really so good, maybe some of the camera makers would license their encoding algorithms for yet another "proprietary" raw format.

user-206807's picture

hmm… PNG is a very useful and very used format…

Simon Patterson's picture

Anyone who chooses to use a rental model to unlock their own photo files has rocks in their head!

Um, DNG is an open, unlocked format. Where did you learn that a subscription is necessary to unlock the files, especially given that their website goes to pains to point out the exact opposite? It's fine to be skeptical, but not when it crosses over into baseless accusations.

...another subscription model? ...Really? Have you heard of Adobe? Not if my life depended it on it. Thanks...I'll pass.

Will Murray's picture

Given that storage is dirt cheap, I wonder what the actual time + subscription vs. storage cost is.

I'm inclined to suggest it's not economic.

Hi, dev here. Thanks for all the comments. I am Also amateur photographer. For me, the main advantage of having the files compressed is that they are way easier/faster to handle. And that I can hope to fit them all in one place.
For the same price as a lage 5TB external drive, I bought tiny 1TB SSD. Backing it up takes less than one hour vs more than a day.
Also, if you use any cloud or NAS storage, the 80% file size reduction really helps.
Personally, I am not a massive fan of the subscription model either, but it seems increasingly hard to make the "classic" model sustainable for newcomer companies.

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