There is nothing sacred anymore. The one file format agreed upon and standardized across the industry for its minimally processed data directly from the camera sensor has apparently been the target of a recent investigation headed up by Film Lovers Association of North America. There is evidence that while the raw file format advertises and guarantees lossless capturing, about six years ago it started using compression from time to time. This became a habit, and before Raw knew it, it was staying up until sunrise with known compressors like JPG and GIF. PNG recently released a statement condemning the fellow format's recent actions saying "it is like I don't even know who Raw is anymore."
Raw spoke of constant feelings of inadequacy due to complaints about its large file size and dull looks. Supposedly it all began when Raw asked if it could be printed and all the other formats laughed. Even the nickname of "digital negative" made it hard to have a good outlook on things, complained Raw. While other formats had simple clear extensions like .JPG and .TIFF, Raw has always carried an identity crisis with it depending on the camera manufacturer. Canons use .CR2, Nikons are .NEF, and Hasselblad digitals use .3FR files.
There are some conspiracy theorists that think all the trouble started when Sony, Canon, and Nikon started encrypting some of the data contained in the file in an attempt to block third-party apps from accessing their metadata. This tampering with the inner workings of raw apparently left it feeling different and never quite itself. The lines were further blurred when Nikon began allowing its users to choose between a raw with no compression, lossless compression (oxymoron?), or lossy compression. In the end, the fall of raw may be all of our faults.
So the obvious question is how do we know if our raw has been using and what treatments are available? Beyond the obvious signs like small file size or poor image quality, it can be difficult to identify a clean raw from a compression-crazed raw. Photography software leader Adobe has stepped in and promised to release a compress-ilizer by early next week. If the tool does detect compression it has a re-raw-inator function that should restore in any missing information and quality. Some fear these restored raw files might be a cause for concern, but this group is mostly isolated to people who have read or seen "Pet Cemetery" recently.
Do you trust your raws? Do any of the excuses or struggles make it OK to start using compression? That will be up to each individual user and the courts of public opinion. I for one will always stand by raw. Or .DNG, or .ARW, or should we do .RW2? Oh never mind, can we get a real standard with one name that won't be tempted by the evils of stardom?