At long last today, I made the decision to move from NEF files (the Nikon raw file format) to DNG files (Adobe Digital Negative). I did this for several reasons. First, DNG files are smaller. Converting a test folder with 169 images in it yielded an 18% reduction in total file size. As the D800 images are about three times larger than the images produced by my previous D700, I’ll gladly accept any reduction in disk space that I can get.
Second, Nikon makes changes/improvements to the .NEF file format with almost every new camera they release. It may be only a matter of time before some of the older .NEF formats are no longer supported. Even though none of my images are that old, I wouldn’t want to find out sometime in the future (say, with Adobe Lightroom 10, or Adobe Photoshop CS12, that I can no longer read some of my older .NEF files.
Third, by using DNG files, I don’t need to be concerned about keeping the XMP file alongside the NEF file. The DNG file format incorporates the XMP data inside the .DNG file itself. This is a minor point for me at the moment, but every little thing counts.
I can imagine that in time, all of the major camera manufacturers may be directly supporting the .DNG file format anyway. I believe at least one camera manufacturer currently supports .DNG files natively, and over time I would expect Nikon, Canon, and other manufacturers to do the same thing. Most likely it’s only a firmware update that would be necessary to add DNG to the already existing JPG and NEF file formats that the camera can create.
I’m in the process of converting about 350 gigabytes of .NEF files to .DNG in Lightroom 4. It’s a relatively slow process, but I’m in no rush. Only time will tell whether this was a good decision or not.