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October 29, 2013

Another Nokia first: Digital Negatives for Lumia

Blurring the lines between pro cameras and smartphones, Nokia offers RAW DNG image support for Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520.

Photography enthusiasts have a cause for celebration. The Nokia Lumia 1020 and the new Nokia Lumia 1520 will be able to save your photos as lossless RAW files (in “DNG” format), allowing maximum flexibility when editing the images on your computer or laptop.

“This is one of the most exciting announcements of the week for me personally,” says Juha Alakarhu, head of imaging technologies at Nokia. “It has been a key request from so many of our users for a long time now. People who are passionate about photography can be more creative and do more with the images from their Lumia than ever before.”

And honestly, this is kind of a big deal for enthusiasts. The Nokia Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1020 are the only smartphones currently in the market with RAW support. In fact, many of today’s point-and-shoot digital cameras do not offer RAW support either.

This is what our friends over at Adobe had to say about the news:

“Adobe is excited to see Nokia be the first to bring advanced, raw imaging technology to the smart phone market by utilizing the openly documented Digital Negative (DNG) format as part of their leadership efforts,” said Winston Hendrickson, vice president of products, Creative Media Solutions, Adobe. “By adding DNG support within the Nokia Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520, Nokia is dramatically improving the artistic control and flexibility available to their customers.”

What is RAW DNG?

For those who are unfamiliar with RAW DNG files, and how you might work with them, Juha compares it to using traditional 35mm film, and then developing it in a darkroom. “Shooting RAW is like shooting with negative film. After capturing the “negatives”, you use them to develop the image yourself using an external “darkroom” tool, in this case computer software,” Juha notes.

Normally when you capture photos, you are saving JPEG files, and the image processing is done inside the device. Things like the colors, tone mapping, noise filtering, and sharpening are predefined by the camera maker (such as Nokia) or the imaging application you are using.

“But with RAW you can define these settings on your own, and this gives you enormous creative opportunities later on,” he says. “That is the power of the digital negative – you can change the settings after taking the photo. You can tune the settings separately for each photo, just the way you like it – whether you are searching for a special artistic expression or the most natural representation of the original scene.”

“Overall, I’m so proud of what we have achieved in Nokia. We have the amazing camera hardware, very powerful camera user interface, and now the RAW support. When you bring this all together, the system is more than the sum of its parts. I’m always carrying my Lumia 1020 in my pocket. I use the manual controls, exposure bracketing, and RAW – and the results are just pure magic.”

There is also one more additional benefit when shooting and archiving photos in RAW. “The RAW computer software and algorithms evolve all the time. If you shoot with RAW, you can take benefit of the continuously developing algorithms in the future. Who knows what these tools will offer in 10 years!”

How do you capture RAW DNG?

To take advantage of this functionality, you need to adjust the Capture settings on your Nokia Lumia 1020 or Lumia 1520 – this is not a default setting on the device since not every user will need it, or even know what to do with it. If you do want to try it out, when you go to Settings in the Nokia Camera application you will see a new option to save the 5MP JPEG and the DNG file. (See screenshot below.)


As you can see, the RAW DNG file always comes together with 5MP oversampled image. This way you always have a very high quality and easy to share image on your device, whereas the RAW file is something you open and edit on your computer, meaning you need to transfer the RAW image files via USB to your PC or Mac before you start processing them.

RAW support will be available right away on the Nokia Lumia 1520, and it will be coming soon to the Lumia 1020 with the Nokia Camera app.

See the beauty of the grains

For Juha, a self-described old-school film guy, using the RAW files from his Lumia brings back fond memories of time spent in a darkroom. “In analog film, the individual picture was made of lot of small grains in the film. You begin to see how the grain looks when you are developing your own film and photos, and we used to debate which film has the most beautiful type of grain.

“Now, if you open and study the RAW files you’ve captured with Lumia 1020 or Lumia 1520, the pixels behave a bit like grains in analog film and it makes the images look very beautiful. This is really like a digital film.”

Regarding the pictures for this story, Juha told us: “I captured some DNG images in Abu Dhabi the other evening at sunset, and after the sunset in low light. My colleague Kristina also sent me this nice picture of a cat from Thailand. I processed the DNGs in Lightroom, according to my own personal preferences. Below you find links to the processed JPEGs and their corresponding DNG files. Check them out!” (Note: The file size for each DNG image is more than 40MB. You’ll need Photoshop or Lightroom to open the DNG files.)



Full resolution: JPEG / DNG



Full resolution: JPEG / DNG




Full resolution: JPEG / DNG



Full resolution: JPEG / DNG