Every serious photographer knows that capturing RAW images has significant advantages over their equivalent JPEGs: the vastly greater bit depth gives far more flexibility in the editing process, allowing you to recover seemingly lost data from dark shadows and apparently blown-out highlights. But all this comes at a cost: RAW photographs are typically three to four times the size of their JPEG counterparts, which can mean a headache when storing large numbers of images.
Dotphoton RAW is a new tool that seeks to reduce that file size overhead. It’s based on research at the University of Geneva, which demonstrates that a lot of ‘quantum noise’ is captured by the image sensor along with the data you need. “According to our studies,” they claim, “in an average photo file there are up to eight bits of noise per pixel and usually less than one bit of useful information”.
The software splits the noise from the signal and produces a file that’s roughly one-third the size of the original. It’s not the same as blurring visual noise; in our tests, we could see no difference between the Dotphoton-processed images and the original files. The results are still RAW files, which can be processed in Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop or Lightroom in exactly the same way as their heftier originals.
Using Dotphoton is straightforward. You simply drag the images into the app, and they’re automatically compressed and saved in the location of your choice, with the original file type changed to ‘.p.dng’. You can then work with them as with any other RAW file.
Dotphoton is still officially in beta, and is available for Mac only (though a Windows version is promised soon). It works with a selected range of cameras – including five Canon 5D models and 7D, five Nikon models, and some from Leica, Fuji and Sony. See the full list on dotphotonraw.com to see if your camera is supported. If not, it’s likely that it will be in the future. A subscription to Dotphoton costs $4 a month, paid annually; you can also try it free for 100 images.
The real test, of course, is whether you trust the technology enough to keep the Dotphoton processed images and delete the originals. In our limited testing we found no reason why this should not be the case; but it would take a brave photographer to commit to this route.