What's the Differences between DNG Files and ARW Files?

Which One is Better? DNG Files or ARW Files?

By the end of this article, the targeted audience will be able to differentiate between DNG and ARW Files and define the advantages and disadvantages of both of them.

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Mar 25, 2021 • Filed to: Photo/Video/Audio Solutions • Proven solutions


With the market teaming up with file and image formats, the end-users are mostly confused about what format to use and what to avoid. Each file format demands a separate application to run on, keeping in view its compatibility with the format. To avoid any misconceptions, it is mandatory to know the difference between the two formats to make a clear and same decision.

This article reflects the difference between the DNG file and the ARW file. Moreover, it informs the user of the advantages and disadvantages of the said file formats. So, without any further delay, let us embark on a journey of awareness and knowledge.

Part 1: What Are RAW and ARW Files of Cameras?

Before we differentiate between the given formats, let us take a moment and define them individually. So, what are RAW Files of a Camera?

RAW Files of Camera are defined as the data which is not yet processed or manipulated in any way. The processing usually occurs from image scanners, digital camera, or a motion picture scanner. In most cases, people consider it similar to DNG file format (Digital Negatives) even though they are not negatives and have no visible images.

The basic function of RAW files or formats is that they are supposed to focus on the scene's radiometric attributes under observation, including colors or light intensity. The file name extensions are as follows; .ari, .arw, .kdc and .fff.

Following this, we would also consider discussing ARW file format, a raw image file format utilized by Sony Cameras. These files are uncompressed and quite large in size, as they are used in editing and exporting them into different compressed formats such as JPG, GIF, or PNG.

Part 2: What Is A DNG File Format?

In this part, we will be addressing one question. What is a DNG file? DNG is abbreviated to be Digital Negatives. Created by Adobe, the DNG file format is a patented format. It was developed for a specific reason. A wide range of proprietary data files consists of RAW File format, making it competitive. When you save the RAW file with DNG format, it does not lose any data stored in the original file. That is the reason Adobe attempted to create this format.

These files act as both the working as well as archival files. With the negative of the image, the DNG file format also has a print from which you can have a preview of all the changes you made compared to the original file.

Part 3: Which One Is Better? DNG VS. ARW?

This section will be walking you through the advantages and disadvantages of both DNG and ARW. By scrutinizing this section, the users will make a clear choice between the two. So, let us first know about the plus and negatives of ARW or RAW format without any delay.

difference between dng and arw

Advantage of ARW or RAW Format

The advantages of the ARW file format are as under:

High Priority Projects

With the ARW File format, the user can work on high priority projects such as astrophotography. During such events, more data is needed to have a better option for selected photos. Therefore, for game plans where the display is the number one requirement, this format works like a charm.

Meta-Data File

The ARW file format offers metadata, which means that even after processing data, one can change the settings of the camera in which it was shot. This makes it quite workable and easy to use.

Editing System

When you are working on a RAW file, the changes are continuously exported to a different format. The advantage of this is that the original file is saved, and you can go back whenever you want to.

The disadvantage of ARW or RAW Format

The disadvantages of the ARW format are given below:

Enormous Files

One of the biggest drawbacks of using this file format is that they are too large to handle. People using this format have to deal with memory cards running out quickly.

Time Consuming

When there is a wide range of files to edit, the RAW file takes a lot of time editing and processing. This flaw is a turn off for most users.

Post Processing

The files of this format come up with almost zero processing. As mentioned above, the user has to post-process each of them. This makes it hard for the user.

Advantage of DNG Format

This section of the article reflects upon the advantages of the DNG format. Have a look!


The DNG file format works well with Lightroom because both of them are a creation of Adobe. One of the advantages of DNG is that it offers efficiency and effectiveness. If ARW format, on the other hand, is used in Lightroom, it becomes stressful.

Small Sizes

Another plus point of using DNG over RAW is that the files are 20% smaller in DNG. If you have a limited storage plan, now you know what to do.

Meta Data File

The way these files are stored in DNG makes it an advantage over other file formats. With a metadata capacity, you can make changes to the image and edit them again whenever you want to. The original file stays safe and untouched.

Another point to be kept in mind is that the changes are saved in DNG format, unlike RAW files, which saves them in some other file called sidecar.

The disadvantage of DNG Format

The drawbacks of the DNG file format are as under:

Format Conversion

Talking of cameras, they do not shoot in DNG file formats. The common practice is first to convert the RAW files into DNG and then process them. But there comes a drawback. After conversion, the files take hours to import, making it stressful for photographers and other users who perform in effective working environments.

Lack of Compatibility

The DNG file format works best with Adobe programs. However, not all applications are compatible with it. The photographers have a hard time processing DNG files after converting them from RAW files.

Meta Data Loss

Another disadvantage of using the DNG file format is that some of the metadata is lost during the conversion. For instance, focus point, GPS related information, and copyright information do not come through. However, the DNG file data is safe, including focal length and exposure, etc.

Part 4: Which Format Should You Use? DNG or RAW?

The choice of file formats between DNG and RAW is mostly the user’s choice. As mentioned above, both of them have pros and cons. The DNG file format has small sizes offering efficiency and works best with Lightroom. However, it does not provide compatibility with other applications. The RAW file formats have big, enormous sizes making it time-consuming to be processed. However, it works for high priority projects efficiently and does not lose the original file during editing.

Therefore, if you want efficiency, DNG has to be your first choice but prefer the ARW file format to work with different applications and programs.


The article spins around two file formats: DNG and ARW, where it differentiates between them and informs us which one is better than the other. However, the last decision comes on to the user based on his needs and priorities.

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