Shooting in RAW with your Nokia Lumia PureView Camera

One of the more interesting features of the Nokia Black update is the ability to capture photographs in RAW or DNG format.  DSLR and high-end compact cameras have been using the RAW/DNG format for years and this is the first time a smartphone has had this ability.

The DNG format allows Lumia 1020 and 1520 camera users more control over their images.  It is a feature that matches up well with the optical stabilization, low-light performance and larger imaging sensors already in place.

However, DNG may not be for everyone.  If you detest post-processing (photo editing) and prefer a “straight from the camera” photography experience, you may want to stick with JPEG.

What is DNG?

DNG is a universal RAW image format and is short for Digital Negative Image File.  In many respects, a RAW image file is comparable to film negatives.  Where JPEG image files are processed in-camera (exposure, white balance, contrast, etc.) and compressed, DNG files are not.  They leave the camera as a raw, un-adjusted image file.  This allows you to adjust the image as you see fit and minimizes any image degradation that such adjustments may cause.

You can fine-tune JPEG images with post-processing but the more you adjust and tweak exposure, color adjustments, sharpness, contrast, etc. your image quality begins to suffer. 

Think of it this way.  If you draw a picture on a piece of paper and have to erase portions of the drawing to improve the appearance the paper will begin to show wear from being erased.  The more you post-edit a JPEG image, the stronger the chance the image will begin to show wear through noise, artifacts or other abnormalities.

One of the downsides to DNG files is that without any adjustments or compression, the file itself is huge.  A compressed 38MP JPEG file runs in the neighborhood of 9MB while an uncompressed 38MP DNG file runs in the neighborhood of 48MB.

Image sizes of the two file formats breaks down as follows.  The 38MP JPEG image is 7136 x 5360 pixels at 72dpi.  The 38MP DNG image is 7152 x 5360 pixels at 240dpi.  I am not exactly sure where the extra pixel width comes from but I have found the higher, native dpi lends for better print quality.

Image Resolution Settings

Accessing your DNG files

To set your Lumia 1020 or 1520 to shoot DNG format, go to your camera settings.  You will have capture mode options that will include JPEG (5MP), JPEG (5MP +38MP) and JPEG (5MP + DNG (38MP).  Keep in mind the high end of the image resolution is dependent on your aspect ratio.  An aspect ratio of 4:3 will give you the 38MP resolution and an aspect ratio of 16:9 will yield you a 34MP resolution on the high end.

The 5MP image is built off the larger JPEG or DNG image file and is easier to share from your Windows Phone.  The larger image file can be used with the “zoom later” feature of Nokia Camera to modify the appearance of the 5MP image.   Shooting in DNG format will act just like shooting with the 5MP+34/38MP option.

If your photography never strays from your Windows Phone screen, you will not see the difference between shooting DNG and JPEG formats (save the storage needed for the larger DNG file).  The advantages of the DNG format come into play if you take the images offsite to a photo-editing app on computer.

DNG Conversion

Asides from being a much larger file, another downside to DNG or RAW image files is that it takes more time to edit your photos.  With JPEG images, you get a finished product straight from the camera that often requires no post-editing.  With DNG files, you are guaranteed time with photo editing software.

Windows File Explorer Listing DNG Files

To edit the un-compressed, un-adjusted, raw DNG file you will first need to remove it from your Windows Phone to a computer.  You can do this by connecting your Windows Phone up to your computer and using the file explorer look for the file with the “Raw_highres.dng” extension or the DNG File Type in the Camera Roll sub-folder of the Pictures folder.

Once on your computer, you will need to open it from Photoshop Elements (opens in new tab), Lightroom (opens in new tab) or other photo editor.  When you do so, you will need to run the DNG file through a conversion application.  Most photo editors have this built in and the conversion process pulls up automatically.

Adobe Photoshop Elements RAW Conversion

The conversion app lets you apply your editing adjustment to the DNG files appearance.  Adjustments include exposure, color temperature, color tint, shadows, contrast, brightness, black levels, saturation and more.  The number of adjustments varies depending on the photo editing software manufacturer.

Once you get your adjustments just right, the DNG file will be converted to JPEG format and the adjustments will be applied.  From there you can crop, re-size and/or make additional edits to your image before saving.

As the development of our Windows Phone cameras continue, hopefully we will see a Windows Phone photo-editing app that will allow us to convert and edit DNG files straight from the Windows Phone.  The Lumia 1520’s six-inch screen is just screaming for such an editor.

End Results

I have been shooting RAW format from a DSLR for years and find the format gives me more control in editing photos, helps me save marginal images from being tossed, and provides overall better image quality.  The JPEG image format is equally capable of producing quality images but can be more sensitive to post-processing.

Note: Sample images were shot with the Nokia Lumia 1020.  JPEG images were taken straight from the camera and resized for publication.  DNG images were converted, then resized for publication.

JPEG (left) and DNG (right) Samples

The adjustment controls with processing DNG files makes it easier to pull details out of the shadows, accurately adjust an image’s white balance (tint and temperature), and overall gives you more creative control over your images.  When lighting conditions aren't that great, I have found that shooting RAW gives you a little more forgiveness than JPEG.

Straight from the Camera JPEG Sample Image

In shooting images with both formats, I am very impressed with how well the Lumia 1020 handles in-camera processing.  Image quality was very close with the two image formats but I found getting the image to look as desired was easier in shooting with the DNG format.  Granted this could be based on being more accustomed to processing RAW image files.

DNG File Sample Image

In defense of the JPEG image, you can fine-tune the image file with Fhotoroom, Nokia's Creative Studio, or other Windows Phone/computer photo editors to improve the "straight from the camera" image.  Just keep in mind, the more you adjust a JPEG image the chance of image degradation increases.

Hopefully we will see a Windows Phone photo editor that will be capable of opening and converting the DNG files and reduce the dependency on a computer to make the most of these files.  The 'zoom later' feature of Nokia Camera will work on DNG files but the image is automatically converted and re-sampled to the 5MP version.  It would be nice to have an internal conversion app to let you adjust the DNG file manually then edit the image accordingly.


If the majority of your photos will reside on your Windows Phone, the JPEG file format will serve you well.  Even if you venture beyond your Windows Phone, shooting JPEG images can produce fantastic images.

If you like to dabble with photo editing and are looking for more control with your images, then shoot DNG.  It will require a little more time with photo editing software but in the end you may find it time well spent.

For me, the introduction of the RAW/DNG file format to our Windows Phones makes the camera a more serious contender.  It gives you the ability to shoot a photo, share the 5MP JPEG immediately and later edit/fine-tune the DNG for print or digital publication.  This ability has been in place with many professional DSLRs for years and it is nice to see it landing with our Windows Phones.

JPEG (Bottom) and DNG (Top) Sample Images

If you have shot RAW before with your DSLR or advanced Point and Shoot camera, you will feel right at home with the Lumia’s DNG format.  If you are curious about photo editing, the DNG will give you the opportunity to dive into more intense post-processing.  If you could care less about RAW image files and like the convenience of the JPEG format, the Lumia 1020 and 1520 has you covered as well.

There really is no right or wrong whichever way you choose.  

If you have given the new DNG format a spin, let us know what you think of it in the comments below.

George Ponder

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

  • if i had a 1020 or 1520 i'd be interested in this article so much ........
  • Nah. I have L720 and interested in reading this article. ;)
  • +720.
  • +520, you can always get it later :)
    Edit: I mean the phone
  • This article has enlighten me on the difference between jpeg & dng. I love my 1020 and so did everyone else at the holiday parties =]
  • Same! Excellent user friendly article for those not as familiar with dng.
  • Now, all I want to have is the RAW images. the JPEG looks so washed.
  • +1020
  • Can't wait to start shooting Raw/DNG photos with my 925. 2014, hurry up and get here!
  • I am pretty sure dng/raw support is only for the 1020/1520
  • All pureview cameras are gonna get it in black
  • Nokia makes no mention of other phones getting it
  • 48Mb... not 48MP
  • Thanks.  
  • Will 920 be able to capture in RAW format after updated to black?
  • Probably
  • No, only support 1020/1520
  • RAW images look so good. Would love to post process them in Lightroom, Just need the update for my 1020 now
  • With AT&T can now update to Nokia Black.
  • Can't afford 1020 or 1520. Too costly. :(
  • Yea dude.
    in India 1520 is cheaper than 1020
  • Yeah, but I can't afford either of them.
  • Same in america
  • 920 would surely benefit from having DNG support. Sadly, no word from Nokia on that so far. Its a very capable camera save the zooming ability.
  • Wow .. Thanx for this article
  • Will it be available for lumia 925...???
  • I don't think so.
  • Wish there is aleady the Lumia Black for Asia.
  • Will start shooting raw this weekend.
  • Is it not for lumia 1320?
  • No. 1020 and 1520.
  • Camera with 8 MP, no.
  • It's not b/c of of the megapixels. My original Canon 300D Rebel had 6MP and gave me raw images.
  • I'm talking about on Lumia phone's camera, not on a real camera.
  • This is a great feature. Props to Nokia for adding this in! Its nice to get new uses out of old devices! It'd be cool if this came to the 9xx, but I'm not holding my breath. Also, boo Auburn! GO NOLES! :)
  • Has anyone working with DNG so far noticed if the jpeg processing is applying too much NR. 
  • "Too much" is a relative term. There's always NR, well, almost always, in JPEG processing. Not sure it's too much with the Black update, in fact, it seems a lot better. But that's the point with DNG/RAW, no NR at all, it's up to you...
  • "NR" means..? Noise Reduction???
    Just curious since now I know there's NR in my jpeg photos I would like to know what it means. Is NR good or bad?
  •   It's a filter or tool that can be seen both as good or bad actually. Depends highly on taste, how the noise reduction is achieved and the side effects of it. When people say it seems overly done it usually means it processes the photo a bit too much, loosing too much information, just generally not looking very nice. Some bad effects of aggressive noise reduction includes: washing up the photo, blurring it up too much, loosing edges and detail, random artifacts, graining, banding and posterization, among others. Most of those are also what people generally call overprocessing on the camera's side. I own a Lumia 1020 and I kinda notice lots of graining on low light photos, though that might be more because of hardware limitations than because of jpeg processing. Will make test comparisons as soon as I get Lumia Black update.  
  • Good info here - thanks!  I have a 1020 and saw those symptoms but didn't know what it was due too.  After reading this article, I can't believe the difference in picture quality with the DNG and JPEG.  There really is an observable difference.
  • The extra pixles are likey there in DNG due to the lack of compression that's applied in JPEGs. Let's face it, the JPEGs that come from the camera will mostly be used on computer/cell phone/tablet screens, and 72dpi is somewhat of a standard for that, so resampling makes a lot of sense (and saves a ton of space). No resampling in a DNG file (obviously). Good writeup. I'm considering upgrading to the 929 if it can shoot RAW just to have more control over my images. :) 
  • One more thing. I've found it's easier to help people understand the difference if you compare RAW and the JPEGs to a film camera, and a polaroid camera. For the latter, you snap a shot, and you immediately have a usable picture. Can't adjust much on it, it is what it is, but it's fast and convenient. The former you have to develop before it's usable (RAW images typically look worse than their in-camera JPEG counterparts because they're unprocessed, the finished images you see are "processed"), and you have a lot of control over how the image looks based on the film you use, how it's developed, camera settings, etc.
  • Yes, this helps.
  • Anyone know any free applications for working with raw files?
  • Try GIMP, opensource app similar to Photoshop. You can also try out Lightroom, it's what I use to "develop" my RAW shots from my camera, and aside from the ability to handle RAW images, it's picture cataloging features are great. Worth the money IMO.
  • Corel's After Shot Pro is excellent Raw editor and can be had for cheap, I got it on special for $24.99. I use Lightroom on my desktop but its very hardware intensive and a bit slow. I use ASP on my tablet because its very light and fast on even an atom processor. It even has better auto level settings than Lightroom and is quicker to go through and cull/ quick edit pictures.
  • Google's Picasa is a free application that supports RAW files and specifically DNG.
  • I own a free (no operator lock) Nokia Lumia 1020. When the Nokia Black will be available?
  • Beginning of next year...Nokia said.
  • if you sign up for the windows phone developer program you can update your 1020 right away to get all the latest updates.    
  • Only for operating system updates. For things like raw support you need a firmware update and that you have to wait for nokia.
  • That's only the update3 from Microsoft, not the Nokia Black. You'll need the Nokia black to upgrade the Nokia camera.
  • What is the bit-depth of the raws? Is there more than the 8 Bits/channel one has in JPEG?
  • it says 48 on my dng pics from my 1020.
  • Thanks for the answer. I found a sample image her: Loading it into Adobe Bridge it says, there're 10 Bits / Channel. That sounds realistic to me, as 14 Bits / Channel is what I've seen on DSLRs, so 16 Bits / Channel on a phone doesn't sound right. But even 10 Bits is four times the information you get in a JPEG, that's really great!
  • Looking forward to trying the DNG output. I'm going to take my 1020 to my studio for another shoot, this time using dng.
  • Even more reason the 1020 should have been available with 64g of memory, or at least have a replaceable memory card....
  • you can have it with Movistar, mayne you can buy one via eBay
  • Thanks George! I find the gnome comparison the most interesting because the differences are suble, but evident.  The Samford Hall comparison is so striking that it seems like some other setting had to be different, or like they were taken with different cameras.  Does this point to some identifiable tendency in the phone's JPEG processing for handling specific environments?  Is it over-compensating for the sky in the background? Just wonder if there might be some learning here for folks who do not have access to the DNG files (e.g. "when shooting under XYZ conditions, the camera tends to do ABC so you may want to 123 to compensate").
  • It does look like the camera overcompensated for the sky. This happens, taking pictures with a bright sky can be a challenge regardless of what you're using. Some people will underexpose the image slightly to get the sky and fix the rest in post (what I often do, and what the author probably did), some will take multiple shots to combine, others will use filter, etc.   If you've never tinkered with RAW images before, you'll be surprised at how much detail there is that's lost in JPEGs. It can easily make an image look like it was shot through a different camera when you compare an off camera JPEG to a processed RAW image.
  • Seeing the size of those files makes me wish the camera grip accessory had external storage in addition to the extra battery.
  • I love this ability to shoot in Raw. My pictures look so much better now on my 1020.
  • Doesn't it clearly state in the Camera settings that: "Reframing is not possible in degital negative(DNG) mode" I ran a quick test, and it appears reframing is much crisper (using manual focus) when using a JPG and not DNG. It looks like it's sourcing the 5MP shot, not the 38MP DNG during reframe. This is a pretty serious tradeoff, one that requires you to know your intent before shooting, and the option to toggle between DNG and JPG is buried in settings. Maybe it should be moved into the main UI under the Pro controls as a quick option. 
  • I wish it was in the main onscreen section too. I don't need DNG for all my shots. just ones that I thin kare the most important. I would love to be able to switch back and forth quicker then having to go into the settings.
  • Still no words if the black update actually improved photography. I am still only soo soo happy with my 1020 camera. I want a review... or better, release the darn update to the rest of us.
  • I wish Nokia made a Photo editing Desktop software as a companion to the Lumia phones, just like any DSLR manufacturer provides basic editing software so you don't have to buy Adobe's overpriced crap.  
  • That would be nice too!
  • Check out Google's Picasa which is a free application that supports RAW files and specifically DNG.
  • Yes...but where the fuck is the Black update ?
  • Editing on the phone would be better also :)
  • Is there a good app from the MS app store on Windows 8.1 that supports raw for those that have a RT tablet?
  • Still expensive in my country,. 1020,
  • Great article's COULDN'T care less, not COULD. Sorry to be a pedant but I don't understand how people can get these mixed up when they clearly have opposite meanings! If you could care less about something, then you care about it enough that there are things you care less about. If you couldn't care less, there is literally nothing you care less about than the subject matter. I'll get me coat. :)
  • Fine, RAW is great, but please just let us turn of image processing in the settings. All my photos are turned into a yellow, blurry mess after watching the (beautiful) preview on my 920. And this is a massive problem on my parents 820 and 520 as well.
  • That's what shooting in RAW is for, it just lets you (or more like makes you) do the image processing yourself. I think later on all the phones will get the ability to shoot in RAW, technicaly they already do, only they post-process it right after. There's no reason why something lesser than 1520 or 1020 cuoldn't have it
  • It could be a hardware thing. The 1520 and the 1020 both have 2 gigs of ram.
  • Wrong white balance, just it. You can fix it whit manual White Balance adjustment.
  • Seeing your dslr' near 1020, I was excited for seeing how much Raw of 1020 holds against Raw of a dslr..!
    Can we have some 1020 Dng and dslr's raw files,for self compairon please ?
  • That would be nice!
  • How can I make DNG/RAW format? :|
  • settings menu in the nokia camera app. select DNG as output.
  • I have a 1020. Very interested in this article and cant wait for the Black update.
  • How about others Pureview? Nothing yet? =/
  • I bought the Lumia 1020 because it can shoot in raw and the superior zoom of Videos. They forgot to add that you can't transfer it in your PC. It will take you 7 minutes for every 1 minute video to transfer in bluetooth. Which means a 10 minute video will take 70 minutes of waiting... that's 1 hour and 10 minutes. You really need the USB  cable, the big problem of Lumia 1020 users, their Lumias can't recognized by their PCs. I've tried different PCs, all windows, still can't recognized. I tried Ubuntu, Macbook, still can't recognized. I installed Windows Phone app for desktop, still failure. I installed Nokia Software Recovery Tool, I got the 0x800b0101. Even experts can't answer my questions. So, the RAW thing and video thing... say goodbye to that.