Adobe has introduced a new format for digital photos in an attempt to create an industry standard across all types of cameras and photo software.

The company is proposing that its new Digital Negative Specification, or DNG, becomes a universal standard for the RAW format.

Most digital cameras capture images in the JPEG format but because JPEG photo files are compressed images they suffer some data loss. As a result a higher-quality RAW photo format is gaining in popularity among professional photographers.

RAW files contain the original information captured by a camera sensor prior to any in-camera processing, thus giving users truer images and more flexibility when editing.

No standards

However there are a number of problems because there has been no standard format for these files, which vary between manufacturers and cameras meaning that photographers have had to juggle multiple file formats when using RAW images from different cameras. Also, because of the incompatibility the files are unsuitable for archiving due to concerns that the format will not be supported over time.

Adobe VP Bryan Lamkin said: "Professional photographers and other creative professionals are moving to RAW camera workflows because of the outstanding creative control they get over digital images. However, clients and publishers have difficulty working with disparate RAW file formats and nobody can be sure that today's RAW formats will be supported ten years from now. Adobe customers asked us to work on a unified, public format for raw files and that's what we've delivered with the new Digital Negative Specification."

The company is launching a free software tool, Adobe DNG Converter, that will allow users to convert the RAW formats from more than 65 cameras into the DNG format.

The Digital Negative Specification is based on the TIFF EP format, which is already the basis of many proprietary RAW formats.

Adobe is urging camera makers to support the specification, which it is making available for free.