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Old Aug 11, 2006, 6:09 AM   #1
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What is RAW? I've read my manual and I don't understand. Will someone take the time to explain it to me like I'm a two year old. Why would I shoot in RAW.

fuji s 5600 owner

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Old Aug 11, 2006, 7:34 AM   #2
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Every digital camera performs some modifications to an image - sharpening, color adjustment, noise reduction, white balance etc. In addition when you save in a format like JPEG, the image file is compressed so it takes up less space on your storage medium. That compression alters the image slightly. So every time you save a JPEG image you are applying more compression and altering the image yet again which can degrade image quality. How much depends on the compression done, the algorithms used and the content of the picture itself.

Think of RAW asa digital negative. The in-camera adjustments typically are not applied and no file compression occurs. So, you are left with a file containing more data and with less modifications.

Now, IMO, the 2 best attributes you get when shooting RAW are:

1. The ability to alter white balance in RAW conversion. The RAW image knows what WB the camera would have applied and you can start with that if you like. But you can set any WB you want during the conversion. This can be immensely helpful as it is leagues easier to correct WB issues in raw conversion than with a JPEG image in photo editing software.

2. You have the ability to alter the exposure of the shot by about 2 stops in either direction. It's still not as good as getting the exposure right in-camera but the results are still better than again trying to adjust an underexposed JPEG image in post processing (remember the RAW image has more image detail).

Some people always shoot RAW. To me, I shoot RAW when exposure or WB are likely to be tricky and I won't have a chance to take multiple test shots to get them right the first time (i.e. if I were doing event photography I'll shoot RAW or landscape photography with a wide dynamic range). But, for me, in 80% of my work I don't require the added lattitude RAW provides and being a sports shooter the extra space RAW requires and extra time in buffer handling is not worth it. But, as I said, others only shoot in RAW because they want complete control over every image. Nothing wrong with that either as long as space and buffer handling aren't issues and you don't mind the extra steps in your post processing workflow.
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Old Aug 11, 2006, 9:00 PM   #3
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A follow-up question concerning RAW.

I am glad someone else out there has the same concerns I do with the RAW format. I use a Canon EOS Rebel XT with the capacity for RAW. After reading the manual I found the Steve's Forums and my questions started multiplying. Now, here is my question:

Don't you have to have a calibrated monitor, calibrated printer and special RAW processing software to effectively manage a RAW file? I think I see the advantage, but I am not a professional and not really inclined to spend a thousand dollars on calibrating and getting software. Will the JPEG image be good enough or am I just deceiving myself?
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Old Aug 11, 2006, 9:51 PM   #4
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bigslickset wrote:
Don't you have to have a calibrated monitor, calibrated printer and special RAW processing software to effectively manage a RAW file?
Having a calibrated monitor and printer is a good idea even if you're not shooting RAW. Bad color is bad color; RAW or JPEG. Like JohnG I shoot RAW selectively, and usually it's RAW + JPEG, where the camera records both types of files for each shot. Since I normally upload images to a lab for printing any RAW files have to be converted to JPEG after processing. Having both options gives me choices. JPEG already look good? Upload as is. Need some tweaking? Convert the RAW file. The RAW is your safety net in those "Oops, forgot tocheck the white balance/exposure compensation/saturation", etc. situations.

The big drawbacks are write-time and space used on the memory card. I wouldn't think of shooting RAW + JPEG without a minimum 2GB card; and a fast one at that. These have been becoming more and more affordable so if you're going to experiment with RAW it's, IMO, a necessary investment.

Most camera manufacturers include some form of RAW processing software if the model has RAW capture. Most are pretty basic and just like everything else there is a vast aftermarket for such products just waiting to take your money. Many offer great features; prices vary, I know Corel offers a version of their Rawshooter Essentials 2005 as a freeware download (I took advantage myself). Look it up online. It will give you the option to experiment for free.
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