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Old Jan 24, 2008, 8:40 AM   #1
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Hi
I have some doubts about RAW. If I shoot RAW all setings (auto contrast, saturation, sharpening..) are disabled, so every RAW pic should be postprocessed. Graphic card, monitor and printer can not use more than 8 bit per chanel, so everything is finaly reduced to 8 bit. Processing from 12 or 14 bits to 8 bits looks same if it does camera( without auto contrast, saturation etc) or if I do it with PC software. What is real advantage of RAW for ordinary shooting. Is option to shoot RAW and JPG together the best, and use RAW for selected pics?
Please let me know where am I wrong and any othen opinion.

Thanks
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Old Jan 24, 2008, 9:01 AM   #2
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You are right: if you have the camera's white balance, exposure, contrast, gama, saturation, ... set exactly right there is no reason to shoot RAW. However if you have to adjust any of those afterwards, a better/easier job can be done with RAW. I have my camera set to Auto with RAW+JPEG when it is in the bag so it is ready to shoot when I grab it. If I am going to shoot a great deal in the same light (horse show, family picnic, ...) I take the time to get the camera's setting just right and shoot JPEG (high resolution, low compression).
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Old Jan 24, 2008, 1:33 PM   #3
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There is an aspect of RAW that you are overlooking. All JPEG images are compressed to some extent, and so JPEG images all have less detail than the RAW images would have.
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Old Jan 24, 2008, 1:46 PM   #4
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TCav wrote:
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There is an aspect of RAW that you are overlooking. All JPEG images are compressed to some extent, and so JPEG images all have less detail than the RAW images would have.
While technically true, the actual practical impact of this is pretty non-existent. If you go through 10 jpeg compressions then yes you'll start to see some degradation. But 2 compressions (initial writing plus editing) you'll never notice a practical difference as long as you're using the highest quality compression.

I would even go so far to say that for 99% of people out there if you have WB and exposure correct in-camera you wont get a better result by starting with a RAW file and doing a conversion and printing the result 11x14 or smaller.

There is a myth perpetuated on the web that "real photographers" always shoot RAW. That's rubbish.

The only time I would agree with using RAW is when a particular camera has a poor JPEG algorithm - I think there are a couple cameras like that on the market. If your camera isn't one that suffers from that defect then don't buy into the hype about RAW IF you can get WB and exposure correct. If you're unable to do that THEN raw is absolutely the right tool for the job. Also great when you want to do a blended conversion for higher dynamic range. So like everything else with photography it's just another tool. There are times when it's the right tool and there are times when it isn't necessary. One thing I'm confident of though - you'll always get the best photos when you get things correct in-camera. So if you constantly have exposure or WB issues then improve your technique behind the camera - you'll get much better photos then if you instead try to rely on RAW all the time to fix the mistakes. Just my opinion. YMMV
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 12:37 AM   #5
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JohnG wrote:
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The only time I would agree with using RAW is when a particular camera has a poor JPEG algorithm - I think there are a couple cameras like that on the market.
Oh, so true!

I use a set of Panasonic cameras, an FZ50, a TZ3 and an LX2. The FZ50 produces wonderful files at ISO's 100 and 200, which is well over 95% of the time based on my type shooting. From ISO 400 it's RAW only. I don't stray above ISO 200 with the TZ3 because it's a JPEG only camera, but at those settings, it produces great files for a compact, and with a 28-280 zoom, it's very versatile. I shoot the LX2 RAW ALL THE TIME. At ISO 100the in-camera JPEG files look good, but RAW capture turns the camera into a 3ISO range (ISO's 100-400) camera, which for any compact other than the Fuji F30/31 is pretty darn good...

http://gmchappell.smugmug.com/gallery/3986208#231772875

One thing you can do to get the best of both worldsis what you said...shoot RAW+JPEG. The JPEG will be processed in-camera based on the settings you've selected in the parameters menu. Once downloaded, you can view your JPEG's, using the ones you are happy with and deleting the RAW files. In the cases where the JPEG is not what you want, process the RAW file and delete the in-cameraJPEG you don't like. The penalty for shooting that way is, fewer images per gigabyte, but hey, gigabytes are cheap today....buy a lot of them. The two Panasonic models I have that allow RAW capture don't give you an option...they automatically include an in-camera JPEG. I rarely use them.
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 3:34 AM   #6
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There are a few advantages to shooting RAW:

1. Better DR. No question, completely provable, provides one extra stop at least on just about every camera that has a RAW mode.
2. No worrying about white balance, easy to set desired value after the fact.
3. As better RAW converters are developed over time you can go back to shots that were problematic and re-develop them for better results. I have certainly benefitted from this on some of my favourite images.
4. Once sharpening or moire are introduced into a JPG file they are almost impossible to remove. From a RAW file you have a wider range of options without destroying anything.
5. Better colour depth. Much of the time the difference is negligible, but sometimes it's not, these things depend on your printer and how you process the image and also on how much and what kind of post processing you do. This very often comes down to particular images. The differences can certainly be apparent in prints under some circumstances.
6. Highlight recovery - highlights that may be "blown" in JPG form are often still eminently usable in RAW. This may or may not be a result of a "mistake" in exposure. In high DR scenes you often are forced into some clipping of highlights, shooting RAW gives you better pictures because you can recover a lot of that information which is lost in a JPG conversion.

What are the disadvantages?
1. Uses more space on card, buffer, computer.
2. Need a computer to "process" the image into a usable form. This implies some attention needs to be paid to workflow, but in the days of Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture I don't see workflow as a significant issue any longer.


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One thing I'm confident of though - you'll always get the best photos when you get things correct in-camera. So if you constantly have exposure or WB issues then improve your technique behind the camera - you'll get much better photos then if you instead try to rely on RAW all the time to fix the mistakes.
I disagree. Getting WB exactly right at the time of shooting is often very difficult and when shooting RAW it is irrelevant - it does not make your photos any better and it's not a mistake. Your comment assumes that there is always and everywhere a "correct" WB rather than one which suits the image.

Getting optimal exposure for RAW processing is not always the same thing as getting "correct" exposure. When shooting JPG you have to expose "correctly" when shooting RAW you can expose optimally (expose to the right) for the scene and adjust for the best image in post. This is more problematic when shooting JPG because a slight misjudgement can ruin a photo by blowing highlights.


I am not saying RAW is always the best solution for a particular situation. If I were going on the kind of sports shoot that John often does, I would no doubt use JPG some of the time.

As it happens however for the kind of photography I do the advantages of shooting RAW far outweigh the disadvantages.


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Graphic card, monitor and printer can not use more than 8 bit per chanel, so everything is finaly reduced to 8 bit.
This is true, but does not tell the whole story. Images can be analysed using software that shows the colour gamut of the underlying data and the difference in a processing workflow can sometimes quite clearly show how much data can be lost when using an 8-bit workflow, a difference that can sometimes be very obvious in the print.

Having said all of that, it is no doubt true that for most people, most of the time the differences will be negligible.
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 7:14 AM   #7
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emes wrote:
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...Graphic card, monitor and printer can not use more than 8 bit per chanel, so everything is finaly reduced to 8 bit. ...
Not quite true. There are graphics cards, monitors and printers that do better than 8 bit per channel color. They aren't cheap, but they are available.

See some of the products from Eizo, for example.
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 7:28 AM   #8
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peripatetic wrote:
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Having said all of that, it is no doubt true that for most people, most of the time the differences will be negligible.
Again, once your printing at 11x14 or less I would say 90-95% of photos would be indistinquishible whether they came from RAW vs. JPEG.

Let's not forget - JPEG images can be corrected as well. And, absolutely looking at large crops on a monitor you can tell a difference. Once they're printed though and the pixel peeping is over people cant tell the difference. There is a point of diminishing returns when processing images that aren't going to be printed 16x20. Again, especially if you get things correct in-camera.

All I'm suggesting is this - it's a tool. The OP should try the tool and see when the tool is useful to them and when it isn't. There is no need to be brainwashed into the "real photographers always use it". If the OP uses it and fids they get better photos because of it - fabulous. But at least that's based on practical first hand experience and not brainwashing.


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Old Jan 25, 2008, 9:14 AM   #9
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Sure but if you shoot enough images you may find that you have one of those 5% where it really does make a big difference, and it's the best image of the day and you wish you had a RAW version.

On a day hike in the mountains a couple of years ago I ran out of space on my CF card once we were nearly home. I quickly deleted about 15 RAW files and switched my camera to JPG - good for 50 shots at high quality.

10 minutes later came the best shot of the day by far. So now I only have a JPG of that shot and printed at A3, and even A4 it is very clearly of inferior technical quality compared to my other shots of that day which were processed with RAW. That photo is on my sitting room wall at A3 size, and I still get the occasional twinge of regret that I didn't get it RAW.

The problem is that you don't know in advance if you are going to need the extra advantages that the RAW processing will offer as the scene unfolds.

My real point is that there is usually a very limited downside. Shooting RAW never makes your photos worse. So as long as you have the storage space and don't habitually run out of buffer in your camera there is no reason NOT to shoot RAW.

I learned my lesson of course and since that day have never run out of space on my CF cards.
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 9:26 AM   #10
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The down side is the extra workflow and the lack of space. If you have the space and shoot RAW + jpeg that's one thing. But, why incur the added workflow for 1000 shots when just 10 need raw?

In your example you ran out of card space because you used RAW on a bunch of shots you didn't need to.

Look I'm not saying RAW is bad. It's just another tool that's all. And like any other tool it's essential to know when to use it.

I'll lump this in with the people that say - YOU NEED ANTI-SHAKE. It's critical. No, it isn't as you and I both know it. It's useful in certain situations and not others. Same is true for RAW. If you had unlimited space, sure raw + jpeg is the ideal solution. Then you could use the JPEG file for most shots and resort to RAW file for the few shots that realistically benefit from it. But your example illustrates where theory and reality dont meet - you ran out of space. So there WAS a downside. That's not even taking into account the extra PP workflow for raw conversion for all the other files.

Now, that's fine if you still think RAW is right for you. No argument there. For others though - the costs (increased space, increased work flow) may outweigh the gains.

There really is quite a bit of processing that can be done to a JPEG image file. We'll just have to agree to disagree on that point. I'm merely saying the OP should decide for themselves. There are plenty of 'real photographers' that get good results from JPEG just as there are plenty that get results from RAW. And the notion that you can't get a quality large print from JPEG is just plain wrong. you can. I'm not saying you MUST shoot jpeg. Just decide for yourself. Saying RAW is the only way to quality is like saying:

Real wedding photogs only use Fuji. That's not true. Canon, Nikon and Fuji all have pro wedding photogs. As I'm sure Oly and Pentax and Sony do. RAW is a tool - it isn't a requirement.
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