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Old Jul 12, 2007, 7:52 AM   #1
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Hello all...

The RAW vs JPEG Debate is one that has been raging for quite some time now. I wish to share with you some of my own observations and how it might aid in your decision as to which to choose. It will not be a technical discourse as I am not in a position to do so. It will be based on my observations and how the decision will affect the final outcome i.e. the print media.

RAW is akin to a recording that is done directly to Pro Tools without compression and JPEG is what that recording might sound like after converting the signal for MP3 listening. That signal has been compressed and as a result has lost some of the high end and low end definition as well as the dynamic range. This analogy can be directly transposed to visual media. In photography RAW is the pure unadulterated signal. Now why would anyone even consider JPEG unless they felt that their image was not worthy of that kind of rendition. It should not come down to a question of memory or cost of storage etc. It is an image that merits the best resolution possible that may in the future be used for a support that needs the kind of resolution that only RAW can provide.

You may think.."Well it is only a snap shot." Well todays snapshot may be tomorrows historical archive. You are leaving a trace of history for future generations to view. Give your image the respect it deserves. Shoot in RAW...
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Old Jul 12, 2007, 9:22 AM   #2
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benjikan wrote:
... It should not come down to a question of memory or cost of storage etc. ...
Using RAW does cut down the space available on your hard drive and does increase
the processing time. I agree that hard drive and flash space are cheap enough not to
be a big factor, but extra time cannot be purchased at Best Buy.

Another reason to avoid RAW is the amount of time the camera needs between
shots. How serious an issue that is will depend on the specific camera, but it would
not have been possible to get the image below while using RAW with my
Konica-Minolta 5d.

I have found that if I get the exposure and white balance dialed in with subdued
settings for contrast/saturation/sharpening/... there is little reason to use RAW. Of
course I cannot be sure that the settings are right when I grab the camera for a shot
of Elvis dancing with Big Foot so my default setting is RAW+JPEG.
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Old Jul 12, 2007, 9:49 AM   #3
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I just got my first serious digital camera and I have going back and forth from RAW to JPG to see the differance. So far the only real advantage I see to RAW is dificult or unsure white balance. It's a easier to fix white balance in adobe camera raw that it is to set a custom white balance. And you don't miss the shot while your playing with the camera.

As for that shot of Elvis dancing with Big Foot... I figure the men in black will just confiscate my memery card anyway.
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Old Jul 12, 2007, 11:18 AM   #4
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Just a thought: that RAW adjustment for WB thing is gone now.
Adobe Camera Raw 4 (in PS CS3) can open both JPG's and Raw files and it lets you fiddle with all the same adjustments for both. :idea:

Speed of raw operation has not been an issue in the upper end nikon/canon cameras (though cost surely is :-) )
the latest whizbang shoots 10 raws/sec for 30 frames. Even the old one will do 8.5 raws/sec for 22 shots. My venerable ancient 20D will do 5 raws/sec for 6 shots before bogging down.
But yes, it does chew up space quickly.

One thing, I believe most printers are still 8bit devices so a jpg (at max 12 setting - no compression) would hold all the data they can print .

The extra data in RAWs does come in handy when makng HDR's or stitching panoramas.

There was another thread about storage going on recently and in it I mantioned I have now gone to raided terabyte NAS units to store all my images.
Something I never saw comming when I had a PC XT with a whopping big 10meg hd just a few years ago :?


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Old Jul 12, 2007, 7:59 PM   #5
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Something to think about.



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Old Jul 13, 2007, 11:03 AM   #6
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Have to disagree with the OP. As with anything else, the Raw vs. JPEG issue is not black and white. It is not - one side is 100% correct. This is the same tired argument that: "real pros only use RAW". If this were the case, professional cameras would only record in RAW format. Guess what - they don't.

As Bill correctly pointed out - nothing is free. There are downsides to using RAW:
  • Buffer handling[/*]
  • Burst rates[/*]
  • Disk space [/*]
  • Workflow Time (biggest issue to me anyway is this last one)
At the highest levels, shooting RAW provides some benefit - assuming of course, the photographer is proficient at advanced RAW conversion/manipulation techniques.

I would argue, however, that for 90% of the photographers out there, the only benefit gained from shooting RAW would be in 2 primary areas:
  1. Exposure correction[/*]
  2. White balance correction
I'm not arguing that more can't be done in raw, just arguing that the majority of photographers are either going to be not proficient enough to do more improvements or simply won't care enough to try.

I would argue that photographers that rely on RAW as a crutch for correcting the above two issues are going to have lesser quality photos in general. I say a crutch because there are legitimate reasons why you NEED to do the correction in RAW (inconsistant white balance environment - cycling lights for instance where it's impossible to set a custom white balance or wide dynamic range or needing a faster shutter speed than you could really get with proper exposure, etc.. etc....)

So, what am I saying? I'm saying, RAW is simply a tool, like dozens of others out there. I competant photographer should be aware of what the costs/benefits are and make a decision for their work.

There are instances where I use RAW and instances where I don't. For instance, if I'm shooting portrait work or landscape I'll shoot in RAW. I know I'll have a limited number of shots I want to end up processing and I want those limited shots to be perfect. If I were shooting weddings I would use RAW for the safety net it provides as well. But when I'm doing sports work and processing several hundred images, RAW is completely unnecessary and counter productive - it takes up valuable space, and the minor benefit it might provide isn't worth the added cost to my workflow. I've seen the results of other would-be sports photogs that don't get exposure correct in-camera or WB correct and try to fix it in raw. It takes them a heck of a lot longer to correct things and in the end they have lesser quality results. This is because they are using RAW as a crutch to correct poor technique.

So, in the end I would advise people to certainly practice with RAW and learn more about it. They can then decide for themslves based upon their own cost-benefit analysis if the benefits are worth the costs. But, I disagree that it's a forgone conclusion everyone should use RAW.
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Old Jul 13, 2007, 12:44 PM   #7
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I shot a few underexposed images in both jpg and raw. So far I didn't see that I could correct them any better in Raw. But then I'm new to using Raw and I don't have the Nikon software (Bought the camera used) been using Adobe Camera Raw and Raw Therapee. As for work flow I don't see that as a problem for me.
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Old Jul 13, 2007, 5:36 PM   #8
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I agree with JohnG, I go on lots of trips with friends and always tend to be the photographer for them. When the trips over everyone wants to see the pictures as soon as possible. JPEG reduces my processing time and lets everyone re-enjoy the trip before it's forgotten. If I shot in RAW and told everyone to wait weeks because "I have to edited every picture" people won't think I'm very good at using my camera. ALTHOUGH! I strongly agree with shooting "no room for error" pictures in RAW just for that safety net factor mentioned by someone else. I hate coming back from a trip to find a picture I really thought would be good, isn't as good as the lcd camera display leads on to be
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Old Jul 13, 2007, 8:25 PM   #9
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There's a debate??? I think each one has it's own purpose.

I shoot RAW like a negative in 35mm...when I want full control of the post processing. My style dictates that I use it about 75% of the time.

JPEG works well for me if I'm shooting quickly & in situations where I can't make instant changes on the fly. Both are useful if you use them correctly.

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Old Jul 20, 2007, 9:07 PM   #10
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I find that RAW works well for many of my pictures, in that I am able to recover shadow detail much better in high contrast landscapes, and can sharpen without the artifacts that come with jpeg.

As others have noted, shooting many pics at sporting events, fireworks shows, and public events, jpeg is more than up to the task.

I guess my take is that for 'fine art' photography, use RAW. For rapid shooting and large numbers of shots, use jpeg.

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