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RAW vs. jpg
Old 01-15-2007, 09:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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My D2X and 5D shoot 13 meg RAW images and compressed jpgs. I used to shoot only raw but switched to jpg as I can hold so many more images on a 2Gig card (I only have 7 cards so space goes quick on a full day of shooting). Has anyone really noticed a difference in image quality when just shooting jpgs? I want the very best but am afraid running out of space or switching cards too often may be foolish if the final image is the same. Looking for input....


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Re: RAW vs. jpg
Old 01-15-2007, 09:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad View Post
My D2X and 5D shoot 13 meg RAW images and compressed jpgs. I used to shoot only raw but switched to jpg as I can hold so many more images on a 2Gig card (I only have 7 cards so space goes quick on a full day of shooting). Has anyone really noticed a difference in image quality when just shooting jpgs? I want the very best but am afraid running out of space or switching cards too often may be foolish if the final image is the same. Looking for input....


Brad, Tampa
Here are some thoughts on the whole subject of RAW vs JPG:

Actually every one on this list shoots in the RAW mode if they shoot digital!

What you say, how can that be? Some are shooting JPG aren't they?

Not really.

When you press the shutter release on your Canon 20D, the sensor is exposed to the scene that you've framed in your viewfinder. It records the information in that scene. After the exposure is over, the data from that shot is sitting in a memory buffer in the camera. And that data, at that point is essentially the RAW data of the shot. It has not yet been converted into JPG or the ultimate RAW format that will be saved.

So what happens at that point?

The camera checks your settings and the computer in the camera does a number of things. Suppose you're set for JPG only. Then the camera uses its built in RAW converter to convert the RAW data in the buffer into a JPG file and it writes it out to the CF card. If you have chosen RAW, then it simply compresses (lossless) the data and writes it out to the CF card. It also calls on its RAW converter and makes a small JPG which it embeds in the RAW data file written to the CF card. This is the image that you'll see on your LCD. If you choose RAW + JPG, then it does all of the above and saves a JPG in the size you specified.

So, like it or not, you are shooting in RAW and you are making use of a RAW converter!

The question might then arise, which RAW converter is best? Is a RAW converter built into a very small computer inside of your camera with very limited memory able to do as good a job in converting the RAW data to JPG as a huge program on a large super fast modern computer system?

When you depend on the camera to do your RAW conversions, as you do when you shoot in JPG only, you are giving up many of the choices that could be made in the process. Essentially all you control is what you've set for the WB and what you've set for the parameters. And you're pretty much locked in to what you set for the basic exposure information.

If we compare this to the film world, then shooting digital and using JPG only is like shooting slide film in the pre-digital days. You need to be right on for your WB and for your exposure. In fact you usually have less than 1/2 stop leeway. If you shoot RAW, it is more like shooting negative film in the pre-digital days. You may have up to 2-3 stops of leeway. Naturally in the film days you chose film types for your WB or used filters to get the proper WB.

If you shoot every shot with the correct WB and the "right on" correct exposure and you frame the photo in the view finder exactly so that no cropping will later be needed, you will get great JPG photos. But if any of these three decisions is off by very much, you will have great difficulty in correcting it later without comprising he ultimate image. With RAW you do have the extra leeway. With RAW you also have the opportunity which you never have with JPG to extend the dynamic range by multiple processing of the image in the RAW converter. Now you might argue that you could shoot multiple JPG shots and different exposures and then combine them, and this is true for a static scene, but not possible for a non-static scene.

But bottom line is, whether you like it or not, you are all shooting RAW and using a RAW converter. Maybe the choice you want to think about is whether you want to use a very limited RAW converter or a more powerful one.

Just some food for thought.

Here is an example of a shot made in RAW + JPG, so that the same shot could be used for comparison. Since the comparison photo is oversize, I'm just linking to it.

http://www.rfredricksmith.com/rawjpg.jpg

Notice the fine detail differences. Keep in mind that this is extra detail that will become more important the more you manipulate the photo.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: RAW vs. jpg
Old 01-15-2007, 10:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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RAW vs. JPEG?

I'm not touching that one - too many strong opinions on both sides, arrows will fly and no one's opinion will change in the process. I'd just say shoot, compare and decide what works best for you. (pulls down helmet and hunkers down in foxhole)

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Re: RAW vs. jpg
Old 01-15-2007, 10:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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rfs,


I must say, the images posted on your website are a quick and simple answer to the question. With the increased detail and range of the RAW image, shooting RAW makes a world of difference.

As far as exposure compensation, WB and all the above, I find it funny that the software and camera manufactures' mislead and say these settings can be adjusted in RAW when in fact, there is just exposure time, aperture, and senor sensitivity in photography. Exposure as an adjustable setting is not adjustable at all once the shutter is tripped, regardless of what Adobe, Canon or Nikon want to claim. It's simply an adjustment of contrast and brightness. Regardless, the wide dynamic range of under exposed digital images is nothing short of amazing. I shoot a band outdoors with studio lighting the other day www.floridafashionphotography.com/bandfl3 and was amazed of how much detail was in dark images. I shot 1/3 to a full stop under to make sure the fast moving subjects were sharp at 1/200th. Just love shooting digital since my F5 days of ole....


Thanks so much rfs!
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Re: RAW vs. jpg
Old 01-15-2007, 10:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
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It's not that bad... come on out!
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Re: RAW vs. jpg
Old 01-15-2007, 10:47 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I like my digital photography the same way I like my ribeye steak - Raw. However, like steak shooting digital in Raw can consume too much of my assets - and I'll shoot Fine Jpeg when the subject isn't a career-maker. But, that does not negate the superiority of RAW unaltered files to Jpegs or similar compressions.

RFS used the comparison of Color Negative to Color Positives(Slides) and he was quite generous. I liken the difference between Raw and Jpeg as equal to a color negative recorded on 2 1/4 negative versus a 35mm negative. The 35mm can try hard, but it never can attain the image quality of a 2 1/4 - so it is with Raw versus Jpeg.

Why buy $1000-$4000 cameras and $500-$2000 lens only to handicap the process by compressing your digital file...it don't pass the cost-benefit analysis.
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Re: RAW vs. jpg
Old 01-16-2007, 05:08 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad View Post
As far as exposure compensation, WB and all the above, I find it funny that the software and camera manufactures' mislead and say these settings can be adjusted in RAW when in fact, there is just exposure time, aperture, and senor sensitivity in photography.
WB is, in fact, completely adjustable after the fact. The WB setting has no effect on raw capture. It is used by the raw converter to determine how to interpret the captured data to produce viewable colors in the JPEG. It is the same for the raw converter in the camera, or in your computer.
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