RAW vs JPEG

Discussion in 'Photography Talk' started by Steve R, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. Steve R

    Steve R Soil Furtler

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    This article is meant to be educational only, I've tried this topic a few times over the years and every time someone will say "I don't understand all the technical terms and talk within it, so I am trying once more as I feel it is important for camera users to understand what is going on when they take a photograph. And most important of all it comes down to whether or not the camera owner wants control of the camera or will let the camera control them. This is the best I can write it and as jargon free as I think it could be. I hope it informs and I apologise to those whom I confuse.


    Jpeg photos.

    This is simply a type of file that is able to be viewed, across all computer platforms. In the days when it was created, different types of file where being used by different manufacturers/organisations and all because that whilst that jpeg was being created, it size could be reduced, in other words it could be compressed. This meant it could be used online in the days when internet speeds made a Tortoise look speedy. The process is known as "lossy", this means it loses some information.

    RAW photos

    RAW files are ALL of the information in the photograph with none lost. It is how ALL digital photos are captured initially.

    RAW is the file name for this file type but also the accepted name for the process industry wide. RAW is used by canon cameras to name their file type, but other manufacturers use different names for it, for example Nikon cameras use NEF. But RAW is the standard name for a photograph straight out of the camera and not compressed like a jpeg.

    Photograph use.

    RAW is how all photographs are initially captured, but they are not immediately able to be viewed across all computer platforms like a jpeg is so camera manufacturers addressed this problem and built in to their cameras processes that convert that RAW file into a jpeg, this has happened right from the very first digital cameras.

    The megapixels at that time where small 1mp or 2mp so quality was not great and the people who where buying the cameras wanted to just get the photo and use it, they did not want to faff about with software to correct problems caused by the cameras compressing the photo to a jpeg. So over time each manufacturer started to add yet more processes that enhanced or made the photograph look better for the camera owner. Some added filters that "warmed" a photo whilst others left their photos more naturalistic, all added processes that sharpened an image up. So we have ended up with a situation where 20 different cameras can all line up and take the same photo, and every one will look completely different.

    They will all be good representations of the original photograph, but all will be edited, compressed, warmed, cooled, and sharpened to a degree decided by a camera manufacturer in some country in this world of ours. None of this was decided by yourself when you took the photograph.

    So what do you lose?

    The following two photographs illustrate this clearly, I took this shot this morning in our village, I set my camera to save the captured scene as both a RAW and a JPEG file, one photograph two files, the RAW shot is 24mb, the jpeg is 8mb. What this means is that saving a jpeg has thrown away 16mb of information from the shot I photographed.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    RAW 24MB - JPEG 8MB = 16MB

    So in short, saving to JPEG when I took the photograph threw away 2/3 of the information. Now before we move on I will just add that I saved both files to jpeg of 100kb, in the case of the RAW it is 1/240th of it's original size, but it remains a good representation of the original photograph.

    So what is the problem?

    There are pros and cons with all things, the jpeg can be used straight out of the camera as it is in a format that all can view on the internet, via email etc and it is a good representation of the photo that we took, but it is not THE photo. Using the photos above I can tell you that the RAW photo represents the light at the time I took the photo best, part of the jpeg processing has brightened up the shot, it looks like conditions at shoot time where bright and sunny whereas in truth it was quite dark and overcast, so using jpeg has actually now changed my photo because it thinks I need to see everything. And by discarding 2/3rds of the information it has lost so much detail. Surely now this is a poor representation of the original shot I took.

    So what is this 2/3rds?

    Mostly detail is the answer. I had it explained to me thus many years ago.

    Look at a patch of grass across the road from you, you will see "Green grass", now go and have a closer look at the grass, blades grow this way and that catching, reflecting or absorbing the light, like the famous song there will be "forty shades of green" there.

    Now a RAW photograph records all of those differing shades of green, whereas a jpeg records "Green". This is a very simplistic explanation, but in this scenario it is a good way to do it.

    Why is this important?

    It is not so important for photo's viewed online or in email but it is when it comes to printing (remember when we used to have photographs in our hands....a tangible thing!) Output a photo to A2 or poster size, to print, frame and hang over your fireplace and you will want every scrap of detail available, because you will miss it if is not there. And if you capture a pulitzer award winning shot, you will kick yourself if that detail is missing!

    To sum up

    Jpeg's are good for the purpose they are designed for, they can be used straight out of the camera, require little or no editing, remain a good representation of the original photograph (to some degree) and have a low file size. Cons are that processing them loses image quality and detail, they can alter how a photo looks and feels and would be hopeless at producing tangible photographs.

    RAW files retain all information and discard nothing so all quality and detail remain allowing the user to make their own decisions, they do not alter the look and feel of a photo so remain truer to the shot that you took. Cons. Much larger file size, requires software to convert for online use.

    I have a DSLR camera and I use both file types, if I am taking shots down on my allotment I will use jpeg, if however I am taking "nice" photo's I will use RAW every time, for the flexibility it gives me, but both are edited when viewed online, whether I do it by choice or the camera does it for me is the decision I make when I press the button to take the shot.

    Steve...:)
     
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    • wiseowl

      wiseowl FRIENDLY ADMIN Staff Member

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      Thanks @Steve R cracking post my friend I have made this a sticky thread:smile::blue thumb:
       
    • shiney

      shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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      A superb explanation of the difference. Thanks :dbgrtmb:
       
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      • Loofah

        Loofah Admin Staff Member

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        Anyone interested in photo editing should use the RAW format; as Steve says, all the detail is there to be manipulated. Even the best jpg will give inferior results to editing a RAW file.

        Question though - given the industry managed to all use JPG/JPEG format, why have different manufacturers decided on their own proprietary RAW formats?
         
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        • Steve R

          Steve R Soil Furtler

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          I don't know Loofah, but I remember well how RAW rolled out. Photographers wanted it and machines and software where playing catch up. Adobe released "Camera RAW" as a photoshop addon then later built it into the next photoshop version. Codecs to allow RAW viewing on monitors where not readily available and at first where third party made by tech genius's from within the photography sphere. And all manufacturers wanted to get RAW files out there for their customers, so camera firmware versions needed updating a few times over a 2-3 year period, and not all current camera models had the ability to produce RAW files, it was a little messy/sketchy to start.

          I guess as jpeg was already in place, the need to come together with a joint format in mind for RAW was not necessary or even impossible.

          Steve...:)
           
        • wiseowl

          wiseowl FRIENDLY ADMIN Staff Member

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          Hi @Steve R I would like to try raw but I am having a difficult time finding some software to do it with,Adobe is so expensive now:smile:
           
        • Steve R

          Steve R Soil Furtler

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          What camera do you have Woo..is it a canon 600d?

          Digital Photo Professional that comes bundled with your camera will process RAW files fine. If for some reason you do not have the software, it can be downloaded for free. I would think that by now most manufacturers would have their own software to convert RAW to JPEG.

          Steve...:)
           
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            Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
          • wiseowl

            wiseowl FRIENDLY ADMIN Staff Member

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            Hi @Steve R I have the Canon 77d which I believe are CR2 files and a Panasonic FZ1000 :smile:
             
          • Steve R

            Steve R Soil Furtler

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            • wiseowl

              wiseowl FRIENDLY ADMIN Staff Member

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              Thanks @Steve R much appreciated my friend:smile:
               
            • Scrungee

              Scrungee Well known for it

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              There's no need to commit yourself to either RAW or JPEG - save images as both!

              I'm saving RAW to sd card slot 1 (that takes fastest cards) and the highest possible quality JPEGs to the second sd card in slot 2. Surprisingly, not all cameras have their highest JPEG settings as default, and you might need to delve into their menu system to change this.

              N.B. If you just save RAW, you'll most likely find it impossible to quickly share images straight out your camera, and will need to transfer to a laptop, then convert to jpeg before forwarding the image via email/whatsapp/etc.

              P.S. There's other 'image out the camera' vs Post Processing issues, such as the use of ND grad filters.
               
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                Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
              • Loofah

                Loofah Admin Staff Member

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                Which is fine if you have two SD card slots... You can still save as both formats (I guess this is true of all cameras) but it zaps the memory card storage pretty quick
                 
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                • Loofah

                  Loofah Admin Staff Member

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                  • longk

                    longk Total Gardener

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                    Thanks for this posting :dbgrtmb:
                    I use RAW when my camera struggles with certain colours. Take two visually identical reds and the colours come out very differently and often lack contrast which I am unable to dial out through settings.
                    It's also useful when photographing customers cars after resprays. We had an old Bentley done and the colour (a purple that was on the navy blue side of the spectrum) was just off - I had to travel to another customer with an identical car to get reference shots for the paint suppliers and supply shots of the car that they had supplied paint for. In both instances the only way that I could capture it correctly was in RAW.
                     
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                    • Scrungee

                      Scrungee Well known for it

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                      Memory card prices have dropped dramatically recently.
                       
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