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Thread: Why use RAW in digital camera?

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    Why use RAW in digital camera?

    I am looking into a Nikon digital camera but it does not have a RAW feature. I am learning about digital camera's so I would like to know is it a necessary feature on the camera?? Why and how would I use it?

    Thank you for helping me learn.

    Ann

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    I'm sure a lot of people will offer their advice, but here mine:-

    RAW is absolutely necessary.

    If you think about making an image as being in two parts. The end of the first part is when you press the shutter. The start of the start of the second is when you upload the image to your computer and your process it, to get the image you want.

    Okay, so that fine. But, why RAW?

    When you take a JPG image in camera. What you end up with is the camera doing that second part for you. You want to stay in charge of the whole development process.

    But why can't I just develop the JPG? Well. that process of the camera doing the processing and given you the final image, means a lot of the image data is dumped. That's why a JPG is a much smaller file that a RAW. You want all of the data available to you is you're going to process the image.

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Hi Ann,

    Are you considering a bridge style (B500) camera and is there something in particular that you find desirable with that particular style? I ask because years ago I purchased a similar style camera that I felt I'd be more comfortable carrying for certain events (street fairs, events where a larger camera wouldn't be allowed).

    The version I had (Nikon P90) had only jpeg format and as Donald stated there are limitations, however there were also a few others (digital zoom at longer focal lengths, max aperture of 6.3-8.0, short battery life. Those are just a few other aspects of your camera choice that you should consider before purchasing.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Ann - let me take a bit of a contrary view to what many others will.

    First things first; all cameras capture raw data, but some do not save it and only give the user the option of jpeg output.

    RAW is a feature that is of little use to the photographer, unless you are planning to do some post-processing to the pictures that you take. If all you are planning to do is to take a shot and download it onto a computer to perhaps share it on the internet via social media; then not having a raw feature is not going to have any impact on you. A raw file is often referred to as the digital equivalent of a negative from a film camera. Your camera will likely come with some pretty basic post-processing software, but in most cases camera manufacturers do not make particularly useful editing software and most people purchase something else. Of course, you have to learn how to use this software.

    Simple straightening or cropping can be done on a straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) jpeg with no noticeable impact on quality. I'm willing to be that over 99% of the images that we see on the internet are in fact SOOC jpegs with little or no editing.

    Raw files come in when you are not satisfied with what you are getting with the SOOC jpegs and want to push your image making a bit harder. I shot jpeg only for a number of years and edited them extensively after a while. I virtually always shoot raw + jpeg and many of my social media posts are SOOC jpegs.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    The issue underlying the seeming difference between what Donald and Manfred wrote is what you want to do. All digital camers will produce jpeg images. That requires that the camera do the processing, based on recipes that engineers have designed to work with common situations. That's why cameras have settings like "landscape" and "portrait"--the make the camera apply different recipes.

    Most of the images you see on the web are taken that way.

    However, if your goal is to have control over the image--to have it processed according to the characteristics of the image and what you want the result to look like--then you have to learn to do processing yourself. To take a simple example: if a setting has limited tonal range (dark to light) and relatively little contrast, you might decide you want to increase both. That is trivial to do in postprocessing. Or if you find that the camera guessed wrong in setting the white balance, you can change it.

    So my view is a hybrid of Donald's and Manfred's. If you don't want to take control, you don't need raw. If you want to take control, you will. Sometimes you can modify a jpeg processed in camera enough to suit what you want, but sometimes it isn't practical. I have never asked for a show of hands, but I think you would find that the majority of folks here shoot raw. I always do.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Excellent advice!

    BOTTOM LINE... If you are not intending to do much post processing editing, RAW is not a great concern. There are many free or low cost image editing programs which will allow you to do some initial editing such as cropping, straightening and basic brightness and contrast adjustments using JPEG files.

    In fact, my niece does some very excellent work using her cell phone and a free editing program. Her results are basically never printed but are usually stored on the phone or somewhere in the Cloud. She finishes her images with some very creative and quite well-done montages.

    OTOH... I personally always shoot in RAW and use some complicated editing programs such as Photoshop and NIK Software. Are my images better than those of my niece? Not really for the uses she puts her images but, yes for the use I want for my images: which includes some relatively large prints..

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Back when I was getting self educated on digital cameras, I didn't know RAW from a hole in the ground. I did know I wanted a camera that I could control just like my old Nikon FE. Not many cameras would allow that back then. I eventually ended up with a Nikon CoolPix 995. It has the capability to shoot and record RAW+jpeg. A friend of mine convinced me to shoot that way even though I didn't know a thing about post processing RAW images or why I would want to use them instead of jpeg's.
    As my user name says, I used to shoot in 'AUTO' a lot, especially with the 995 since it was hard enough making the transition over to a much smaller camera than I was used to, let alone figuring out all the tiny buttons it had to use it manually. I was never really disappointed with the quality of the jpeg's it produced either. I was happy I didn't have to wait for the film to be developed!
    To this day, I still shoot RAW+jpeg, if the camera has the feature, and I'm still fairly satisfied with the jpeg results I'm getting from my cameras too. I'm glad I listened to my friend and recorded the RAW images as some day I may still get some software and delve into processing more than I already have.
    I would recommend you ask yourself what do you really want to do with your new camera and think about what you may want to do with any images you take with it in the future. You don't have to use the RAW files you save, but if you don't have them you can't ever work with them in the future.
    Good luck with your decision, and be sure to ask more questions here, as these guys and gals really know their stuff when it comes to taking photographs.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    And follows on from Alan - When I went back to photography in 2009 (after have been away from it for about 30 years), there was all this talk about RAW and JPGs and memory cards (I got the camera and then had to wait for a few days because once I read the manual I realised that I needed a memory card to record images).

    The point I'm making is that this photography thing can get under your skin. As Alan says, you may, at the moment, not be interested in processing your own images, but as the years go on, you might wish you had a bit more control.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Marie PA View Post
    I am looking into a Nikon digital camera but it does not have a RAW feature.
    Oddly enough, the first two Sigma cameras I bought were just the opposite, they shot raw only and did not have a JPEG option!

    I guess Marketing pressure was brought to bear and the next model provided raw or JPEG (but not both together). Sadly, that camera's JPEGs were really bad with horrendous color casts. So, in that case, "why use raw" was because the raw files could try out various white balances including Custom to get a decent colour rendition from that model.

    A good example of what Manfred said: "Raw files come in when you are not satisfied with what you are getting with the SOOC jpegs".
    Last edited by xpatUSA; 3rd September 2017 at 06:45 PM.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    WOW!!! Lots of info! Thank you so much for teaching me about raw and JPEG.

    One more question...does it matter if I want to print out a 8x10 picture - what would the difference between the raw and just a JPEG photo?? Would the raw be more crispier, clearer?? Or is a raw photo taken only to be used in a program to MAKE it more crisp and clear???

    Thank you again for answering my questions.
    Ann

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    At 8x10 RAW is unlikely to make it observably crisper or clearer if you are using the full uncropped image. The advantages of using RAW are more apparent in things such as shadow detail, recovery from a poorly exposed photograph or incorrect white balance. However if you shoot jpeg make sure that the settings are for largest size and best/max quality.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Most commercial photo printers will require sRGB jpegs. If you print your own, then you have a lot more latitude as to the type of image you can print.

    With respect to image quality, I can always get a better looking image through post processing, regardless if I start with. JPEG or raw versus what my camera produces.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Marie PA View Post
    .. Or is a raw photo taken only to be used in a program to MAKE it more crisp and clear???
    That pretty much sums it up. Printers can't make heads or tails of RAW. At some point the file has to be converted to a printer friendly format for printing. As a matter of fact image viewing software has to convert RAW files to jpeg in order to display them on your screen. You may not see a saved jpeg on your hard drive but it is there somewhere if you're viewing images that were shot in RAW.

    RAW photos contain more information that can be enhanced. When you shoot directly in jpeg, the processing is done inside the camera and is "baked in". That includes sharpening. Lighting and color can be manipulated a lot in post processing software but if the sharpening is overdone in the original jpeg it can't be undone.

    As others have said, much depends on what your needs are. If you simply want to take photos and share on-line or print up to 8x10s but photography is not a serious hobby, then shooting RAW is an unnecessary complication. If you think you may get serious about photography then it's probably good to start at least shooting RAW plus jpeg right from the start. I shot for a couple of years in jpeg only and kick myself every time I pull up some awesome shots that I took back then that have technical flaws(e.g. blown highlights) which I can't correct.

    Hope I didn't simply add to the confusion...

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    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    How about EXIF capable printers, is there any difference between what the EXIF data contains as opposed to what the software (let the software manage color) can achieve? At any point in the workflow the EXIF data can become detached if the user does not take care.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    The point I'm making is that this photography thing can get under your skin. As Alan says, you may, at the moment, not be interested in processing your own images, but as the years go on, you might wish you had a bit more control.
    Those are my thoughts as well.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernFocus View Post
    As a matter of fact image viewing software has to convert raw files to JPEG in order to display them on your screen. You may not see a saved jpeg on your hard drive but it is there somewhere if you're viewing images that were shot in RAW.
    Not so, Dan, sorry.

    For most screens, the conversion is from raw to sRGB or, for some fancy screens, Adobe RGB (1998).

    Even for viewing a JPEG, the conversion for viewing is normally from Y'CbCr to RGB.

    Some raw files, but not all, have an embedded full-size JPEG which a Viewer might or might not use as the review image. For example, FastStone Viewer can be set to show either the embedded JPEG or a converted raw image (uses DCraw for that).
    Last edited by xpatUSA; 4th September 2017 at 03:02 AM.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    I normally use Jpeg UNLESS I feel that the situation may indicate that I will need to do significant post processing as say the contrast is too high, the colours are not natural, etc then I go to jpeg plus raw. I find that the quality of the jpeg from modern cameras is very good, and often the jpeg is satisfactory.
    The important thing is to take a good image in the first case, and that often will minimise the need much post processing. Take a poor image then pigs ear comes to mind.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by xpatUSA View Post
    Not so, Dan, sorry....
    Fair enough, Ted. A little intellectual laziness. Simply trying to make the point to the author of the OP that RAW files have to be converted to see them.

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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    The point I'm making is that this photography thing can get under your skin. As Alan says, you may, at the moment, not be interested in processing your own images, but as the years go on, you might wish you had a bit more control.
    This ^^^

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Why use RAW in digital camera?

    Ann Marie

    As always is the case, some of the discussion has varied away from the question you ask. Don't be put off by that.

    You question stirred some other questions by people who are much more familiar with the jargon that you are. Get into this photography thing and you could be talking like that after just a few months!

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