If you have played with the settings on your camera, by now you must have come across the RAW format. Some of you might have tried to use the RAW format and some of you might have completely ignored it. No matter what you chose, welcome to the battle field of RAW vs JPEG. This is an ongoing battle and it’s not ending anytime soon. While battle is going on lets take the time to learn about the 2 formats so that you can choose a side.
What exactly is RAW ?
Back in the day the cameras used to have film and images were processed based on the negatives on the film. Modern DSLR cameras have replaced the film with CCD image sensor or CMOS image sensor. These sensors convert light input and convert it into electronic signals. Using the electronic signal as the base, a file is created and processed which then gives us an image which we call digital photos. RAW format gives us image making file virtually unprocessed. In other words, RAW format files are the Electronic Negatives. Since RAW format files are virtually unprocessed they will look much flat and boring compared to a JPEG image at first. But the whole reason for using RAW format is so that you can process the file however you feel like. RAW format is therefore excellent for Astrophotography.
Should I use the RAW format ?
We leave the choosing part totally up to you. But you can weigh out the pros and cons of using the RAW format which will aid you in making an informed decision.
Advantages of RAW file format
1. You are in control: Perhaps the biggest advantage of using RAW format over JPEG is that, with RAW files you do not have to depend on the camera’s processor to choose various factors like White balance, Hue, Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Noise reduction etc. You can select all these factors by your self just the way you like it.
2. More Colours: RAW files are of 12-14 bit and contain 4096-16384 shades of Red, Green and Blue (RGB) colors where as the JPEG files are 8 bit an contain only 256 shades of RGB colors. This is equivalent to roughly 4.4 trillion possible colors for any given pixel in RAW format vs roughly 16.7 million possible colors for any given pixel.
3. The Metadata, which is the settings that you used while taking the photo are basically added on top of the RAW file. This leaves the original image unaltered so the original image can be edited based on your choice and the Metadata can be used only as a guideline if you want.
4. Since the RAW files can be edited easily and it’s very flexible, you do not have to constantly keep changing the settings in your camera even if your shooting scenarios change very frequently.
5. RAW files can also be used to show the authenticity of your image.
Drawbacks of RAW file format
1. Budget: All the limitless editing possibility mentioned above do come with a catch. The RAW files need special softwares like Photoshop and Lightroom to edit which can be quite expensive.
2. Time efficiency: Regular photo viewing software found can’t read the RAW files. The files must be processed in order to view it, this might be time consuming and can be a problem if you need to access lots of pictures in a short time frame.
3. Storage: The RAW files take up almost 3 times more memory than a regular JPEG file and this huge file size will catch up much quicker than you anticipate. Same story goes for storing them in your computer as well. So you’ll need to have backup memory cards and even extra hard disks to store those big boys.
4. Shooting efficiency: Since RAW files are big, the processing time for these files will be longer than JPEG. Due to this it won’t be possible to take photos in a very rapid succession. This mainly applies when you are shooting are higher frames per second (FPS). As RAW files occupy greater memory, the camera’s buffer will rapidly fill up. Once the buffer is full, the camera will eventually stop shooting.
What is JPEG ?
JPEG is the most widely used and accepted format for photographs. The JPEG files are files that have been compressed by the camera and are ready for use right then and there. JPEG uses Lossy Compression techniques for creating digital images. This technique uses inexact approximation/partial data discarding for representing the information obtained by the image sensor. Due to the data discarding the JPEG images are usually of smaller size.
Advantages of JPEG file format
1. JPEG format files have already been edited by the camera and are ready to be used.
2. With the advancement of modern technology the edited JPEG files from camera do have a good quality.
3. If you are new to photography or don’t have access to softwares like Photoshop then JPEG is the “go to” format. It is universally accepted format for photos.
4. The files produced consume far less storage capacity than RAW files and thus enabling you to take more pictures.
5. Since the files are small the camera can process them quickly and are excellent for taking photos in rapid succession (like in burst mode).
Drawbacks of JPEG file format
1. Since the JPEG files have been processed by the camera, any unwanted setting can be extremely challenging to remove.
2. The Lossy Compression technique can lead to a loss of a lot of details in the photograph.
3. Due to the small color palette, the quality of the photo will not be as good as the photo in RAW format.
Since both formats have various advantages and disadvantages over each other, the battle of RAW vs JPEG won’t likely end anytime soon. Meanwhile, now that you now the difference between the 2 file formats, it’s time to go out, take some photographs and see which one you like better and under what circumstances. The decision is up to you whether to choose RAW or JPEG.
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