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Future-proofing your RAW files

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by k4t, Apr 23, 2011.

  1. k4t

    k4t Mu-43 Regular

    44
    Apr 15, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    Does anyone out there worry about future-proofing your RAW files?

    After experimenting with Lightroom for a few days, today I decided to trial Aperture. I'm trying hard to convince myself that Aperture suits me best (mainly for the $ saving) so I was really disappointed to find the raw files from my old Canon Powershot S45 are not supported in Aperture. I know I can always open them in another RAW converter and then import them (which is what I've done using GIMP/UFRAW) but it adds another level of hassle that I could do without.

    At the end of the day I'll probably still end up using Aperture, but it got me thinking about whether I should convert all my master images into a more future-proof format? Is there even such a thing? DNG? TIFF? Or do you think older converters will always be out there somewhere?

    It may at least be a good argument for routinely shooting RAW+JPG.

    Obviously all digital formats suffer from obsolescence at some point. You probably need a crystal ball to work out which will have the best longevity. The safest gamble? Probably some combination of open formats and popular formats.

    Philosophical and practical thoughts welcome.
     
  2. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    This is a really important topic and well worth discussion.

    So far I can still read every raw format I've ever used, in Lightroom. Apple, who I've just switched to after decades of windows are not as good as adobe in this regard. It would be nice if all the camera manufacturers adopted a universal format, but I don't think it will happen, unfortunately.

    If one of my old camera formats became unsupported I would just batch process at that time, I suppose.

    Gordon
     
  3. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 Top Veteran

    892
    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    Batch converting to DNG is the way to go - being documented open standard, it doesn't depends on the survival of a specific camera vendor to be decoded.

    Cheers,
     
  4. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    I would also endorse the DNG route, and I have over 100,000 files stored in that format.

    Also to my knowledge Adobe supports, via its ACR converters in Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements, every raw file format created, though I can't say that for certain. It certainly supports DNG, and I think it unlikely it will ever stop doing that.

    Certainly I'm glad of that since I have images taken on cameras that have disappeared, and the conversion software along with them.

    If there ever comes a time when raw files aren't supported, it certainly won't happen overnight and there will be plenty of opportunity to do something about it.

    Also as Gordon indicates, Macs don't support everything, either in the operating system or in their software. However Adobe programmes running on Macs do.
     
  5. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    I don't worry about it because, as others have noted, there will likely be some awareness of any particular format not being supported.

    I do convert my RAW images to DNG, but the primary reason is that I don't want to deal with sidecar files. This does have the added advantage of being an openly published standard so will likely be supported.

    When converting to DNG there is the option to incorporate the original RAW file. I don't do this (makes the file large and slows things down) but I know a few who do for archiving.
     
  6. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    Debi
    Another vote for DNG.
     
  7. Pan Korop

    Pan Korop Mu-43 Veteran

    479
    Mar 31, 2011
    Phare Ouest
    My "insurance" so far was keeping the old Power-Mac G3, complete with 9.x OS and its related software.
    Notably, old xPress and Illustrator which I don't want to upgrade, scanner drivers. It also serves as the printer server.

    Of course, it has a copy of the old Raw Converter programs.

    But now that I went through this thread, I'll probably follow the advice of batch conversions to DNG.
     
  8. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    This is one of the good arguments for bypassing the whole RAW thing and shooting jpegs. As RAW formats escalate in number, you can be sure that your "old ones" will not be supported by newer programs - it will be unfeasible. However, jpegs and Tiffs will always be supported. Even venerable programs like Photoshop 7 won't take newer plugins like Silver Efx. This is the nature of the business. There are as many different RAWs as there are different specific sensors and each year there will be new sensors. Do the math. Do you really think Adobe will care one bit about the RAW files from a GF1, 5 to 8 years from now?
     
  9. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 Top Veteran

    892
    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    DNG is a variant of tiff, much better standardized. Tiff suffers enormous problems (of endianess notably) that can cause your files to become unreadable outside of the software used to create them.

    As of JPEG, we've already discussed this before, it is not an archival solution, and to promote it is misleading at best.

    Cheers,
     
    • Like Like x 3
  10. everythingsablur

    everythingsablur Mu-43 Veteran

    412
    Aug 4, 2010
    Toronto, ON
    +1 here.

    Isn't that like shooting on film, but only keeping your prints and throwing out your negatives?

    I batch convert to DNG. As mentioned repeatedly, open standard (I also do not embed the original RAW), should be supported by someone for a long time in one way or another. If DNG somehow gets superseded by something better, I would likely batch convert to that if I thought it were worthwhile.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  11. VasManI

    VasManI Mu-43 Regular

    93
    Jan 21, 2011
    I would argue that vast majority of users will lose their files (images) to data corruption/loss (lack of appropriate backup) before any format goes out of style/support.

    Vas
     
    • Like Like x 3
  12. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    For the serious image maker who wants to benefit from the full capability of his camera's sensor, there are no good arguments for bypassing RAW capture and shooting jpgs. This has been discussed ad nauseum and to continue to advise others to avoid RAW as a capture and archive format is really irresponsible. JPG is fine as a final use format, but RAW is definitely where it's at for capture, processing, and archiving.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    That's probably a fair point.
     
  14. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    I don't use jpeg generally as a "final use" format. I shoot with in-camera processing, and the camera saves the image in the finest jpeg it is capable of. That is what I "archive" as the original. It is never "re-saved" but only copied onto a CD, portable HD or whatever. When I bring an original jpeg into Photoshop and do any work on it, it is saved as a Tiff. The original out-of-camera jpeg remains unchanged, to be returned to in the future if needed. Done in this way, original camera jpegs can serve as an archival format.
     
  15. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 Top Veteran

    892
    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    No.

    You're dividing by 16 the quantity of informations, informations captured by the camera but not recorded due to the jpg format limits.

    It's really a silly move. But you already know it.

    Cheers,
     
  16. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    The original camera jpg is a reduced quality rendition of the data captured by the sensor. Such a JPG cannot begin to compare to an original RAW for image detail and quality. This fact has been clearly demonstrated time and time again wherever you want to look. To argue against this is futile. If you want to benefit from the best image quality that your camera can produce and preserve that data for any future use or processing, jpg capture is a bad idea. RAW is where the quality is.
     
  17. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    Not everywhere you look. Check this article out:

    JPG vs Raw: Get it Right the First Time

    RAW vs JPG
     
  18. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 Top Veteran

    892
    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    You should really read past the title. Short sum up : DSLRs sucks for producing high quality image. If you do fine art photography, bring out the large format field camera and don't even try with a DSLR, so don't bother further and stop wasting your time shooting RAW, or for the matter, jpg.

    Now, if you're a full time pro shooting exclusively Nikon (what else ?), you can earn a decent living by pushing tons of action pictures onto people who won't care for quality as it's only for publishing in sports rags, so don't lose time shooting RAW either because those are disposable shots anyway.

    It would have been honest of him to stop there, but alas, he didn't.

    Everything else is self-back patting for having devised such a cunning strategy, argument of authority (don't you just love the way he placed his EE degree in you face ?) and otherwise complete BS.

    Don't get me wrong : I'm not even trying to change your mind. But at least, live by your credo : if you value Ken's advice, get back to film.

    Cheers,
     
  19. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    Actually throughout the article Rockwell makes a strong case for jpeg and his comments apply especially to m4/3, in my view, because these cameras can fine tune the in-camera processing.

    "Prolific shooters shoot JPG because time is money and we are able to get things right the first time. JPGs, especially the larger JPGs, offer the same image quality as raw or TIFF, with much less time and effort if you can set your camera correctly to begin with."

    "A well-done JPG is all I ever need"

    And his article has relevance to this thread:

    "If you shoot JPG, just archive the camera original JPG files. If you shoot raw you should also archive everything in a standard JPG or TIFF format so you'll be assured of having the best chance of being able to open and use the files in the future."
     
  20. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    Since this thread's been well and truly hijacked.

    1. There are thousands of cameras out there that only record jpegs. To say it's not a viable format is (sorry) rubbish. Most people can't see any difference and some (see above) don't care. Let it be. It's like saying film that's been processed isn't a viable format. There's a lot more information in a 12 megapixel jpeg file than a 35mm negative. A RAW file would be preferable, but if all you've got is a jpeg then archive away.
    2. TIFF is a real problem. You've got more chance of opening an EOS D30 (not 30D) than you have of opening a compressed or layered TIFF file. Almost all RAW files are modified TIFF files anyway.
    3. Raw is superior. But it takes time and effort to get that difference. It also doesn't show on screen and in small prints. Some people are going to never print bigger than a postcard. Some people are prepared to settle for a slightly lesser file quality in the sake of convenience. People shoot jpegs over RAW for the same reason ALL of you shoot m4/3. Convenience. Otherwise you'd all be shooting a Canikonax FF 256MP sensor, or whatever. Some people value convenience over ultimate quality. So be it.
    4. The big advantage of RAW that's hardly ever mentioned is that a new program can allow you to revisit older files and get better quality. Plus you have far more choice in RAW converters than you can imagine. All do slightly different things and so you really can get one to suit your particular likes.

    Gordon