Is raw really worth it?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Superstriker#8, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. Superstriker#8

    Superstriker#8 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 24, 2013
    Is raw worth it vs jpeg for minor improvements or adjustments?
  2. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Yes. If you're fussy about IQ, then nothing but raw makes any sense. Consider that when the camera makes a jpeg it:

    - sharpens the image, irretrievably adding edges and potentially halos to things that you'll never be able to get rid of;

    - sets the white balance, whether it's right or not;

    - performs lossy compression on the image and hence losing details that you can never get back;

    - performs tone curve (contrast) and colour balance settings that are hard to undo later without introducing loss of IQ.

    In a word, if you care about final IQ, the using jpeg is never a good idea.
    • Like Like x 4
  3. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Yes, yes it is. The improvements are very often much more than minor.
  4. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    For minor adjustments, probably not. You can configure the camera to reduce sharpening, saturation, turn off noise filtering, etc, and do that yourself in post to taste. You can also be careful to set contrast and white balance correctly. Where RAW has an advantage for me:

    a) Independent colour channels preserved - it's much easier to fix white balance, you can completely redo the white balance in fact, either by reselecting a preset or putting in Kelvin values.

    b) Higher colour depth, which means greater tonal resolution and adjustment range. With 12 bit RAW you get 4096 levels per colour channel, while it's only 256 levels for 8 bit JPEG. Where this matters is when you try and do shadow or highlight recovery on areas that have not been blown (I.e. gone past the 0 or 4095 limit), or other tone curve adjustment. In the single step between 254 and 255 in the JPEG, there are actually 16 steps in the RAW. When you adjust curves to stretch out the tone response, the step changes become more noticeable - the big steps in the JPEG are more likely to result in banding, whereas with the extra 16 steps in RAW it's less obvious.

    c) Less noise in low dynamic range scenes, if you expose for the highlights in a special way (ETTR). What this means is you overexpose as much as you can while keeping the highlights of interest safe, and in post, you reduce the exposure back down. This works because the sensor is non-linear with respect to tone level - there is much greater tonal resolution in the highlights than in the shadows, so the signal to noise ratio is better. You can only really make use of this extra tonal resolution with RAW.
    • Like Like x 6
  5. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 23, 2010
    Consider this on thursday I hit the white balance button and changed it to tungsten by accident, if it was a jpeg changing the white balance could have trashed the image. Also Raw gives you a greater room for repair of an image, improvement it can be pulled a lot more ways there is just more info in there. There are times where you can get away with Jpeg, studio for example where you are in control of everything or sports where you want the largest number of frames in a burst. But as both memory cards and hard drives are so cheep for the amount you get I do not see any reason to use anything but the highest file level, I bought a 32 mb card in 2002 and it cost me £50, I can buy a 32gb card for £13 now, in the same year I paid £100 for an 80g hard drive now I can get a 3Tb one for less.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. CiaranCReilly

    CiaranCReilly Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 18, 2012
    Ciaran Reilly
    Correcting exposure (sometimes up to 2 stops) after the fact is definitely worth it, as is the WB adjustments possible and the control of sharpening.
  7. Dewi

    Dewi Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 11, 2014
    Lancashire, England
    Yes, for all the reasons given above and more. Consider that when the camera processes the image it throws away data that cannot be retrieved afterwards, for that reason alone I shoot RAW always....unless I'm using an old compact that doesn't "do" RAW of course
  8. PatrickVA

    PatrickVA Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 31, 2012
    Central Virginia
    I shoot RAW plus JPEG. I use the JPEGs often, but having the RAW is cheap insurance against mistakes I make when shooting (as discussed white balance, over/under exposure, etc.). The Olympus conversion is still better than I am when it comes to developing properly exposed images. The only time I shoot just JPEG now is if I know I'm going to fill my buffer with repeated shots - nine frames per second RAW on the E-M5 fills the buffer pretty quickly and it can take 10 seconds or more to make room for the next shot.
  9. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    I find RAW particularly useful for noise reduction in low light images.
  10. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    It took me a few years before I was able to best ooc jpgs quick and reliable, but by now I usually get better results from raw.
  11. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    JPG only useful when you really must produce images immediately, like in some journalism situations. Even then I shoot RAW, choose the three best images, and cook those to JPG in camera.
  12. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    You never processed your own B&W film it seems. It took hours to have 5 frames, and maybe one or two keepers from a 3 hours cession in the lab...

    The answer to this epic question boils down to how you value your shots...
  13. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Completely worth it. The ability to recover burned out highlights and bring detail out of shadows, as well as the ability to adjust white balance, is much greater with raw.
  14. mister_roboto

    mister_roboto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Seattle, WA, USA
    I'd say yes as well. Though it's only worth it if you put the time into it, or have an acceptable/quick work flow, otherwise you're stuck with tons of raw files on a drive. Though a lot of that probably depends on your management system/software.

    As a weird side note/kinda related-but not really: a co worker of mine recently found TONS of old negatives from her father + grandfather (1920-70's), as they were both shutter bugs. I'm helping her scan them, and it's like magic finding + looking at them. I doubt in 40 years there will much of an equivalent to finding a giant box of old negatives- or at least it probably won't be as thrilling to look through grandpa's hard drive at raw files in 40 years.
  15. Art

    Art Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2011
    San Francisco, CA
    IMO, Raw is worth it if you want to make exposure or WB adjustments, lens correction s (e.g. removing purple fringing), noise reduction, or printing larger size.

    Oly joegs are fantastic due to the best ever AWB and exposure metering. I use raw when I wish to make serious modifications such as skin softening, shadows pull, color changes for more dramatic look, adding lens blur, etc. Also for printing large even starting from 8x10. raw is much better for sharpening enhancements.

    I shoot Raw + SF jpegs. I find that for half of my keepers I make adjustments to Raw. It's not the absolute accuracy I'm after but rather creating the most pleasing memorable photos I can.

    When I used Canon T2i and recently tried T4i, raw was the only option. AWB is horrid on Canon (all yellow), metering tends to overexpose producing washed out colors, lenses needed significant CA correction and sharpening in camera was subpar. We really are fortunate that Oly does most of the job for us in camera. My post with Oly's ORF files is really quick.
  16. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    I think of JPEG shooting as similar to slide film shooting: you have to get more things right at the time you take the shot, because there is not so much you can do later. This can be a positive challenge to developing photographic skills.

    RAW is more like negative film shooting and development: you can do more later and sometimes make up for a few mistakes made on location. But it is more fiddly.

  17. Superstriker#8

    Superstriker#8 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 24, 2013
    What I meant to say was: is raw worth it if you are just going to save it to jpeg?,and: what format do you save your files in?

    Especially "Tutorial: Estimate JPEG Quality"

    Site is used to perform forensics analysis of jpeg images BUT the logic behind the analysis will also apply to the topic here.

    You can always attain JPEG from RAW with 100% quality. The opposite isn't always true.
  19. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 1, 2013
    I shoot both, usually import just jpeg and have raw on the card if I need it.
  20. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    From your OP and your response to others, It sounds like you primarily, or exclusively, shoot jpegs. If you do any type of post processing, why not shoot raw for a bit and see what you think? Most of the folks who have responded have highlighted what raw files offer. If you do not need those features, then perhaps it is not for you. Did you ever shoot slide film? If so, and you were happy with the results, then maybe your jpeg images will suffice. Shooting raw offers a lot of post processing flexibility that just cannot be found in jpeg files. Many of us appreciate that, and if you have ever made an error in shooting that can be easily fixed in raw, but not in jpeg, then you might be a fan of raw yourself.