Newer Olympus cameras - still a big advantage in RAW vs JPEG

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Swandy, Nov 27, 2015.

  1. Swandy

    Swandy Mu-43 Veteran

    362
    Dec 15, 2009
    I have the EM10v1 and will soon be selling it to get probably the EM5v2 (though possibly the EM10v2) and each time I get a new camera - primarily because it takes a while for most RAW software to be updated for newer cameras - I shoot JPEGs a bit.

    Has anyone, who has one of the two cameras I mentioned, done any comparisons? I do some post processing - mainly in Lightroom (with a bit in Pixelmator for Mac - sort of a Photoshop lite) - and am not one of those who is spending hours tweaking their images or doing a lot of "pushing and pulling" the images to get the absolute best results. I know that RAW images tend to take post processing better than JPEGs.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

    Happy Thanksgiving (and Black Friday for those of you who cannot resist a sale).

    Steve
     
  2. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Processing is something that you can do as much or as little of as you like. If you want to do little, then you can do that in 2 ways. Shoot JPEG which means your camera will do a lot of the processing for you and your processing options at the computer later on get limited also, or shoot RAW and use presets in whatever processing app you choose to use in order to speed up the processing there. The other thing that can speed up your RAW processing is putting in a bit of time now in order to learn how to do it better because the time you spend in learning now will end up saving much more time later on simply because you know what you're doing and your processing takes less time.

    The other thing about processing is that it can be enjoyable, really. It can be as enjoyable a part of the hobby as taking the photos. Not everyone enjoys it but there is a chance that if you learn how to do it well, you could find yourself enjoying it. It's never really enjoyable if you don't know what you're doing and your results don't please you. Start getting really pleasing results and processing becomes a more pleasant activity than it is when you aren't getting pleasing results.

    Now, your subject heading says "still a big advantage in RAW vs JPEG". There will always be a big advantage in RAW over JPEG, simply because of what they are. A RAW file is not an image file, it's a file containing data from the camera and its sensor. It has to be processed in order to create an image file like a JPEG or TIFF file. Cameras don't shoot JPEGs, they capture the RAW data. If you "shoot JPEG" what happens is that a processing chip in your camera does what you would do later on your computer if you were shooting RAW and it takes the RAW data and converts it into an image which it then saves in JPEG format. You have some control over how the camera does that conversion with the image settings on your camera for things like sharpness, contrast, saturation, noise reduction and so on, but it's pretty coarse control and you can't do as good a job in camera as you could do later working on a RAW file. The first problem with simply shooting JPEG is that the in camera conversion does not preserve the RAW data and throws it away. All that gets saved is the JPEG which contains a lot less data so your later processing options can become very severely limited. The second problem is that different images require different processing. You can change your camera settings in order to suit the scene you're shooting but that takes time and you have to change the settings before pressing the shutter. People tend not to do that so they end up shooting everything with one set of settings and their images suffer as a result.

    So, if you don't want to spend a lot of time playing with RAW files, my recommendation would be this. Tweak your camera settings for best results with the sort of scene you shoot most. Learn how to expose well because trying to fix under or overexposure of a JPEG later isn't a good idea. Also, shoot RAW+JPEG rather than only JPEG. You don't have to process the RAW file if you're happy with the JPEG but if you aren't happy with the JPEG and your normal quick JPEG processing on the computer doesn't give you a good result, you've got the RAW file to go back to so that you can get a better result. That means you need only process RAW files when you think it's necessary.

    And the most important bit of advice in that last paragraph, the thing that is most important whether you shoot RAW or JPEG, is to learn how to expose your images for the result you want. It's not a matter of just setting the camera on Auto and letting it decide. That's fine for a lot of shots but it also isn't fine for a lot of shots and in fact it can be downright awful for some shots. Learn when to use the exposure the camera recommends and when not to, and how you need to expose when you aren't going to do what the camera recommends. If you really want to minimise the time you spend processing images period, and if you really want to get good results and occasionally the absolute best result, learn how to expose the image properly when you're taking the photo. Getting the exposure right is the biggest time saver of all, whether you shoot JPEG or RAW. It also means you get much better pictures as a result.
     
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  3. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    I usually just use iPhoto on my Mac with a little Gimp once in a while mainly for my infrared shots. But with RAW support built into the OS I find it is no more trouble to use RAW files than JPG. I just drop them into my iPhoto and work with them like any other photos. But I have noticed that working with RAW you do get a bit more latitude for certain types of edits like highlights and shadows where you can more easily pull more detail out of either easily. Since it takes me ZERO more time to work with RAW files I stick with them.
     
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  4. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I agree with pretty much everything you've written. But... on a matter of interpretation, I don't think we can really say that raw is just data whilst JPEGs are an "image file". They are both just streams of 0s and 1s which need processing to render on a screen. Admittedly, the raw is somewhat further from a finished image, but you get my drift I hope!
     
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  5. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Any digital file is just a stream of 0s and 1s. The difference between JPEG and RAW is that the Os and 1's in a JPEG (or TIFF or other image file format) actually define the values for each pixel of the image being displayed. That is not the case with a RAW file. There is no pixel data in a RAW file, there is photo site data from each collection site on the sensor. The data for half of those photo sites are luminance values for photo sites filtered by a green filter in the Bayer array, a quarter for luminance values of pixels filtered by a blue filter, and the last quarter for pixels filtered by a red filter. That data has to be processed through a step called demosaicing in order to generate data containing the values for each pixel in an image and the data needs other processing as well before it becomes the data for an image that can be saved in JPEG format. It's not that the RAW is "somewhat further from a finished image", it's that JPEG data specifies a finished image (admittedly one which can be modified further) while RAW data has to be turned into data which can be viewed and saved as a JPEG image.

    It's like the difference between the ingredients of a cake and a baked cake. The ingredients are not "further from a finished cake" than the cake is. The ingredients are not a cake and the cake is a cake. The ingredients have to be processed in order to become a cake. The cake can undergo further processing after it is finished, you can ice it or decorate it or glaze it or do other things in order to make it nicer, but it does not have to have those things done to it before it becomes a finished cake. It's a finished cake when it comes out of the oven. RAW file data is like cake ingredients, it is not image data. RAW file data is data which can be transformed into image data. JPEG file data is image data for a finished image, an image you can process further if you wish but further processing isn't necessary in order to create a "finished image". What further processing of JPEG data creates is a different image, just as a decorated cake is a different cake to an undecorated one.

    You get my drift, I hope!
     
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  6. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Yes, I understand all that, but OTOH, there's all sorts of encoding and compression done on JPEGs so it's just a matter of degree of processing needed to tender them on a visual device or paper. Ultimately they are both representations of an image that need an algorithm to present as an array of dots for us to view.. I accept that the JPEG is much closer (de-mosaic, tone curve, sharpening etc), but it's still not an" image " per se.
     
  7. 4Paul

    4Paul Mu-43 Rookie

    13
    Dec 12, 2014
    8303 Bassersdorf (Switzerland)
    Paul Keller
    Thank you, David, I like your 'cake' - presented like this, it's digestable.
    Paul
     
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  8. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    In the stricter sense no file contains images or text or even numbers. Even a "flat" BMP file needs some work to be seen as a "pixel grid" that is the main idea of a "classic" image format. You have a grid and you have a defined colour for each square and the colours are somehow standardized with a colour space reference. This formats are not related to the process that generated the image (camera, scanner, digital hand drawing, etc.).

    In a RAW file there are no colours at all and the meaning of the values depends a lot on the specific camera sensor (even talking about Bayer sensors only). This is why manufacturers needs to update their software every time a new model comes out. Then the "demosaicing" process itself it is not strictly defined. A Oly TruePic V and a TruePic VI can produce a different JPEG output for the same RAW file from the same sensor and this could even change with a firmware update. Then you can use ACR or other third parties software with yet different results.
    I'm sure there is nothing particularly new here for you.

    The processing required to decompress a JPEG and more recent high quality compressed formats could be even more complex then "RAW demosaicing" but the output is much more specified in terms of final expected output (screen, print, etc.). This, in my mind, is the most significant difference.

    Back to the cake metaphor: given the same recipe and ingredients a lot can happen in the process.

    So yes, both are image formats, one is a "normal" one, the other is a RAW one.

    To the OP: RAW advantage is big and will always be. Camera processors (TruePic) get better but PP softwares do too.
    You do not need to spend hours processing images, I think five minutes is the average time, maybe half and hour for the one you are going to print or the really messed up ones. Of course it takes time to get used to it, what works and what not, etc.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
  9. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    First off, I think everything David said is spot-on. I have a theory on the RAW vs. JPEG debate, that I am trying to test, but I haven't even convinced myself yet that it is right. I've even drafted a blog article on it, but haven't published it because I want to do more experimenting. The idea (which some of you have also alluded to) is that RAW vs JPEG (or both) is a game-time decision I can make when I start a shoot, just like any other setting. That flexibility has a lot of appeal to me. I'm not looking to eliminate RAW or editing from my photography, just reduce it significantly.

    I've always shot RAW for the reasons already expounded upon - the potential quality it can produce with good editing and the insurance it provides in case I flub a shot by allowing me more latitude for recovery. But I do see the advantages of JPEG. My post processing tools are not very deep (Apple Photos now with Macphun extensions, and some iPad apps). Many of their important features are JPEG specific (as are many of the camera's features), particularly the mobile ones, which prevent me from editing RAW in the field or hotel room. So, while I agree with Klorenzo's point that the average picture takes about 5 minutes to edit, when I come back from a long vacation with 3000 pictures, that's still a lot of time spent in front of my computer, which I personally do not enjoy at all. File size and easy sharing are also considerations, albeit lesser ones.

    I'm not really interested in investing the time and money on more complex post processing capacity. If Photos did presets, I'd try that method too, as I am finding my edits tend to be small and fairly routine, so it would probably work for most shots. But, I don't think Photos can do that.

    Can I trust my exposure and framing skills to 1) predict whether a scene will require RAW to handle tricky lighting, or if JPEG will still get me the image I want, then 2) get a shot right in JPEG, with in-camera presets that do some of that post processing for me - perhaps enough for a finished product? I want to make sure that those final JPEGs (when I deem JPEG would work or is necessary for a particular feature) would get me results close enough to a RAW version that I can't tell the difference in normal viewing. I generally feel that a JPEG is better than an unedited RAW file, but the part that I want to test is my belief up to this point that the potential of an edited RAW file can be greater than a JPEG, given a shot that was exposed and composed well. I know everyone has their opinions, and that there are undeniable advantages of RAW over JPEG, but the real question is what fits best with my personal photography style, which is different than anyone else's? Some of my favorite shots have been JPEG, but I've still never really convinced myself that JPEG is good enough.

    So, I need to do some tests and comparisons. I intend to shoot RAW+JPEG for a while and try out various approaches and tweaks. I'm not looking to eliminate RAW or editing from my photography, just reduce it significantly. Hopefully I can figure out some new workflow, but even if at the end of the day I decide I still want to shoot RAW, I think this would be a good learning experience.
     
  10. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    I still use iPhoto and only have Photos on another computer to play around with, which I haven't done much. But to your point one thing you can do in iPhoto which I assume you can do in Photos is copy and paste edits. This is very handy when you have a series of photos taken of the same thing so all have the same lighting and such. Once you get one photo the way you like it, you can copy those edits and then on each of the next shots from the same series you can paste the edits. Very handy for stuff like getting the white balance the same for a series of shots that should have the same WB setting.
     
  11. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I don't think it's as simple as that for everyone. I think there are quite a few reasons why people choose one over the other, and that different people do it for different reasons. In my case I used to shoot B&W film when I first started playing with photography back in the 60's and I did my own processing and printing. Then I lost access to a darkroom and moved away from photography for a number of reasons. I started doing photography again "seriously" about 4 years ago and shooting RAW appealed because it let me do my own processing again, and in colour. I suspect that if I thought JPEG always produced better results than I could get from shooting RAW I would still choose to shoot RAW just so I could do the processing myself. I enjoy the activity of processing. So my choice wasn't about time, or even primarily about image quality, but about being able to include processing as a major activity in what I was doing. For others issues like time, or the work involved in processing, or the fact that they like what a particular camera delivers as a JPEG with its default settings, or something else is the deciding factor.

    I doubt you'll find a common reason, or rather a single factor which drives why people choose to shoot RAW, or to shoot JPEG. It's nice to know why you make your own choice but one should never assume that the reasons one has for doing something are going to be the same as the reasons that others have for doing the same thing. There's so much variation in people and their likes and dislikes that you can always be sure that whatever your reasons are, there are people for whom those reasons are irrelevant and who have quite different reasons to yours for doing the same thing.
     
  12. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    Im not sure where you got that from. I was only talking about myself.
     
  13. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I only quoted part of your first paragraph. A more complete quote, including a couple of sentences I cut off at the start, would have read"

    " I have a theory on the RAW vs. JPEG debate, that I am trying to test, but I haven't even convinced myself yet that it is right. I've even drafted a blog article on it, but haven't published it because I want to do more experimenting. The idea (which some of you have also alluded to) is that RAW vs JPEG (or both) is a game-time decision I can make when I start a shoot, just like any other setting."

    That read to me a bit like you were developing a theory which applied to many people, perhaps even generally, rather than a theory which related to yourself specifically, that's all. I could have read it either way but it started out reading one way to me and ended up reading a bit more the other way. I obviously went with the wrong way.
     
  14. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    Most current version of Lightroom supports both EM5 II and EM10 II.
     
  15. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran

    633
    Oct 25, 2014
    Switzerland
    Matt
    Just a short thought after reading this very informative thread: JPEG is inherently a one-size-doesn't-exactly-fit-anyone problem, whereas RAW allows you to tailor to fit to the extend of what the sensor delivers. Nowadays, JPEGs are indeed pretty flexible and become ever better, but the format itself is limited in terms of the concepts and algorithms used, so camera makers have to cater to some predefined taste (or rather, generalised output) when designing their processing engines. That said, clothes are clothes - if it covers what you need, use it.

    M.
     
  16. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    It really depends on how good/configurable the software is. With OV3 for example you get the identical JPEG in no time. With a good software setup I think it's not worth the time to switch back and forth between formats on the camera (also considering how often I'd forget to do it).

    The advantages of RAW are a lot, not only the extra latitude. For example sharpening is nice, but the amount depends on a lot of things. And maybe I do not want to sharpen that super smooth oof background or the sky but only some parts of the image. And I want to denoise only the recovered shadows and not everything uniformly. But obviously if someone does not like to PP these things are not so interesting.

    @Lcrunyon@Lcrunyon Of course I spend 5 minutes only to process the keepers, and out of 3000 I'd expect no more then 50, maybe 200.
     
  17. CWRailman

    CWRailman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    564
    Jun 2, 2015
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Denny
    One fact that such discussions About RAW and JPG ignore is that out of camera JPG does not have to be the final product. In post processing, much of what is done with a RAW file such as sharpening, contrast, color shifts, detail noise reduction etc. can be done to a JPG file. The difference is that you do not have as much latitude with a JPG file such as some concessions that have been pre made to the dynamic range. I bring JPG files into Lightroom in the same manner as I bring RAW files. For anything that is being used on the Internet I would not waste my time with RAW as such subtle changes will not show up for many viewers using computers or smaller electronic devices. If you print large size then RAW, when properly processed, does have an advantage though if you are comparing a RAW file from three years ago to a JPG file from today’s cameras, the camera is probably producing better results. As I have said in another forum, some shooters look at a RAW as the mulligan of photography.

    By the way, as I previously noted in another thread, some might benefit from RAW is Not RAW blog.
     
  18. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    not really a fair comparison... a current camera, regardless of whether it is shooting RAW or JPEG will be better than one of three years ago... or am I missing something in your argument?

    K
     
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  19. CWRailman

    CWRailman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    564
    Jun 2, 2015
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Denny
    It is more than fair in a discussion of deliverables. Some folks get too involved in the technology and totally forget about the deliverable. If a shooters expectations are an image equal to what was achieved by manipulating a RAW file three years ago using the software available at that time, then they may not need to look any further than the JPG’s that are coming out of current cameras. It all depends on what the shooter expects. As in any time consuming activity, the value added, if there is any, has to be balanced against the time expended to achieve that added value. To many shooters, when considering their end use, the extra resources in time and money necessary to shoot and deal with RAW is just not worth it. Some members of photographic communities have difficulty in understanding that decision.
     
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  20. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Sorry Denny, as much as I can decipher your rather dense language I think you are on the wrong track

    If the expectation that your images are going into a computer to be manipulated.. then there is no reason not to shoot RAW.. Processing RAW on a modern computer is seamless and fast..why accept an inferior original?

    I understand that the JPEG workflow has its merits for some folks... the sports photographer with a deadline. people with a Kodachrome background, people who take their SD cards to Walgreens for prints?

    Modern software, modern computers, shooting RAW is not an issue. Been working that way for 7 years

    K
     
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