Sunday, January 18, 2009

RAW vs JPG

A frequently asked question is "What is the difference between RAW and JPG? and why use one versus the other?" Many cameras, even some P&S(Point And Shoot) cmeras today support RAW in addition to standard JPG.

Each company makes its own unique RAW format. Canon RAW is not the same as Nikon RAW, yet they all give you the same advantages and disadvantages.

Without being too techinical, RAW format is essentially a digital negative. It contains all of the RAW information that was captured by the camera. Special software must be used to process the RAW file into a JPG file. On my Canon 5D a typical RAW file can be as large a 11mb where as a JPG from the same camera is about 8.5mb. This helps to illustrate the differance in the amount of information contained in the two different file types.

JPGs on the other hand are compressed files. Typically the camera will, in addition to compressing the image, preform some post processing to the image.This "in camera" post processing can inlude sharpening, color saturation, color balance, ect.

I typically shoot exclusively in RAW format now days, but not always. There are distinct advantages/disadvantages to each such as:
RAW:
Advantages:

  • More control over finished photograph
  • Easily correct for a under/over exposed photograph
  • Easily correct for color balance
  • More fine detail in RAW photographs

Disadvantages:

  • Larger file size
  • Increased workfow(You must post process and convert each picture)
  • Depending on camera, less frames per second

JPG:

Advantages:

  • Decreased work flow
  • Smaller file size
  • Increased frames per second

Disadvanteges:

  • Compressed photographs
  • Can be difficult to correct for incorrect exposure
  • Can be difficult to correct for color balance issues

Some people feel that you must always use RAW but I think that there can be times when you can use the advantages of one format over the other to your benefit. In short, don't be afraid of RAW, but JPG can be used just as effectively in many situations also.

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