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RAW or JPEG?

The electrical signal generated at the time of shooting by the matrix of a digital camera enters the camera processor as an array of digitized, but not yet processed or, if you like, “raw” data. This data is then either recorded without further processing on a memory card in the form of a so-called. RAW-file, or pre-processed by the camera processor, which forms a full-fledged image on their basis and saves it in JPEG format. JPEG photos are the final product of the photographic process and are fully suitable for viewing, printing, publishing on the Internet or any other practical needs. Pictures saved as RAW files must be edited in a special converter program, which allows you to convert raw data provided by the matrix into a graphic image in JPEG or TIFF format. Shooting in RAW is used in cases where the photographer for one reason or another does not want to trust the processing of the image to the camera processor and prefers to convert it yourself. In any case, all digital photographs are born in the form of RAW data, and the final result is JPEG, but manual conversion provides more complete control over the properties of the final image compared to automatic in-camera conversion. It is important to understand that the use of RAW does not necessarily lead to an increase in image quality, it just makes the process of obtaining photos more manageable and predictable.

While JPEG is a full-fledged graphic format with the extension .jpg, RAW does not mean an independent file format, but rather a family of formats that have different specifications and extensions depending on the camera manufacturer: .cr2 (Canon), .nef (Nikon) , .arw (Sony), .pef (Pentax), .orf (Olympus), .raf (Fujifilm), etc.

In addition to the digitized brightness values ​​for each matrix photodiode, the RAW file also contains a JPEG image generated by the camera, necessary for previewing, as well as various metadata, such as specifications of the camera and its matrix, description of exposure parameters, white balance and image styles, date and shooting time.

By its nature, a RAW file is not an image, but carries the information necessary to form an image. In this regard, a RAW file is often compared with a film negative in traditional photography. Digital negativity is a good metaphor. Just as a traditional negative, which contains a hidden image after exposure, needs to be developed, so a RAW file needs to be converted so that the image hidden in it sees the light. And just as a traditional photographer has a choice: send the captured film to a photo laboratory for automatic development and printing, or develop and print it by himself, controlling all the nuances of the photo process, so a non-traditional digital photographer can choose whether to entrust conversion to the camera processor or manually edit files using RAW -converter.

Despite the fact that I myself shoot mainly in RAW, I do not urge you to follow my example. This is an individual matter. Both RAW and JPEG have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and therefore no approach can be considered unconditionally the best.

JPEG Benefits
Shooting in JPEG saves time. Manual processing of images is a slow process and requires special skills.
JPEG, shot with a good machine, looks better than stupidly edited RAW.
JPEG files take up much less space both on the memory card and on the hard drive. Storing a large number of RAW files eats up disk space faster than you would like.
Since small files are written to the memory card faster, the camera’s buffer is also freed faster, which allows you to take longer bursts with serial shooting.
JPEG is the most versatile and popular graphic format. Photos in JPEG immediately after shooting are fully ready for use. You can easily open them in any program, and after decades they will still be available for viewing and editing. At the same time, RAW files cannot be visualized directly and need a specific converter that supports a specific RAW format, a specific camera and a specific lens. Manufacturers of photographic equipment have a bad habit from time to time to change their own standards, and no one can guarantee that the current RAW files can be read in the future.
RAW Benefits
RAW files have a resolution of 12 to 14 bits (4096-16384 gradations), while JPEG – only 8 bits (256 gradations). High bit capacity makes possible very bold manipulations with the image without the risk of posterization and other artifacts. The difference between RAW and JPEG is especially noticeable when trying to lighten dark areas of the frame.
The photographic latitude of the RAW file is several steps larger than that of JPEG, which is important when shooting in contrasting light conditions.

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