Saturday, February 11, 2012

RAW files

Most of my imagery is iPhone captured.  If I do use one of my DSLRs I will usually do much, or at least some image  processing on the iPad.  It's funny then that I still wonder about RAW files.  I suspect it's one of the mental exercises used to occupy the time spent alone in freezing early morning fog or  some such, waiting to see how the lighting changes.  We all know that place.

The accepted "truth" has been that RAW is the only good way to shoot.  After all, keep as much control as possible.  In-camera processing uses someone else's opinions about what's important.  JPEG shooting relinquishes creative decision making.

Experiences with RAW capable cameras over the last year or so have caused me to dispute that "Truth" however.  I'm thinking that in-camera processing is the way to go.  Providing of course that some attention is paid to White Balance.

I know from experience that technology producers have their own proprietary systems.  Some of this is for competitive reasons but some is because they really do understand their equipment best.  This is very much true of chip manufacturers and camera manufacturers.

Software attempts to "crack the code" and does so quite well, ACR, Aperture, and others.  It's interesting though that different types of software will interpret the same RAW file differently.  This makes me wonder just how much of the "goodness" is a 3rd party software vendor capable of delivering.  90% ?  More/less?

Over the last few iterations camera manufacturers have quietly and significantly improved their internal software "engines."  They are more than likely getting more of the "goodness" from their proprietary files than other's are getting...and they are doing it very very quickly and for free.  (I believe that new camera decisions are made for many reasons but that a new engine isn't on the list.)  Oh.  The file sizes are smaller also making management easier and less expensive.

There's always the argument that future advances in software will allow re works of RAW files.  While true I do wonder about the practicality.  How many of the (tens?) of thousands of images you took last year, or the year before, or in 1995 will you rework with the newest iteration of Photoshop?  Assuming that new software still reads the old files, and of course that your DAM system allows you to find the file.  I'm guessing the number will rhyme with Nero.


  1. Hi Charles

    how many? Well some ... not zero. I don't use RAW all the time, but do use it increasingly. When I go on a holiday or camping trip I just leave it on RAW so that I don't have to worry about did I alter the white balance? What if I want to pull more out of an image.

    I know that more can be pulled out of a JPG, but I still feel more can be pulled out of a RAW.

    Personally I see doing my image processing on a tablet rather like choosing to tie one arm behind my back for no real reason. Sure there will be times when its more convenient to use a tablet, but no matter how much I use my laptop on the train or on the couch I still have a desk and an office.

    I'm guessing you've read some of my posts on alternative raw processing such as photomatix.

    also, even if you choose to not use it most cameras can be set to or automatically embed the JPG in the RAW file, and can be pulled out in batch in bulk in seconds using commandline tools like dcraw (which even runs on OS-X)


  2. should be of interest:

  3. Thanks, Chris. I'm familiar with Adobe Touch. Apps have developed over the last several months and a few of them are starting to offer some limited Layers" capabilities. Two in particular are quite good, PhotoForge2 and a new one Laminar. Laminar has a few wrinkles yet that need to be ironed out but I'm certain they will get it done.

    Adobe decided to add their own App and it's really very very good. I believe they can claim ownership of Layers and their App is the best yet for layers. That being said though, their idea to offer a tiny resolution output is quite maddening. 1600 x 1600 makes this App virtually unusable. If they see it as in their interest to offer a full-rez update it will be one of the 3 or so very best Apps available.