RAW

I see many digicam reviews on the Internet and in a lot of them the reviewer say that a bad thing is that the camera does not support the raw format. I have a Panasonic Lumix which support the raw format. I tried to use but what I see is only a canvas and a very large file for a photo of 70 MB. Do I need any program to open this file? Seeing that this format is too large I hope to have a very good quality if this is what the raw format does.

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2 responses:

RAW is useful

Raw support means that you will have access to the "raw" (i.e. unprocessed) image data produced by the camera's sensor. JPEG files are based upon the same raw data, but they are instantly (just after they're captured) converted from raw to JPEG by automatic conversion software inside the camera.

Some say that the raw data is like a "digital negative" – because a negative too has to be processed to yield a finished photo.

You will need a special program (a "raw converter") to open files in the raw format and save them as JPEG (or TIFF, for professional use). Most cameras comes with a CD with software – including a raw converter. Otherwise, you may need to to purchase a program. Many such programs exists, but Apple Aperture, Adobe Photoshop Elements or Adobe Lightroom are popular choices. If you buy a program, make sure that your camera is on the list of cameras supported, as the raw file format may be proprietary and not supported by all software.

Because raw data are unprocessed, the raw converter lets you control the image processing. This has benefits if you know how to do the processing right. The main benefits is that you have much more control over white balance and colour saturation, and that you may apply custom curves to better exploit the dynamic range of the photo. Another benefit is that you can select a colour space for your photo (e.g. sRGB or AdobeRGB (1988)) that is best suited for the medium of presentation, and select another if you later want to present your photo in another medium.

There are, however some downsides to using raw:

  1. You need to process the files before you can look at the pictures.
  2. Files are bigger and take up more space and takes longer to save. If you shoot sports, you may find that using RAW reduces the number of pictures you can take in burst mode.

That being said, I use raw all the time. I like the extra control that processing the data myself affords. But I have friends that see using raw as a waste of time.

Links:

RAW is useless. Ken Rockwells says so.

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