There is a war that has been going on for quite a while in the realm of digital photography. To be specific, it is a war as to which is better between two digital image file formats out there: RAW and JPEG.
As far as usage is concerned, JPEG has a clear advantage as it is the default image file format used in digital cameras, as well as in other devices likes computers and smartphones. Being the default system, many users, especially casual photographers, have adopted it, mainly for the sake of convenience.
But being widely used does not necessarily mean it is better in terms of quality. And if you ask many avid and professional photographers, RAW provides the better image quality hands down.
But what makes RAW the better digital image format than JPEG quality-wise? We have listed down some of its notable qualities below:
1. Great level of detail
An image recorded in the RAW format provides a greater level of detail. For instance, it can process billions of colors compared to mere millions a JPEG file can process, adding more nuances of color shades in an image.
In addition, RAW records brightness levels ranging from 4,096 to 16,384 far more than the 256 levels in JPEG. What this means is that you can make more and better adjustments on your image without sacrificing overall image quality. And we’ll talk more about editing RAW images later.
2. Complete image information
Every image contains a lot of data which take up a huge amount of file space. And in RAW, every information available in the image is recorded, from the metadata to the most minor aspects of the image, which explains why RAW files are larger in file size. In contrast, JPEG compresses the image file itself. While this is helpful so that the image will not take up significant storage space, some information gets also lost in the process, notably information in the image which have provided greater detail of the image.
3. Better, non-destructive editing
As noted earlier, RAW files have the advantage of providing more and better adjustments that can done to the image without sacrificing greater image quality. In addition, RAW files are unprocessed so you can use more tools like sharpening algorithms that would provide better output as opposed to the tools built in JPEG that does some processing beforehand but may have resulted in less than satisfactory level of quality.
What’s better about editing images in RAW is that even if you made a mistake in correcting an image, you can still go back to the original image and “correct” it from there. That is because RAW does not actually let you make adjustments on the file itself. Rather, any adjustments you make are being translated into a set of instructions as to how the file will be saved in another format like JPEG for instance. This is in contrast to JPEG where any adjustments you make are saved on the file and you cannot undo them once they are saved.
As mentioned earlier, RAW files take up a lot of space, something that has been a source of concern for quite a while. However, things have changed in recent years. While in the past, limited storage was a primary consideration for some to be hesitant in adapting the RAW format, this no longer holds true today. Affordable storage options like hard drives and memory cards offering large storage space are now prevalent in the market.
The availability of these storage solutions today has made the RAW format a more attractive format of choice than it was a few years ago.
MORE RAW-CAPABLE CAMERAS
Another thing going for RAW these days is the availability of cameras in the market that can now capture images in RAW. While cameras that can shoot RAW were limited in the past to DSLRs, now this capability has been extended to other camera types, some of them even point-and-shoot ones. Thanks to the capabilities of these new cameras, more users are becoming aware of RAW and its qualities and is becoming a popular image format especially among budding photographers or those who want better quality on their photos.
A FORMAT FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
RAW is a file format specially made for photography, providing the most accurate and detailed information of an image. For photographers, every detail is important even the tiniest one. So it is important that these details are represented as vivid and true as possible, something a format like RAW provides very well enough.
So if you are someone who is serious about photography or at least would like to get better quality on the images you shoot, then going for RAW is the most logical option without a doubt.