Monday, June 23, 2014

RAW or not RAW, that is the Question

If you would have asked me that question some months ago, the stereotypical answer would have been: RAW!
You may read a certain doubt between the lines, which however is only true under very specific circumstances.
I am a big fan of shooting photos in raw format and treating those in RawTherapee, DarkTable and Lightroom. Raw data, i.e. data as recorded by the sensor, gives a huge advantage in post processing, since nothing is compressed (read: thrown) away.

As a regular reader, you may recall an earlier post about the Canon IXUS 140 used in raw, to great success, while jpg images, processed in-camera, had the edge concerning distortion.
As a matter of fact, the in-camera correction could always be applied to the raw image by use of post processing software.

However, everything changed with the purchase of the Fujifilm X100S!
The X100S not only comes with an enhanced sensor, with the XTRANS filter array, it also improves the sharpness of the JPG-image by using information about the 23mm prime lens of the camera.
What does that mean? As soon as a focal condition is established, the entire optical system is known. That is exactly what Fuji uses in the JPG converter algorithms.

Presently, such algorithms are not implemented in any software able to deal with XTRANS raw-files.

And here is the dilemma:
  1. Shooting in RAW allows me for tweaking the files in terms of exposure.
  2. Shooting in JPG gives the full advantage of Fuji's JPG converter.
Of course, the primary answer is simple: Write both file to the memory card and use which ever one is better! That's what I am doing right now.

Fuji took it a step beyond: RAW-photos can be tweaked in-camera and exported to JPG using the lens data to increase resolution. I have not done this yet, folks on the interweb write that being a really fiddly procedure.

To answer the question I posed in the title: use RAW when using any camera other than the X100S.

When using the X100S, you want to record both, the raw and the jpg. Make sure to have all parameters for jpg set to your likings and exposed spot on. If exposure is spot on and all the settings are ideal, the jpg image might actually be much better than the raw with all tweaking attempts... but only then!

Have a look at a screen capture that shows both (click to see on full resolution),  the jpg on the left and the raw on the right:
JPG vs RAF (raw)

Just in this particular case, i.e. the Fuji X100S, I will primarily use the JPG-file, for its enhanced sharpness.

Up to now, with any other camera I own, I would prefer the raw file!


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