A raw rant

2008, Photography

I know of all the benefits of RAW photography, but despite all the advantages I am still not always pleased with RAW. Larger file sizes, many RAW converters with different results, different RAW formats. And I wonder if RAW is really usable as an archive format.

Christmas bokeh

Many photographers want to believe that a RAW file is really raw, with no adjustments applied. But I honestly think that it is simply not true. Many manufacturers use a proprietary RAW file format instead of a standard RAW format. Either for selling more of their own RAW converters and some automatic software corrections, or for in-camera corrections on RAW files. Take Panasonic for instance. They worked closely with Silkypix to automatically apply barrel lens distortion correction. Now Adobe supports the LX3 RAW files and automatically corrects their files too, and now everybody rants of Adobe for supporting Panasonic instead of the consumers for keeping an untouched RAW file.

But how many people do really want to have an untouched RAW file. I personally think that the RAW files from most small sensor compact cameras are a lot more noisier then we ever see in our RAW converter. Many said that Panasonic applied some noise reduction even on their RAW files for the former LX2 and I think Ricoh does so too. Even RAW files can look mushy and smeary without any noise reduction in my RAW converter. Despite all automatic corrections many think that the Panasonic LX3 is currently the best small sensor camera for low light conditions. An incredible result indeed in my opinion. And I even don’t care that the ISO 800 of the LX3 isn’t really ISO 800, but more like ISO 400.

But honestly, do we really need to recover highlight or fill light for shadows? Is there no challenge to get the exposure and white balance right before taking the photograph? Are the processed files from RAW images really better then the jpegs? When my camera is set to RAW it also captures a jpeg image. Most of the photographs I posted originate from RAW files. For test purposes I chosen to edit the accompanied jpegs in Photoshop and compare them with the results for some of the processed RAW images and I was surprised. I thought it looked really good. So maybe I will try to keep the camera more in jpeg mode for a while. Life is too short for RAW.

Christmas bokeh

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma