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d700 Jpeg and "optimal quality" setting


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vinke Registered since 26th Apr 2009
Mon 27-Apr-09 12:38 AM

I've been searching for some time but I've found no clear explanation for how "optimal quality" setting works in conjunction with "fine/normal/basic" jpeg?

I'm trying to determine what jpeg settings will be adequate for my photography. I shoot mainly people picks and I doubt I'll ever print anything larger than 10x15. Mostly 8x10 for me.

I get the following explanation from a famous Nikon guy:

"Using the Optimal Quality option in BASIC JPG lets the file size grow to the same size as JPG NORMAL if the subject needs it, and lets the file size shrink back to JPG BASIC when it's not."

That's fine, but how does "optimal quality" work in the Normal position? Will it automatically adjust to "Fine" or "Basic", depending on the scene?


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#1. "RE: d700 Jpeg and "optimal quality" setting" | In response to Reply # 0

Bruceap Registered since 19th Dec 2008
Mon 27-Apr-09 01:32 AM

I will try to answer this from memory for you. Generally you have 3 size picture captures, basic, normal, and large. This would be how many PPI per side will be recorded. Less pixels will be used on the smaller sizes. Then you have jpeg compression. the more you compress the shot the more bits get discarded. I always shoot RAW so I have the best chance to optomize my pictures in post production. Also I sometimes like to crop a small portion and enlarge it. I would suggest to you if you want to shoot jpeg that you shoot large at the fine setting. That will give you over 550 shots on a 4 gig card.

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#2. "RE: d700 Jpeg and "optimal quality" setting" | In response to Reply # 0

MEMcD Moderator In depth knowledge in various areas Nikonian since 24th Dec 2007
Mon 27-Apr-09 02:52 AM

Hi Kevin,

Welcome to Nikonians!
You have a choice of 3 size settings: Small, Medium, and Large.
You also have a choice of three jpeg comression ratios: Basic, Normal, and Fine.
In addition you can shoot in Raw: 12 bit, 14 bit, lossless compressed, compressed, or uncomressed.
If you shoot only jpegs, for the best IQ use jpeg Fine, Large.
If the qualirty is set in the Normal (Medium Compression Ratio ( Medium file size)) position the jpeg compression ratio will be set between that of Basic (Highest Compression Ratio (smallest file size)), and Fine (Lowest Compression Ratio (largest file size)).
Clear as Mudd, Right!
Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!

Best Regards,


London, UK
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#3. "RE: d700 Jpeg and "optimal quality" setting" | In response to Reply # 0

Tongariro Registered since 14th Jul 2007
Mon 27-Apr-09 11:03 AM

The alternative to 'optimal quality' is size priority. With size priority, a JPG at a given size (pixel dimensions) and quality (fine, normal, basic) will save a file up to a given size, regardless of the amount of detail in the image. With optimal quality, the file size will adjust, depending upon the detail in the image, aiming to achieve the pixel dimensions and quality settings you have set. A simple image (eg of a silhouette against a sky with limited detail) would probably come out fine with size priority, and could be adequately captured using basic quality. But, a busy, detailed image (eg of a crowd of people sufficiently close not to blur into a homogenised mass) might be compromised by size priority.

If a basic jpg is shot, which gives rise to a small file size, the camera does not automatically upgrade it to normal quality.

If you want a good quality file - & you should expect this from a D700 - the best way to get this is through shooting RAW. If you don't want to process the files routinely, shoot RAW & jpg (large/fine). That way, you have scope to edit & crop, with the option of going back to basics with the RAW file if the jpg is not to your liking. Memory is cheap, so it is not worth skimping on.



Cork, IE
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#4. "RE: d700 Jpeg and "optimal quality" setting" | In response to Reply # 0

RobLamb Registered since 29th Sep 2006
Mon 27-Apr-09 05:44 PM | edited Mon 27-Apr-09 05:46 PM by RobLamb

OK, I might try this one.

As I understand it the two quality settings use slightly different variations of the JPEG algorithm to decide which pixels to throw out during compression.

JPEG compression is 'lossy' in that you loose information during compression. The 'fine/normal/basic' setting defines the ratio of data that is lost: fine looses least data and basic discards (relatively) more information.

The quality settings change how the algorithm decides what data to loose during compression: 'size priority' defines a fixed ratio of discarded data so that the file size remains pretty much constant; 'optimal quality' makes an attempt to compress those areas which contain little information (in picture terms this might a areas like the sky) more than those very busy areas which contain more detail - thereby 'optimising' the compression for image quality. In 'optimal quality' the fine/normal/basic setting still discard progressively more data but in each case they attempt to keep relatively more data in the detailed areas of the image at the expense of data from the areas with less detail. The file sizes are roughly the same but there will be variations in more complex, detailed images than those with little detail.

It is a bit like 'variable bit rate' compression in MP3 conversion.

I have no idea exactly how this works and JPEG algorithms are complex. But I think this is the general jist of it.

Now this is all relative and there is still plenty of detail in a basicly compressed JPEG - espeicially if you consider how much smaller it is than the uncompressed image. JPEG loss is well documented but I'm not convinced how much it is a real problem for most photographers.

So for ultimate quality shoot RAW. If you choose compressed RAWs they use a lossess compression algorithm so no data is lost. Moreover they are 12-14 bit deep and have a higher dynamic range so in fact there is loads more data in those files if you need it. But they are bigger files and required more processing.

But in my experience Normally compressed, optimal quality JPEGs can go a long was to saving your hard drive and hours of archival / backup time. If you find yourseld tweaking any partticular image a lot you can always save the working file as an uncompressed image.

In general people view lossy compression as a bad thing - but how many of them have refused to use an MP3 player in preference to carrying 100 CDs around in their pocket? In practice, for many, many applications, a lossy compressed file is good enough.

Personally I shoot RAW+JPEG. I use the JPEGs for proof galleries unless I need to recover from a bad exposure. Then for final printing I re-work the RAW from scratch. Once I'm finished with a set I archive the RAWs and keep the JPEGs for reference.

For press work I just shoot JPEGs and watch for highlights as I go.

Set to 'optimal quality' if you use JPEGS, I haven't found any reason why not. As far as I'm concerned I'd much rather keep as much detail as I can wherever possible. I'm not really sure why this isn't the default.

Hope this has helped. Please post corrections if I'm way out here!



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Oxford, US
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#5. "RE: d700 Jpeg and "optimal quality" setting" | In response to Reply # 0

philipl Gold Member Nikonian since 31st May 2007
Wed 29-Apr-09 01:14 PM

I agree with the above comments. I always shoot JPEG (only) and always use JPEG large and optimal quality. The first file below was saved as a 2.97 MB file and the second as 4.86 MB. Both were shot with my D300 but my 700 is set the same way.


Click on image to view larger version

Click on image to view larger version

Attachment#1 (jpg file)
Attachment#2 (jpg file)


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