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JPEG, TIFF, or RAW ... Which should I Use?
by Digital Darrel

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Camera purists, large print aficionados, and weird website article writers prefer this mode above all others.


Nikon D70

Here's why:

  • Allows the manipulation of image data to achieve the highest quality image available from the camera.
  • All original detail stays in the image for future processing needs.
  • The camera will perform no conversions, sharpening, sizing, or color rebalancing. Your images are untouched and pure!
  • Can convert to any of the above formats by using your computer's much more powerful processor instead of the camera processor.
  • You have MUCH more control over the final look of the image, since YOU, not the camera are making decisions as to the final appearance of the image.
  • 12-bit format for maximum image data.

The drawbacks to using RAW mode are these:

  • Not generally compatible with publishing industry, except by conversion to another format.  This is gradually changing as digital photography becomes more accepted commercially.
  • Requires pre-processing by special proprietary software as provided by the camera manufacturer or third-party software programmers. (This is generally included with the camera.)
  • Large file sizes, so you must have large storage media. (Although, not as large as TIFF)
  • No industry standard RAW mode. Each camera manufacturer has it's own proprietary format.
  • 12-bit format not really in use as of yet, since 8-bit is industry standard.

Since the release of Adobe® Photoshop CS, the RAW mode is beginning to move into the mainstream a bit. Photoshop will open the RAW files from your camera directly, and will allow you to set the white and color balances, sharpness, contrast, luminance, etc. without any other software.  In my own experience Photoshop CS allows you a greater degree of control over your image than even the proprietary software included with your camera.  If you decide to shoot RAW mode exclusively, you should really look into getting Photoshop CS.

I prefer RAW mode myself, but it does require a commitment to shoot in this mode. The camera is simply an image-capturing device, and YOU are the image manipulator. You decide the final format, compression ratios, sizes, color balances, etc. In RAW mode, you have the absolute best image your camera can produce. It is unoptimized, and ready for your personal touch. No camera processing allowed!



see also

Coolpix Users Group
D1/D2 Users Group
D100 Users Group
D200 Users Group
D70/D70s Users Group
D50 Users Group
Digital Resources