TIFF, or RAW ... Which should I Use?
by Digital Darrell
a friend about this article
you get nothing else from this article, remember this...by
letting your camera process the images in ANY way, it is modifying
or throwing away image data. There is only a finite amount
of data for each image that can be stored on your camera,
and later on the computer. With JPEG or TIFF mode, your camera
is optimizing the image according to the assumptions recorded
in its memory. Data is being thrown away permanently, in varying
you want to keep ALL the image data that was recorded in the
image, you must store your originals in RAW format. Otherwise
you will never again be able to access that original data
to change how it looks. RAW format is the closest thing to
a film negative or a transparency that your digital camera
is important if you would like to use the image later for
modification. If you are a photographer that is concerned
with maximum quality you should probably use RAW mode, and
store your images in RAW format. Later, when you have the
urge to make another masterpiece out of the original RAW image
file, you will have ALL of your original data intact for the
to qualify this a bit, the TIFF mode is surely a very capable
mode, since only a very small amount of the image data is
gone. So you could use TIFF mode to make or remake a great
image, and have an image format that is compatible with any
image processor out there, or any computer program that is
modern. And, a JPEG image is very capable also. When modified
only once, is beautiful to behold. JPEG images can only be
diddled with to a degree, or your image will degrade. It is
a widely compatible image format, since most digital "consumer"
cameras default to it and pro cameras have the mode available.
consideration in digital imaging is short-term storage on
the image card in your camera, or longer-term storage on your
computer. The JPEG mode will definitely allow you to store
more images. For instance, on my Nikon® D100, with a one-gigabyte
IBM® Microdrive, I can store about 330 images in JPEG FINE
mode, in RAW mode that drops to 107 images, and in TIFF mode,
surprisingly, it drops to only 54 images. Due to how TIFF
images store color information, they are nearly twice the
size to store, as are RAW images. And the RAW mode contains
more data for later use!
this article is being written, and is mentioned briefly above,
no RAW mode standard yet exists. Each camera manufacturer
has proprietary RAW formats. The software that pulls the image
off of the camera is proprietary and will not work with another
camera maker's images in RAW format. So this might be a drawback
if you need maximum compatibility with the rest of the printing
industry. But, with the new Photoshop CS this problem
is going away. Most image shops will be using Photoshop,
since it is the industry standard graphics program.
if you want maximum compatibility and maximum reusable quality,
use TIFF mode. If you need maximum storage, and excellent
initial image quality, use JPEG mode. If you want maximum
quality period, use RAW mode.
do as I do, and shoot in RAW mode, store the image in RAW
mode, and later make TIFF or JPEG images from the RAW images.
I can do that over and over without losing my image quality.
In fact, JPEG or TIFF images that have been converted on your
computer from a RAW image are noticeably higher quality.
not go out and make a bunch of digital images today. Whatever
mode you use will give you an excellent image later.
You can experiment with the various formats and see which
YOU like best. Digital photography makes this easy.
Now that you have made the investment in digital camera equipment,
you can shoot and shoot until you are satisfied, at no extra
cameras will allow you to change formats at any time, and
will store all the formats on the same camera image card,
so, go and experiment a bit.
on capturing time…