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Saturday, 17 March 2012


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Your RAW interpretation reminds me of a photo that accompanied an advertisement for the original F-1 in a Canon brochure from the late 1970s. Still a favourite.

I posted these in another article last week, but might be more appropriate in this "fiddling" article!

My fiddling:

The JPEG has a washed out area:


No recovery possible, trying with a curve:


The RAW file reveals detail:


The final result:




Hey, that's purty. Not bad for an evening's casual shooting.

Hi Mike,

All looks right to me and how I would have expected it to come out. But please allow me to make 2 suggestions for such a test.

1) Shoot a known neutral reference (WhiBal or X-Rite) so that you can compare apples to apples before you season to taste.

2) Why use Camera RAW to adjust the JPEG rather than Photoshop. As you said you are more familiar with that tool-set, so it might be easier to wrangle the JPEG with ACR.

Michael Tapes

New record? Record for North America is 56.7 degrees, in Death Valley ;-)

I've been a Raw only shooter for years, and have just started experimenting with JPEG again after reading Ken Tanaka's article. I've come to the same conclusion for the GF1 though: it's going to stay a Raw only camera. The X100, on the other hand, seems to have a much lesser gulf between Raw and JPEG files. I shot some JPEGs with the GF1 and X100 side-by-side yesterday, and was simultaneously impressed with the X100's rendering and disappointed with the GF1's, especially because I know that it's capable of much better with Raw files. I rarely print larger than 8"x12" though, so maybe I should stop looking at 100% and judge some actual prints. Lightroom just makes it too easy to become a pixel peeper.

As stated by many, JPGs are a very good alternative to RAW in many situations. These situations do not include shots taken for subsequent editing. In the example of the railway, in my opinion the correct way of adopting JPG would be setting the correct white balance before the shot. (Correct means here: to provide the warm tone that was seen and expected). Correct WB and correct exposure make good JPGs. Haste or preference to working on it later almost demand RAW. IMHO.

We're going to boil off the planet by July. Freaky freaky weather.

It may be 77 degrees F, however suspect one more blast of winter will arrive. It ain't over until it's over

Beyond technical image quality considerations, whether the camera's interpretation of the scene agrees with the photographer is also important.

In my case, my first DSLR produced jpegs that closely matched my taste. My second DSLR produced much nicer raw files than my first, but I often disagreed with its jpeg interpretation. Because of this, I sometimes shoot jpeg-only with the first camera, but never with the second one.

I might add that the color qualities of the first camera's jpegs were difficult to replicate in ACR. Thus, I think Ken does have a point.

In the end, it winds down to a matter of aesthetic taste. Now that is not something a jpeg engine can decide.

I don't really have a dog in this fight since 95% of what I shoot is iPhone (my good digital). However I wonder about something. Cameras I've purchased in the past, Nikon, Sigma, Canon each came with their own proprietary RAW conversion software. Do you suppose this is the same software those camera engines run?

Did you use Auto WB for the train track JPEG? That would try and neutralise any colour casts, while Daylight WB would give a result close to what you saw in person.

This shot was made with a Panasonic G2 (same sensor as your GF1), JPEG, Daylight WB. It's been slightly tweaked, probably just levels, curves, and a touch of saturation. The need for these adjustments is a result of the way I've set up the camera rather than a result of JPEG engine failure (like salting food, it's easy to add a bit more to JPEGs and damn near impossible to take away).

Isn't our visual perception of color and illumination wildly divergent as light levels get lower? IIRC, dusk isn't a time of day we can reliably judge 'actual' color, just our memory's perception of it. As I understand, our brains do massive color correction. I'm always surprised at how much darker my dusk shots look compared to memory of the scenes (when using incident metering, which should help counter any mis-metering due to not judging proper zone placement). In other words, our brains ride gain.

Of course, I could be 180 degrees wrong, and our knowledgeable commenters are encouraged to set me straight.

Certainly, if dusk scenes are typical of photos one takes, then they are perfectly suitable for the jpg/raw comparison.


True, you have to do your own testing, Mike. My Nikon D7000 is set to Raw only, my Fuji X100 to JPEG (but I press the Raw button if the scene might be difficult). The Fuji JPEG-engine is very impressive.

You can't fiddle around with slides, but they their purpose. Upsetting? Out of the camera JPEG:s can be really good, and they are just another tool in the camera bag. No biggie. Especially not with the JPEG+RAW alternative.

took it with me on my evening get-out-of-the-house drive*

*It's 77 degrees here. Who needs Florida?

Or a car? If I want to get out of the house just to go out it's on foot or bicycle.

Well, part of the process while shooting JPEG is picking a white balance you like before shooting. That's why some folks carry around grey cards -- while AWB is pretty smart these days, you cannot ever expect the camera to know how to make a creatively correct white balance choice. It can easily be argued that picking white balance in-camera is less work than doing the same in raw post-processing.

Personally, I would never shoot anything important in JPEG, but I find it a little unfair to call out auto WB as a disadvantage of the JPEG shooting style.

I suspect the smaller the sensor, the more reason you want to go with Raw: you need to wring every last pixel out of the sensor as you haven't got that much to start with.

Throw in colour correction and higher ISO's and it's a done deal.

JPEG is fine if the scene is well within the capability of the camera and you have the time / skill to accurately meter.

I've done JPEG and Raw comparisons for the typical images I create (and the typical mistakes I create) and it's Raw for me.

Constantly surprised by the little incidental diffrences between our two "english" speaking countries - not only is your fuel less than half the UK price but it's priced in fractions of a cent when decimal Europe always goes for prices ending in .9 or .99 (9/10 looks really odd to us!).
Oh, and another vote for "always shoot raw"

Comparing RAW to JPEG is more complex then just taking a few shots. There are lots of camera settings that have an influence on the result, white balance, picture styles, or whatever they are called with the type of camera used that contain sharpening, contrast en saturation settings, and other settings maybe too, depending on the make.
So RAW is at least easier, all these thing are done in post processing.
But when one starts to shoot video, all of a sudden all these settings have to be done in the camera to get the best technical result.

I shot a friend's brother's band's St. Patrick's day show last night. Nice older theater venue, and professional lighting on the stage. I verified the instruments were tungsten under all those filters, set my white balance for that (so the camera will record the color effects chosen by the lighting designer, and not try to "fix" them), and shot away.

This morning, I noticed that part-way through it somehow changed from "tungsten" to "cool white fluorescent" (presumably, while messing with other controls near there, I hit the wrong button and didn't notice I'd changed anything).

Luckily, since I was shooting RAW, this hardly matters; it only affects the preview images, it's trivially fixed when processing the RAW shots.

So I'm going to be staying with RAW too :-).

Mike, to Ken's point he was saying that he takes special care to expose it right the first time. In the case of your test shots of the railroad tracks that would have meant a WB setting of daylight to capture the light as it really was. And if you don't print your own images (like me) you will need to convert it to a sRGB jpg at some point anyway.

I personally have a raw workflow, I love the flexibility it gives me, and they all end as jpgs. It is nice to have choices though.


Who needs Florida?

As I understand it, both parties' nominees.

Well at least you gave Jpeg a look, Mike, although I don't know how much heart you really devoted to the visit. ;\

As a counter-point, visit my site and just watch the main page slide show roll by. On any day there are approximately 50 images in that passive presentation, selected to represent a good thematic cross-section of the type of photography I pursue. But it also ends up representing quite a cross section of cameras and image tech. For example, at this writing the set represents about 12 different cameras. Approximately 25%-30% of the images began as in-cam Jpegs. (There's even at least two film images in the set now.) I wonder if you can distinguish the Jpegs from the Raws (or the film)?

Your excursion into Jpegs actually very nicely illustrates the key suggestions I made in my article. Know your camera's facilities intimately and shoot carefully.

I'll admit to a strong RAW bias. So much so that I'll be forced to embrace jpeg when my Xpro-1 arrives as LightRoom does not yet support the RAW files from that camera.

My (ancient) analogy for RAW vs jpegs is that of negative film vs slide film. Your example shows that the versatility of RAW files is very significant.

'I could be wrong but I doubt it' (Charles Barkley).

I hate to point this out, but I have a GF1, a Sony and a Nikon and the the GF1 has by far the weakest JPEG engine. In this case weak means the colors; they frequently end up looking wrong on the GF1 and in some situations get all funky. The other cameras have never shown such problems. I'm a raw shooter BTW, but the playback on the camera tends to show the embedded JPEG rather than the raw, so the quality of the JPEG engine matters to me too (and I also have a strong opinion on how to capitalize "raw", but I'll leave that out...)

Thanks for confirming what most people already know. In-camera JPEGs can look just fine, but the latitude for post-processing adjustments is limited. Given that raw editing is so simple and that storage is so cheap, I can hardly see a justification for shooting JPEGs, unless one is certain that he/she wants no PPing. My guess is that a surprising number of professionals fall into this category (e.g. wedding and school photographers), because their workflow is more or less a factory production line. If JPEGs satisfy their clients, then that is the most economical way for them to work. This is not meant as criticism, but rather as acknowledgement that shooting JPEGs makes sense for some "serious" photographers.

Having a shoot raw -vs- shoot JPEG debate distracts us from a much more interesting conversation. What we should really be talking about is in-camera processing -vs- traditional computer processing. If you like your camera's JPEG files and those save you time--use them! But don't throw away your raw forever.

Every camera shoots Raw. You can choose to save the raw information or keep only one raw processor's interpretation of that data, compressed, and optimized for an output-referred color space defined by the limited color gamut of outdated display devices. Digital photography is about the collection and interpretation of data. Limting yourself to only one pass on the raw data sort of misses the whole point. Other technological forces have conspired to make the JPEG compressed, sRGB image the only really practical medium we can use right now to share images with a lot of other people. We need to be able to make good sRGB JPEGs. Taking the long view, however, choosing to work only in the medium of the sRGB JPEG, instead of trying to take advantage of the full medium of digital photography strikes me as lazy and severely lacking imagination.

(Note, if you're shooting AdobeRGB then you still need to use some other software to convert that to sRGB before you can, for practical purposes, share it with anyone. You're missing the whole point of using in camera JPEG.)

There has never been a better time to shoot Raw. There are several excellent raw processors available, and the software vendors seem to be engaged in a price and features war right now. We keep getting more and better tools for interpreting Raw data. Look at the advances in clean up, noise reduction, automatic lens distortion and aberration correction, moire reduction, all sorts of painted-on effects.... Don't like how raw converter A dealt with your sensor's noise or your lens's CA? Try converter B. These algorithms are going to work better on mosaic raw data than linear JPEG compressed data.

There has also never been a better time to use camera-created JPEGs! The faster computers in cameras let them perform a lot more of that sophisticated raw processing than ever before. If you can get a good, usable JPEG out of your camera, you might be stupid not to use it if it saves you time. Don't confuse the improved speed and quality of the camera's raw processor with qualities of the JPEG format itself.

I've read exactly zero good arguments here for permanently throwing away your raw data. As I recall the only one Ken even tries to make is that raw files are taking up too much disk space. Let's call BS on that one. There is no reason to think the price, speed and convenience of storage space and broadband (mobile or otherwise) won't continue to drop. And there is some evidence to suggest we've seen the zenith of the megapixel wars in still photography. Many buyers are deciding that 10 or 12 megapixels are enough, Canon stuck to 22 mpix in the 5DmIII, and Nikon's 36 mpix may be hitting the wall of what's technically possible if not desirable. Even if the mpix wars continue. The storage requirements of video are going to dwarf those of still photography, raw or not.

I concede that the size of raw files do still pose some challenges when it comes to data-transfer and mobile storage. Prices will fall and capacities will grow, yet still today in-camera storage, storage on mobile devices and storage on new laptop SSD drives is not as cheap as traditional hard drive storage. But the problem here is really just getting the raw data moved from expensive mobile storage to cheap, spinning-disk storage in a safe, automatic way, and then being able to access the raw data again on-demand when you need it. Seem like pretty solvable problems, and even if we don't have the solution in-hand today, throwing away all your raw data is a short-sighted solution.

As the storage, and bandwidth issues improve, as we have more sophisticated services to sync data between devices seamlessly and as our cameras become even faster and better raw processors, with brighter and denser displays. The interesting question becomes--do we need desktop raw processors at all anymore? If we aren't able to move to a post-pc world without giving up raw, then we photographers will have really lost something.

Is that fuel price for a gallon? I calculate that by UK prices we would be paying at least $5.20 for a gallon.

First, I'm an avowed raw shooter. Just not that good at getting things right at the moment of capture-- but I think I'm getting better.

It seems to me, though, that your "comparison" doesn't really get at the heart of the jpeg matter. It looks like you merely accepted what the camera gave you as a default-- awb? instead of manipulating all those jpeg settings (sharpness, saturation, wb, etc.) to get what you wanted.

It's always going to boil down to "right now" or "right later", and as a hobbyist, I can almost always afford "right later."

Mike you can set Photoshop to open jpeg files in Camera Raw. I much prefer the ACR controls to Photoshop adjustments.

"part of the process while shooting JPEG is picking a white balance you like before shooting. That's why some folks carry around grey cards [...] I find it a little unfair to call out auto WB as a disadvantage of the JPEG shooting style."

Okay, then I'll call out "having to carry around a grey card" as a disadvantage of the JPEG shooting style, then. [g]


Chuck: "As I recall the only one Ken even tries to make is that raw files are taking up too much disk space. Let's call BS on that one."

Please read my original piece, as well as successive remarks, more closely.

If you were paying UK prices, that gallon would cost you $8.14 :(

I wonder if you can distinguish the Jpegs from the Raws (or the film)?

Probably not - but that's not really the point. I don't think anyone is saying that a print or posted image from a jpg can't be as good as one from RAW - it's more about how you get there.

As I see it, the case for shooting RAW is you have less chance of making an irrecoverable mistake, and more options for 'interpreting' the image in post. Sometimes 'correct' white balance is not what I'm looking for ... my memory of the scene (and the mood I want to convey) may be warmer or cooler than it was in reality.

But, contrary to an earlier post, I now recall I did once shoot jpg - I'd turned up for a job somehow forgetting all my extra memory cards. With only the cards that were already in the cameras, I was sure I wouldn't have the capacity to cover the event.

Then I remembered that jpgs were smaller, so switched format and got on with it, with card capacity to spare. I must admit that though I worried about quality throughout the day, the results were probably as good as I would have got with RAW. Fortunately for me the lighting was not challenging, so AWB worked fine.



I love the JPEGs out of my Olympus cameras but still shoot JPG+RAW in many cases (mainly when WB is sketchy). The Canon I shoot RAW, exclusively.

One thing that is being overlooked in all the talk of fiddling with the exposure, white balance etc for the perfect JPEG shot is the time factor. The conditions that produced that railroad shot are extremely fleeting. When the window of opportunity is very short being able to defer some of the technical decisions by shooting raw seems to me a distinct advantage.

In many people-shooting situations a lot of compact cameras won't shoot raw fast enough to be useful..my Lumix LX5 is a case in point.

So while Edd Fuller is certainly right about the value of deferring technical choices re landscape, 'taint neccesarily so with people, animals or anything that's gonna move much when you're shooting it.

..by which I mean "won't write to card fast enough" actually.

Cameras I've purchased in the past, Nikon, Sigma, Canon each came with their own proprietary RAW conversion software. Do you suppose this is the same software those camera engines run?

At least in the case of Canon, the jpegs produced by the DPP software were indistinguishable from the ones out of the camera last time I tried it. That was a while ago though, since I try to avoid that particular software as much as humanly possible.

As another reader pointed out, the GF1 has never being known for having a good JPEG engine. I have one, and in my experience, the OOC pictures always need a fair bit of Lightroom massaging before they look good (and they can look really nice!).

I've always being a RAW kind of die hard advocate, but since getting an X100, I've been shooting JPG only, and I am getting some gorgeous color out of it, to the point where I'm seriously considering moving to an all JPG workflow, at least with the little fuji.

For the time being it is a bit of an experiment, but so far I'm liking it a lot.

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