Most mobile cameras and ‘point-and-shoot’ digital cameras convert the image captured by their sensors into JPEGs. So, if you’ve recently acquired a DSLR and you’ve just discovered its ability to shoot in RAW format, you would be having questions like why and when should I use RAW. So, in this post we’ll help you grasp the difference between JPEG and RAW and we’ll show you how to choose the right format for your photo shoot.
First, let’s understand the difference between RAW and JPEG.
RAW is a loss less image format which displays the image the way it is captured by the camera sensor (i.e. with no modifications what so ever). When you shoot RAW, you get photos that are true representations of the scene you have captured.
JPEGs are compressed images, which are processed by the software on-board the camera to reduce the file size. Depending on the compression algorithm used by the on-board compression software, cameras may produce varying results. While most cameras produce JPEGs that are comparable to RAW in terms of quality, some cameras may produce undesirable results.
If you are after quality, then it is best to shoot in RAW because RAW files capture wider range of colors and require little editing. Although, you’ll find that in terms of sharpness JPEGs are better off than RAWs. This is because the compression algorithm responsible for generating JPEGs tends to sharpen shape boundaries. However, RAW files can easily be sharpened by image editing software.
The main problem with shooting in RAW is that it produces very large image files. A camera with an 8 mega pixel sensor produces an 8 MB file, while the file size of a JPEG captured by the same camera will be less than 2 MB. So, if you intend to take many photos then it is best to conserve memory by switching over to JPEG mode. We also recommend using JPEG for burst/continuous mode, because it takes longer to copy large RAW files to SD card.
Here’s the bottom line ; if you want ultimate in quality and if you are planning to click few photos then use RAW. For burst mode shooting and for clicking large number of photos use JPEG. As mentioned before, cameras in general produce professional quality JPEGs. Although, there are some exceptions and we advise you to test your camera by comparing its RAW and JPEG output.
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