Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp

Mythbusters - More raw vs JPEG myths
< Previous Jun 16, 2009 Next >

Seoul, Korea - From the 'Mixed-blood Orphanage' series -- Korea 1965 - Tony Karp, design, art, photography, techno-impressionist, techno-impressionism, aerial photography , drone , drones , dji , mavic pro , video , 3D printing - Books -
From the "Mixed-blood Orphanage" series -- Korea 1965
Canon ASLR with Kodachrome II film
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
-- Johnny Mercer on the raw vs JPEG debate
I want to thank all of the people who responded to my first post about raw vs JPEG myths for giving me some new myths to write about. This is not a complete list, just the highlights:

1. Raw has more "headroom" than JPEG
2. Raw has a wider dynamic range than JPEG
3. Raw has more detail in the highlights and shadows than JPEG
4. You can recover detail in blown highlights in raw
5. Raw files have more bits per pixel than JPEG and this makes a big difference
6. Raw pictures can be "batch processed" to save time, even though the individual pictures might be shot under different circumstances
7. Pictures shot with JPEG have less detail than raw
8. Vague references to "JPEG artifacts"
9. JPEG processing messes up the colors and the contrast and dynamic range
10. JPEG is okay if you're only going to make small prints
11. Software for processing raw files is getting better in the same way that in-camera JPEG processing is getting better
12. Yes, you can modify a JPEG file, but raw lets you do more
13. You can set your camera to record high-quality versions of both formats at the same time (raw + JPEG)
14. Raw is better for shooting weddings
15. Raw will save the day if you get the exposure or white balance wrong
16. There is no downside to shooting raw (This one by implication)
17. Everyone should shoot raw

And the incontrovertible fact that everybody just plain knows that raw is better than JPEG.

Note that all of the above are unproven generalizations, not based on a comprehensive comparison between raw and JPEG on any specific camera, or a comparison with some of the newer cameras that do some really gee whiz JPEG processing. They're what's referred to as the "conventional wisdom."

Most were given as absolutes, without any qualification or exceptions.

I think that the most interesting responses were from the people who said they would shoot JPEG but preferred raw because it would "save the day" when they got the exposure or white balance wrong ("I would shoot JPEG if I knew I would get the right exposure and white balance every time"). Maybe I should write about how to get the right exposure and white balance and save these folks the extra work that goes with shooting raw.

There were also responses from the quibblers who said, "We never said JPEG couldn't be fixed." If that's true, then why are you shooting raw? "Well, JPEG can be fixed, but not as much as raw." You betcha.

There was also an edge to some of the responses. Things in the nature of, "If JPEG is good enough for you, that's okay, but I require the best." Or, "People who let their cams do the processing (jpegs) mostly likely eat packaged dinners." Talk about generalizations. But they all had a "real men shoot raw" feeling to them. All in all, the responses seem to show that people do feel strongly about this topic.

Please note that at no time did I state that JPEG is better than raw.

What I am working at is disproving some of the myths surrounding the controversy. Fair and balanced, and all that.

With every new generation of camera, with ever-increasing megapixels and improved in-camera JPEG processing, it becomes harder and harder to prove the supposed benefits of shooting raw. At some point, these benefits become more theoretical than real. Perhaps raw can show a benefit when shooting with a full-frame DSLR, but most of the people taking pictures are shooting with relatively inexpensive cameras, with tiny, noisy sensors. With these cameras, in-camera JPEG processing, using the best settings, can often yield results indistinguishable from raw.

The real problem in comparing raw with JPEG is generalization. There are hundreds of cameras that can shoot JPEG, and for each of these cameras there are multiple settings that affect picture quality, and for each of these results, there are different photographers with varying levels of skill at producing the best result, both in the camera and in post processing on the computer.

And likewise, each different camera that can produce raw files will produce them in its own unique format, since there is no industry standard for raw files. And there are different raw development programs which produce varying results, again with the varying skill levels of the photographers that use these programs.

Given the size of these two universes, there really is no way to do a fair comparison between the two formats. So if you were hoping to see some sort of raw-vs-JPEG shootout here, it isn't going to happen. And, as far as I know, there still hasn't been a real comparison, with lots of examples, comparing these two formats under many different situations, anywhere on the Internet. So for now, it's all about talk, not about images.

There are many other things that can be compared between the two formats besides looking at the finished results. Sometimes it's what happens along the way.

Which brings up another point. Taking pictures is a statistical game. You win some and you lose some, and you have to be willing to live with "the one that got away." That's why the average pro shoots more pictures in a given situation than the average amateur -- to increase the odds in their favor.

Shooting JPEG, I can take twice as many pictures in the same time as the raw shooter and they'll take up less storage space. So if the subject blinks, I can snap another shot right away instead of waiting the four seconds it takes to write the raw file to the storage card. (When I tried shooting raw, my wife referred to this interval as, "How many bad words can Tony say in four seconds?")

That's the sort of odds I like.

< Previous Jun 16, 2009 Next >

Copyright 1957-2023 Tony & Marilyn Karp
Web Site Design
Systems Design
The Future
Recent Entries
Cine-Simulator Samples * T-Zoom
Cine-Simulator Samples * The Muse's Eyes
Geeks vs Gurus * The cinematography edition
The Zen of Zooming
Why smartwatches failed, and how to fix it - Part 3
Why smartwatches failed, and how to fix it - Part 2
Why smartwatches failed, and how to fix it - Part 1
Some pictures from my smartphone
My fix for bird strikes on my window
Goodbye, Columbus
At an old curiosity shop in Purcellville
Smartphone vs camera -- Why you need both
Raw vs JPEG with the P30 Pro's super-wide camera
At the Air and Space Museum with a Huawei P30 Pro
A tribute to the architect, I.M. Pei
A blast from the past - Music's golden age
Green eggs and ham. And onions. And cheddar.
A blast from the past
Hidden views -- Discoveries from my drone
Will the FAA stop regulating hobby drones?
Here's a panorama from my Mavic, and two more
A quadcopter is a totally new kind of aircraft
Taking to the air -- First flights
Let's talk about the Mavic Pro's camera
A different viewpoint
The value of time in the creative process
Variations on a skink
Andy shoots raw. Ann always shoots JPEG
A butterfly in Havana -- From start to finish
Recovering highlight detail in JPEG images
A tribute to Paris on November 14, 2015
Some black and white pictures from long ago
Panasonic DMC-ZS40 pictures - Part 2
Panasonic DMC-ZS40 pictures - Part 1
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- A butterfly takes wing
Shooting for NBC
What's new at the zoo?
On being a photojournalist
Some pictures of Manassas
Finishing a picture
Watching the sunset in Adams Morgan
A night at the circus - 1966
Fortune Qwerkies (tm) -- Fortune cookies for the smartphone user
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- The evolution from flat to solid
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- Showing how the pieces fit together
Getting a grip on the Panasonic DMC-LF1
Some random thoughts about the Panasonic DMC-LF1
The Panasonic DMC-LF1 is a game-changer
Art and the Zen of QR Codes -- Making QaRt
A new process for printing art in the 3rd dimension
Bubbles! Bubbles! Bubbles!
Photographing the Perry Como Show
Hiking at Sky Meadows with my Panasonic DMC-ZS20
Working for the union
A new take on JPEG vs raw - Panasonic DMC-ZS20
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-ZS20 - Part 2
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-ZS20 - Part 1
My new go-everywhere camera - Panasonic DMC-ZS20
My brief life in the studio
Shooting Shakespeare - The Tempest - NBC, 1960
Impressionist bees
In the studio with Roz Kelly
At the Peppermint Lounge - 1962
An evening with Gene Kelly
A portrait of Donna Mitchell - Variations on a theme
The "Sky Dream Ultimate" plug-in from Wilkington-Smythe
Post-processing: Going from good to great
Winter pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ150
Using the Panasonic DMC-FZ150's "Photo Style" Menu
A valentine for the Artist's Muse
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150's controls
Some thoughts on the Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - Part 2
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - A cure for DSLR envy?
Some thoughts about my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - Part 1
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 -- Best camera ever?
Sunglasses - What can you add to a picture?
Hey, camera makers. If my smartphone can do this
The Artmuse Variations - a look inside my new book
A tribute to George Washington on Veterans Day
A visit to the White House
The little farmhouse, the tractor, and the interesting tree
Buckminster, the baby buckeye butterfly
Memories of September 11
Happy Corporation Day!
A trip to Monterey and San Francisco
The first battle of the American Civil War -- 150 years ago
The end of an era -- The last American manned mission
Growing an Italian stone pine tree
Random thoughts on art and other stuff - From my new book
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 3, Warrenton
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 2, In the house
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 1, Winter
Some recent pictures
Fixing a Panasonic DMC-FZ18/FZ28/FZ35 problem
Into the world of shadows
A walk through Warrenton
Partly moony with my Panasonic DMC-FZ35
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 3 - Video
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 2
Happy birthday to muse...
Pixels and parking lots -- The Panasonic FZ35
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ35
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 2
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 1
On our way to Warrenton
Evolution of an Iris
A new feature in Adobe Camera Raw 5.4
A tribute to the Apollo 11 astronauts
The pole dancer - Variations on a theme
Restoring lost highlight detail in JPEG images
A short course in photography in ten easy lessons
Kodachrome memories
A walk in the woods on my birthday
Mythbusters - More raw vs JPEG myths
Restoring lost shadow detail in JPEG images
Expose for the highlights, develop for the shadows
Something new -- Interchangeable cameras
Honey, I shrunk the newspaper - The "Nano" NY Times
Mistaking evolution for revolution
Some pictures from the artist's muse
Photography becomes art -- Daibutsu Buddha at Kamakura
Happy House-i-versary
25 random things about the artist's muse
It happened at the Met
Some pictures and some settings - Part 4 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Part 3 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Part 2 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Noiseography -- A new photographic technique
Shooting infrared with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
You're never too young
One month with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
A trip to Berryville - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
It's the Hobbitt's birthday
On September 11th
Shooting Tri-X with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
A shot in the dark - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Sunset and the far-up lens -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Further musings on the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Customizing your camera for high-ISO photography
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 vs DMC-FZ18 at high ISO
Some musings about the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Hummers, SUVs, DSLRs, and my DMC-FZ28
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 -- At the Flying Circus
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 -- The journey begins
Farewell, my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
More about the settings for the DMC-FZ18
Dealing with the modes and settings of the DMC-FZ18
Photography becomes art - Bird on a wire
The artist's muse at sunset -- DMC-FZ18
Do you need fancy equipment?
Now here's my plan
Good cookie, bad cookie
But seriously, folks...
Post-processing Mr. Squirrel
A museum of one's own
We need new words to describe what's happening
Going over to the dark side
Shooting the moon
Happy Anniversary, Hobbitt
The view from my window - DMC-FZ18
My favorite museum
A toast to the artist's muse
The DMC-FZ18, a sunset, and a glass of beer
Remembering Herbert Keppler
Shooting abstracts with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Fixing a Panasonic DMC-FZ18 problem
More pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
The journey of a thousand Melvins
Stairway to the stars -- Extreme post processing
DMC-FZ18 - Raw vs JPEG - The JPEG Manifesto
Chromatic aberration and the DMC-FZ18
Raw vs JPEG, the DMC-FZ18, and a mystery
Some pictures from my Kodak P880 - Part 2
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Some pictures from my Kodak P880 - Part 1
DMC-FZ18 - Don't be afraid of the dark
Shooting in "Medium" - DMC-FZ18 - The right exposure
Shooting in "Medium" and the Panasonic DMC-FZ18
In-use review -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18 - Part 2
In-use review -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18 - Part 1
Photography becomes art - Fantasy at Ida Lee
Photography becomes art - The chefs at Little Washington
My new old camera - the Kodak Easyshare P880
Photography becomes art - Variations on a theme
All the (art) news that's fit to print
The museum becomes art - #1
Photography becomes art - Making an angel
How to test a camera
Hitting the wall
Extreme post-processing - Working with infrared
Blogging 2.0 - A new interface
A funny thing happened on my way to the blog
In the beginning...