Phase One, a digital imaging firm, and SanDisk, makers of removable memory cards, are encouraging photographers to take photographs in the RAW format their camera supports, rather than JPEG format.
JPEG is an image format that relies on compression techniques to make digital files smaller. In these days of 10+ megapixel cameras, this compression can save significant amounts of space on internal and removable memory – however even at very low levels of compression, vital picture information can be lost in a JPEG that would be kept in RAW format.
The RAW format of a camera is often proprietary – that is it can vary from camera to camera – so it’s not necessarily as easy for consumer computer software to work with. On top of this, files are completely uncompressed – i.e. they’re raw – containing all the image information captured by the camera at the time the shot was taken.
Another advantage for more professional shots is that when a camera saves in RAW format no processing is applied to the image. That’s not usually true with JPEG – not only are they compressed but the camera settings at the time are applied to the stored image. This makes post-processing more difficult – with a RAW image there’s much more flexibility in post-processing effects, including changing exposure settings, white balance, linearity, matrix processing, colour space and saturation – to name but a few.
Of course, SanDisk could gain from this move by selling more storage cards – RAW photos take up significantly more space. It’s probably not something that’s going to bother hobbyist photographers – indeed many lower-end cameras automatically store photos as JPEG and can’t be overriden. It’s worth bearing in mind if you want the best quality images your camera can offer, and want to do more intricate image processing on your PC after you’ve taken the shots.
The main product news to come out of this interesting little diversion into camera formats: all SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash cards will come with a full free edition of Phase One’s Capture One LE RAW Workflow software, so there’s no excuse that you don’t have the software to handle your camera’s RAW output.