Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Experimenting at ISO 500 - JPEG vs. RAW

As I mentioned earlier, I'm having some difficulties in developing RAW files taken when darkness creeps in. My previous Aperture preset for RAW post-processing was inappropriate, and thus I need to do some experiments in this.

Here are two comparison pairs, shot at ISO 500. The RAW files were processed with Topaz DeNoise using the RAW light setting, and then I applied a new RAW present to the result. I'm unable to get exactly the same result as with the JPEG from the camera, but with this type of photographs there is not one "right" version, because of the difficulties in deciding on the correct color temperature etc.

Developing and processing RAW files is more work that just using the JPEGs from camera. I'm not quite sure whether using RAW is worth the effort. What do you think?


Brian S said...

I had a look at both sets of files at full size on Flickr and they look very similar to me. If your happy with the JPEGS your getting out of the camera (they look fine to me) then I wouldn't bother with raw. I usually shoot raw because I enjoy "working" a photo to death but that does not seem to be your style :)

Andreas said...

Well, you know what I think :)

Besides, "to get exactly the same result as with the JPEG from the camera" is meaningless. You're competing with a mindless algorithm. I see no reason why it should be right.

Juha Haataja said...

@Brian S: Well, I switched from RAW+JPEG to JPEG only at ISO 500.

@Andreas: Your comment generated the idea for the posting of today.

Carl said...

My recent experience of having to live with JPEG files for a few weeks because my new G3 didn't have RAW support in ACR was informative.

The G3 has a dramatic improvement over the GF1 in hitting the white balance right, which made the JPEGs much easier to work with than I expected. But when the beta ACR 6.5 came out and I could look at my Raw files of the same pictures, it was like removing a veil, or cleaning the windshield.

I don't work files to death (not a criticism of those who do, just a preference). I seldom make heroic efforts at tone or color correction, but at the same time, I don't find anything is ever quite right "on defaults," always need to tweak, not hammer, half a dozen of the sliders in ACR, and so find Raw much easier to work with.

There's something else that I keep pointing out. If you will only make prints, or only post on the web, you might be able to get "perfect" settings for your preferences in JPEG settings. But a file perfectly tuned for web posting will not print well, and vice versa. WYSIWYG is a myth in this context. My monitors and printer are calibrated out the window, but the difference remains. Since I want to post pictures online and also make prints, a Raw file workflow is not only technically superior (16-bit files to work with) but just plain easier than trying to get to both results from JPEGs.

Juha Haataja said...

@Carl: You are quite right that JPEGs don't really deliver the absolutely best quality, and often there is a bit of unsatisfying feel to them. I do have a tempation to try to tweak them. But I usually manage to resist...

And you are right about printing. I don't do much of it, the exception being things like photo books for SoFoBoMo. So, in a way I'm optimizing for the web and the computer screen, but that is enough for me at the moment.

Also, it occurred to me today that the real reason why I take photographs may have nothing to do with photography at all - instead it is the pause button.