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The JPEG - RAW Debate - part 1 of 1 2 3 4

by Mike McNamee Published

Few topics have generated as much debate as the choice of digital shooting format. At first we took what was offered (usually TIFF or JPEG) and then RAW came along and relit the touch paper. Some formats have all but disappeared off the radar. TIFF is still useful as a transfer medium for finished files but is too bulky for web transfer and a little slow on most cameras. JPEG 2000 seems to have disappeared without trace. The debate therefore hinges on JPEG versus RAW and that is about it, even though there are as many proprietary RAW formats as there are camera makers and a few besides.

Facts are hard to come by in this debate so let's be sure of one thing - there is unlikely to be a winner! However let's start with the facts that Rumsfeldt might call the known knowns:

FACT 1: JPEG files are always smaller than RAW files.

FACT 2: People use both to create very successful, moneymaking workflows.


FACT 3: JPEG can never be better than a correctly processed RAW file.

FACT 4: A correctly exposed set of JPEG files will be easier to process and faster to handle than an equivalent set of RAW files.

FACT 5: In a controlled situation, in which the exposures are the same and in which you can shoot a colour target, you will get more accurate shot-to-shot colour balance out of RAW files.

FACT 6: If you have to correct a difficult, or off-balance image, RAW will give you more control. Conversely if you have a well exposed, correctly colour balanced image all of the advantages of the RAW file are for nought.


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