Is RAW THAT important?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Michael73, Mar 23, 2010.

  1. Michael73 macrumors 65816

    Feb 27, 2007
    More than 8 years ago I bought a Nikon Coolpix 995 3.2 megapixel camera. It has served me well all these years but the size to quality ratio hasn't stacked up for years and I don't use it much. Meanwhile, my wife has had several generations of Canon Elphs with the latest being 4 years old and around 5 megapixels. Because if it's size and better quality, we take it with us (along with my iPhone 3GS which I use quite regularly).

    I know myself well enough to know that I won't use a DSLR regularly because of the size issue. I'd like to find the best all-around "advanced point-and-shoot" out there.

    Several years ago I was smitten with the Canon G9 and now we're at the G11. Part of the attraction was the quality of build and it's ability to shoot in RAW. Now I'm beginning to wonder just how important RAW is? For example, I was looking at the specs on the Sony Cyber-shot HX1 and except for the ability to shoot RAW, it seems amazing. The CMOS sensor is huge, optical zoom is massive, etc.

    This camera is going to be used for both indoor and outdoor shooting. The ability to shoot in low light is a must for getting good shots of the kids at home and during school programs in the auditorium. When I get a chance, I like shooting macro shots of flowers and plants. Price-wise, I want to stay under $500.

    So, what's you're opinion? Should I narrow my focus (no pun intended) to only cameras that can shoot RAW given my requirements? What's a good DSLR substitute for my needs?
  2. BubbaJones macrumors regular


    May 13, 2004
    East Coast
    What kind of photo editing do you do? If you simply do cropping, red eye reduction, and the like don't worry about RAW.

    I have the HX1 and I love it. It's small (compared to a DSLR), light, and takes great pictures. Plus it has a 20x zoom and takes HD video.

    Read here for some info on the RAW format.
  3. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    If RAW matters to you check out the Canon Hackers Development Kit (CHDK). It lets you shoot raw on a lot of canon's PnS line.

    As far as low light, some of the Lumix cameras are doing quite well for PnS's.
  4. Michael73 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Feb 27, 2007
    The editing I do depends on what the picture calls for. Sometime I use iPhoto for it's simplicity but there's a lot of things it just can't do. For those times when I need get down and dirty, there's nothing better than PS. For work I use PS CS4 Extended and love it. I'm by no means a power user but I'd say in 3 or 4 out of 10 cases, I resort to using PS because iPhoto just doesn't have what I need. I also have a copy of Adobe PS Elements 6 which I almost never use and often forget I have!?!
  5. ss957916 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2009
    The most useful thing about RAW is being able to push the exposure (and dodge/burn in PS) for several stops without any noticeable artefacts. But a camera with a fast lens, good chip and good SN ratio is more important in my opinion.
  6. josh1231 macrumors regular

    Feb 24, 2010
    In my opinion Raw is very important, unless you have your camera settings perfect with every shot. With raw, if you overexpose an image, most of the time you can reclaim the image that was lost, can't do that for the most part with jpg. Shoot a completely incorrect white balance? you can fix that in raw. Sure you have white balance control in jpg, just not nearly as much. Same with colors, exposure, saturation, etc... You just have much more editing ability with raw.

    My father was shooting pictures at a wedding and the white balance was completely off. As a test I tried editing the jpg, but couldn't get the white balance correct, but with raw it was no problem. Now I just shoot raw only.
  7. HE15MAN macrumors 6502a


    Sep 3, 2009
    Florida's Treasure Coast
    I just realized the camera i was using was not set to shoot in raw. How much of a difference will I be able to notice?

    I am kinda bummed, because I happened upon some birds you hardly EVER see here in Florida, at least I hardly ever see, and they are one of my favorite species of bird :mad:
  8. ss957916 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2009
    True - RAW can help disguise a lack of skill and allow one to correct errors.

    What I meant was just because a camera has RAW doesn't mean it'll take a great photo. The quality of the glass, chipset, SN Ratio, dynamic range etc. are all just as, if not more, important.

    Look at the OP's title. Is RAW THAT important? I'd say some photography lessons might be more so if the primary reason one uses RAW is to adjust the colour temperature in post because the user can't operate the camera properly.
  9. Michael73 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Feb 27, 2007
    OK. So if the consensus is that RAW is a very important feature, what are the cameras in the $375 - $500 price category other than the Canon G11 that I should consider and why? I realize the list is probably rather short...
  10. Somepix macrumors member


    Apr 7, 2008
    Beauce, Québec
  11. abriwin macrumors member

    Apr 1, 2009
    I guess it's all down to what you are going to be happy with.

    I too went through the Nikon 900s until the S4 S10 models and then discovered the image quality of the Canon A 600 range. What sold me was the swivel screen which I found so useful in so many situations, a prime example being being able to shoot over peoples heads. Another advantage is being able to flip the screen shut when not in use thus protecting it from scratches.
    I then became a little disenchanted with the A 600 range until I managed to sell an image from my old A640 which was actually used for a billboard poster - a .jpg! I will be going abroad later this year to Japan and want to travel light so my dslr with it's heavy glass will have to stay home. What am I sold on - the G11. let's face it it's got raw if you want/need to use it but apparently whichever way the image quality is supposed to be great. I can hardly wait to get my hands on one so I know how to use it before I go away!
    Oooh, an iPad a camera adapter and I think I might be a happy bunny unless of course Apple update the MacBook Air and bring the silly price down. (but they wont do that will they?)
  12. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    are you shooting in RAW now?

    If you're a point n shoot user, even if you do a bit of editing yourself, I have my doubts if RAW is really that important for you. You say you're not a power user. You use your iphone camera a lot? iphoto is adequate 60% to 70% of the time for editing?

    Given the way you describe your use, I get the impression you would probably be fine without RAW
  13. Dagless macrumors Core


    Jan 18, 2005
    Fighting to stay in the EU
    I'm only a hobbyist but I shoot in RAW (and then convert to JPEG and remove the original RAW file) because of exposure alteration and colours seem better. Maybe it's just my camera.
  14. Michael73 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Feb 27, 2007
    You hit the nail on the head as far as why I still love my 995 - the swivel body. I can't even count how many pictures it's allowed me to take that I would have otherwise not been able to.

    It's funny you mentioned traveling to Japan. I haven't been overseas in 14 years since I live in the UK during the mid-90s. Now a client of mine is sending me back to the UK. This has been a major reason I'm looking at a new camera. I'm wrapping in 7 days of seeing friends and visiting old haunts around my 3 days of meetings and I'd really like to have something nice without the bulk and heft of a DSLR.

    As for the iPad piece, I'll eventually get one after the 2nd or 3rd gen. Until then and for the trip to the UK, I'll be bringing along my MBP and dumping stuff onto it.

    The problem is that when I got my Nikon 995 RAW wasn't an option. In fact, I went to Chicago for their 1-day Nikon school. the funny thing is that in the hall during the break the professionals were showing off a new Nikon 5 megapixel DSLR. Almost 8 years ago they said that was all anyone ever needed and couldn't see the technology ever advancing beyond 10 megapixels :eek:

    I use my iPhone because the best camera is always the one you've got with you and that's what I carry on my person, not my old 995.

    The reason I'm considering RAW is because it's now an option, it expands the possibilities of post-production that I might not have with a camera that only shoots jpg, since buying the 995 in the last 3 years I have learned how to use PS and I now have a computer (both the MP and MBP) that can handle the processing whereas long ago I didn't and even if I did, it would have been time prohibitive.

    What camera are you using?

    IMHO, hard drive space is so cheap I'll probably keep the RAW image until I run out of space - but that's just me ;)

    Somepix, thanks for the link to the dpreview buyers guide comparison. I'll take some time plowing through it :)
  15. RaceTripper macrumors 68030

    May 29, 2007
    I always shoot RAW so that I have the sensor image data and am not dependent on the camera to post process correctly. If you shoot jpeg, the data is edited and there is no going back to what the sensor captured beforehand. If you use Aperture 3 you can apply a preset when importing photos and use that as a more flexible (and non-destructive) substitute for the camera post processor.
  16. Kronie macrumors 6502a


    Dec 4, 2008
    RAW is great for adjusting the exposure and WB. I shoot in RAW but its because I like to process the images. I like to take a dull flat image and see it transform into a better one.

    Honestly as long as a nailed the exposure I could probably just Shoot JPEG, bump the saturation, contrast, sharpening and not bother with lots of editing.

    I could get away with JPEG for maybe 90% of my shooting.
  17. H2Ockey macrumors regular

    Aug 25, 2008
    With the G11 out there is a bit of a price drop on the G10 if you can find them. I go with that and not be unhappy.

    With the RAW question, think of it as a positive vs negative thing. I personally think the positives outweigh the negatives with the added flexibility during post processing.
    The negatives? Larger file size, but memory is cheap, needing to convert the files at some point. I actually find this useful, it makes me look a little and do a little more editing (not much just slight adjustments) and I find in a normal work flow it helps me sort out the "keepers", the "edit later" and trash.
  18. ronjon10 macrumors regular

    Dec 9, 2009
    The point has probably been beaten to death in this thread, so what's one more whallop :)

    A photographer instructor of mine described the difference between shooting jpeg & shooting raw as similar to the difference between shooting slide film vs negative film.

    With slide film, what you shoot is what you get, there really are no adjustments. With negative film, you have leeway in the printing to adjust colors and exposure without degrading image quality.
  19. dpastern macrumors member

    Mar 16, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Well, there goes nearly every point and shooter ;-) (small sensors, small sensels, crappy noise performance). You can only fix so much in processing via chipsets imho. Far better to get it right with larger sensels like Nikon has done with the D700/D3/D3s (8 micron sensels).

    Yes, a faster lens will help, but they general cost serious money, of which most people aren't prepared to pay.

    I ONLY shoot RAW, Adobe RGB colour space, I also shoot in neutral style (no changes made to the RAW format). RAW is invaluable to me as it allows some ability to adjust exposure post shooting (you'll never get every shot exposed correctly imho), but more importantly, one can make changes to white balance settings on the fly. One can also apply some sharpening to RAW images pre conversion to tiff/jpeg formats. I typically convert to 16 bit tiff files for Photoshop (CS2), Adobe RGB format for the wider colour gamut, and then for web output to 8bit jpeg (sRGB colour gamut).

    If you're shooting something like weddings, I'd recommend RAW + JPEG. Do most of your pp workflow in jpeg, but if you need to seriously work on an image, grab the RAW file. Better to be safe than sorry.

  20. dpastern macrumors member

    Mar 16, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Yeah but reversal film has always had far better colour saturation than print film. I'd say negatives have a better dynamic range though, although only by 1-2 stops. Digital images are now approaching the DR of reversal film imho, I'd really prefer native 16 bit output from DSLRs, but alas...

  21. Michael73 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Feb 27, 2007
    They beat it into us!

    At Nikon school 8 years ago the pros who taught the class said over and over, "If you take only one thing away from this whole day it's to make sure you ALWAYS shoot at a maximum resolution for your camera - whatever it may be. You never know when you'll get the shot of a lifetime and you'll forever curse yourself if you don't."

    Those words have haunted me to this day. And, I always DO shoot at max res no matter what camera I'm using.

    The point is that whatever camera I get, I want the maximum flexibility to make up for whatever whatever flaws I got in the original shot.

    Back in the day, I used to spend an entire day down in the darkroom working on a single print. I'd print it, be unhappy, print it again but this go-round change up the print time or time in the developer try. Then, I'd be unhappy with some part of the print and then start over dodging and burning the next one - all the time make diligent notes in my notebook about what changes I made. Fast forward 15+ years, with 2 kids and I don't have the time and technology has rendered many of my efforts obsolete. Nevertheless, I'd still like to have the same flexibility with my digital photography that I enjoyed all those years ago in a darkroom setting. It sounds like unless I shoot RAW, I won't have that ability.
  22. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    And that was correct 8 years ago. Today we are cursed with cheap sensors where the resolution is so high and the individual pixels are so small that you don't get near enough light on each pixel, so your images drown in noise. Tiny sensors that might give a half decent image at 6 megapixels, but instead the marketing department changes it to 12 million pixels of pure rubbish.
  23. baryon macrumors 68040


    Oct 3, 2009
    If you don't want to buy a DSLR, then you shouldn't care about RAW at all. Point-and-shoot cameras only have RAW to be able to say it in their advertisements, I don't think shooting in RAW on a non-DSLR has any sort of advantage, except that maybe point-and-shoot cameras won't apply noise reduction and sharpening to RAW images automatically.

    The biggest advantage of RAW is that you can tweak the exposure in Photoshop more than you can on a JPEG without losing detail, however, for that, your camera has to have a sensor capable of a decent dynamic range, meaning that the sensor has to be quite big, so a point-and-shoot camera won't have that kind of sensor.
  24. mynewromantica macrumors regular

    Aug 3, 2009
    The only reason I can think of to not shoot RAW is if you don't have software that can handle it.
  25. josh1231 macrumors regular

    Feb 24, 2010
    If RAW were only used by people that lack skill, no professional would ever shoot in raw, instead choosing to go the small file jpg route. However, I would say you would be hard pressed to find a professional photographer who doesn't shoot in RAW, thus it has a lot more functions that fixing mistakes or inexperience.

    That being said, a novice photographer like the OP here, would be prone to not shoot correctly all the time while he or she is learning about things like white balance, exposure, shutter speed, etc., therefore the original poster would benefit greatly from using RAW.

    I wouldn't buy a camera for the sole reason that it was able to take photos in RAW, but it would be a very important factor in determining the overall suitability of a camera for my needs.

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