The JPG versus RAW debate….again


Just recently I read in one of the HDR Software User Manuals that it was better to use JPG rather than RAW for HDR processing. Especially if you are not intending to do any pre-processing i.e adjustments in ACR. Take a look at the image below, if you click on it you will be re-directed to the Flickr HDR Group where this is being discussed rather heatedly.

In explaining their statement the developers state (I added the italics to make the English flow a little better)

There is only a little gain in the usable dynamic range if you use multiple RAW files against multiple JPG files. This is because the different exposures overlap in a wider range than is the usable gain in RAW vs. JPG. Modern large sensor cameras will produce images with nearly 9 EV range dynamics. If we use three images from -2EV to +2EV we will get covered an area of 12-13 EV dynamic range which is a significant improvement over the single image. If we use RAW files we may push it to 14-15EV in absolute terms. But for a little extra dynamic gain we are trading in much higher noise which we have to deal with some other way. A de-noising on each step will effectively reduce the dynamic range similar to what we would get from JPG files, except it took much longer.

I have always used RAW but I don’t always do pre-processing before hand. If there is little to be gained from shooting RAW then it would make sense for me to switch to JPG. But somehow I can’t force myself to select that option in the cameras menu.

If anyone out there reads this I really would be interested to hear your thoughts……

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5 thoughts on “The JPG versus RAW debate….again

  1. I have always understood that the maximum amount of image capture data by the camera is retained by the raw file, and that allowing the camera to convert to .JPG loses potential data. So I only shoot in raw. I feel I will have more overall control of how the image is ultimately rendered by starting with the raw image and don’t mind if that means I incur more processing steps. You can always discard image data you don’t need, you can never get back image data that was not initially saved.

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  2. Wayne. That’s the way I’ve have always used my camera, whether it’s for HDR or anything else. We all know that if you compare the data from a single JPG and a single RAW there will be more in the RAW. Their argument seems to be that if you use a bracket of JPG and a similar bracket of RAW then there’s not much difference in the dynamic range.

    They may be right, they might not be, but I think I will continue to shoot RAW.

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  3. Why don’t you just try using JPG for a few times, and see if it is any different. Maybe try shooting the same composition in raw and JPG and put them side by side to see the difference.

    Ive never did any HDR photography, so I dont have any experience with it, but this was thee first thing that came to mind.

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    • Robert, to be honest I still shoot RAW, mainly because I consider that they are my negatives and teh JPEGs are the developed image. I know that RAW takes up more space but storage is cheap these days and a good catalaogue program allows me to find any image relatively quickly

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