The JPG versus RAW debate….again….and again

About 18 months ago I posted an article about using multiple JPEG instead of RAW. At the time I was mainly shooting multiple RAW images for my HDR photographs, but after reading the article in the manual I was willing to try using JPEG’s instead. At the time I wasn’t a 100% convinced, especially as it flew in the face of all the advice that the “experts” were extolling at the time. RAW was the only way to shoot and if you weren’t shooting RAW then you were……

Here’s the original article in which it was explained that there was little to be gained from shooting RAW.

Just recently I read in one of the HDR Software User Manuals that it was better to use JPEG 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.

So here we are 18 months on. I now almost exclusively use JPEG for any static bracketed HDR images that I create. The only time I shoot RAW is when I am including something really moving in an HDR image (not strictly classed as HDR) or if I am shooting wildlife that does not require the HDR process. Has it made a difference? Yes it has. For a start I get more images on a memory card. I can process my HDR’s far faster, no extra steps for RAW processing. I am using less storage space on my hard drives.

Now I know that many of you are committed to using RAW and I’m certainly not saying you should convert to JPEG, far from it. For me, JPEG works fine, I get the results I want and in the end, that’s what matters. But hey! Don’t knock it until you try it…..

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3 thoughts on “The JPG versus RAW debate….again….and again

  1. I use my D700 to cover both sides of the equation and shoot RAW + JPG Fine – same sized image give you both options down the road. Sometimes you want to do different things with the image so RAW gives you extra options. If you want to play with all JPG’s, then that option is available too.


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