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View Poll Results: Which image sample do you feel is better?
CANDIDATE 1 98.11%
CANDIDATE 2 10190.99%
I can't tell the difference 10.90%
Voters: 111. You may not vote on this poll

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04-08-2012, 10:18 PM   #1
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The great K-5 RAW vs JPG debate - (fun and games inside)

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin, I want to state on record that this is neither trollbait thread nor a flame fest. Therefore, if you find yourself unable to participate in this thread without taking offense or insulting someone then please do us all a favor and skip this topic. - thanks.
And now for the good stuff! Having seen numerous instances of the RAW vs JPG debates over the years, I've come to the conclusion that significant changes that have taken place toward this topic which I believe warrant a serious second look. And the main reason for this is where recent developments(specifically Pentax) have brought about significant improvements in sensor performances. Though at the same time, the in-camera processing attributed for these camera's seem to have fallen ever further behind than they were previously. For example... dynamic range doesn't seem to have undergone any improvements whatsoever despite the fact that the K-5(for example) stands as the highest ranking camera in that particular area. Likewise, the same could be said for color depth and tonal range also. To which I'd add, I'm not sure these are taken advantage of either.

Having said that, during a recent discussion over a raw vs. jpg thread, I was prompted to do a very simple comparison between a K-5 OOC JPG and a matching RAW file to see what inherent differences might come out of it. That being said, I DID NOT subject either file to any post processing so as to avoid adding any further layers of subjection to the observation. Anyways, to get to the point, here's what I've found to date. Using Image Resources files, I chose both a K-5, ISO80 JPG and a matching RAW sample as shown:


As can be seen, both files were shot in identical settings. That is to say that both were setup under the same lighting, with matching camera and lens settings(focus). However... to help make things as objective as possible, I've chosen a JPG sample yielding the most contrast and detail out of all of the camera profiles. However, if for any anyone should feel that the test would have been better conducted using another OOC candidate, then I would be more than happy to revise the sample.

Having said that, here are 1:1 crops of both files. One being an OOC JPG whereas the other is from RAW, processed in RAW Therapee r4.0.8.3:



click image to enlarge


click image to enlarge

And now for the good part(). Aside from the poll selections, I'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions on each of these sample as you yourself see them. ie. advantages/disadvantages, things that stand-out, and/or any other comment that you feel may contribute to this fascinating topic. - I'd like to thank-you all in advance for participating and look forward to reading your thoughts and comments.


Last edited by JohnBee; 04-09-2012 at 01:03 AM.
04-08-2012, 10:46 PM   #2
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Candidate 2 looks better which from the little bit of screen you left in the image, is the raw file from the looks of it. The contrast and color on the red-orange leaves looks better and the dark vs lighter ivy on the green cloth also stands out particularly well.

If I am indeed wrong, that Candidate 2 is actually the OOC JPG, then the Pentax in camera JPG processing sure does a good job of taking an image and applying some very subtle contrast, tonal, and color enhancements, albeit, being completely automatic.

This all being said, it should not surprise anyone that if you took an image in RAW and simply hit print, vs taking an in camera JPG and hitting print- the JPG should look better almost always as the RAW flow chart is essentially capture an image and save the image. JPG on the other hand insists on applying some basic enhancements and even a bit of sharpening. The difference comes in customizing those controls. So indeed, if you are just going to shoot images and hardly touch them, save for cropping or some such, shoot JPG.
04-08-2012, 11:14 PM   #3
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Contrast and tonal range are better in candidate 2. Fine detail is better preserved also in candidate 2. Notice also that contrast detail is better in the white and black materials.

Candidate 2 is from RAW. However, the JPEG output from K-5 is very good. I shot my first 1000 or so in JPEG only after getting my K-5 before switching to DNG+JPEG, using the default bright profile. I was very pleased with the shots. I like the fact that Pentax is very conservative with the default amount sharpening. I cannot tolerate sharpening artifacts, I would rather have a slightly softer image than sharpen to the point that artifacts start to appear. RAW does give you an edge in bringing out detail and fixing blown exposures. It will also allow you to go back and re-process your prize images in the future as RAW processing software improves (no doubt it will). With JPEG, your re-processing options are much more limited and you will have to deal with artifacts from second generation edits.

Regarding your comment about camera manufacturers improving their JPEG processing engines, there is a major reason why I would not want this. The manufacturers have to spend time developing each "feature" in the firmware of the cameras. Spending more time to improve the JPEG processing means less time available for something else, like AF performance/accuracy, exposure metering, flash control etc. These latter are issues far more important to serious shooters, who by majority shoot RAW anyway. Why spend time getting better JPEGs when most serious shooters will not take advantage of it; better yet why take resources away from improving other features which in the end are far more important? In an ideal world, there is unlimited time and resources available and this would not be an issue... but we live in the real world where resources are finite and you have to pick your priorities carefully. For me, JPEG processing falls into a lower priority.

Last edited by cbope; 04-08-2012 at 11:15 PM. Reason: spelling
04-09-2012, 12:51 AM   #4
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Number 2, it has truly defined colors, detail, depth etc. Number one feels "blurry" to me, not a good pic.

04-09-2012, 12:56 AM   #5

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You state that the best jpeg settings for this picture is used, and that you haven't done anything to the raw file. Then I would guess the jpeg should be fairly sharp and the raw version should be softer. But it all depends on what settings are used in the raw converter, it could look like anything you want.

On the other hand the bottom picture is a lot sharper ( and the top left corner states that it is a .dng file, now is that really a mistake or are you trying to fool us?)
04-09-2012, 01:00 AM   #6
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Huge difference, look at the bottlecap.
Looked at the image literally for 2 seconds before voting.
04-09-2012, 01:18 AM - 3 Likes   #7
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It's totally irrelevant. You're effectively comparing two prints from the same negative.

"JPEG vs. raw" is a lot like "'Take your film to the local lab who never give it back' vs. 'keep your film and develop it yourself'".

There are circumstances where the former is better, usually related in some way to time. Usually it's not.

There is no great debate. There is understanding raw, and not understanding raw.

Last edited by timh; 04-09-2012 at 03:24 AM.
04-09-2012, 01:27 AM   #8
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Hi John

First of all, I must say I like your disclaimer

Now to the subject matter. To begin with I have to put on record that I do all my work on a professional monitor (NEC MultiSync PA241w) with a custom made hood to cut out reflections and is viewed under controlled ambient light conditions. The monitor is fully calibrated (X-Rite i1Display 2)

You post two variants of the same picture where one is an OOC copy and you say: "I've chosen a JPG sample yielding the most contrast and detail out of all of the camera profiles". But then you also say: "I DID NOT subject either file to any post processing so as to avoid adding any further layers of subjection to the observation."

If I am thinking correctly here youare comparing"ripe apples with green apples" don't you? I think the RAW image should have been afforded at least similar manipulation as was with the JPG image. To apply corrections to a JPG file posted here on the forum is always a second rate afford, however I have given candidate2 some attention. But to be honest all that was done, I applied some reasonably aggressive sharpening with my favorite sharpening plugin (FocalBlade) and added a bit more contrast in PS.

Now what have we got.

When I compare your two posts I can see:

The two red embroidery yarns appear more colour correct (although I don't know the originals)
They are sharper and better defined.

The three yellow yarns next to the reds display a strange reddish shadow between the strands.

The colours of the remaining coils of yarn are pretty well the same in both images except in Candidate2 where they are a bit flat.
Candidate2 is also not as sharp or detailed.

Now look at the image I corrected and the way I see it this image is now, overall, better then Candidate1. (I think)


Last edited by Schraubstock; 02-16-2013 at 01:50 AM.
04-09-2012, 01:27 AM   #9
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I'm all for RAW, but shooting RAW also gives you the flexibility of selectively sharpening details. It's especially useful when shooting portraits, very often I want to sharpen eyes and hair, but I wouldn't want to do the same with skin.
04-09-2012, 01:48 AM   #10
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#1 looks a tad out of focus, which (to me) looks a little dull

are these two separate autofocus shoot or RAW+JPEG shoot
did you manual focus with off-camera trigger
Also is the JPEG shoot at the highest quility setting.

Just asking about the repeatability of focus point the two.
04-09-2012, 01:54 AM   #11

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John, so how does it compare if I simply shot RAW and developed with the loaded camera settings on PDCU?
I'd get the best of both worlds right? (ie. Tweak-ability of RAW and the processing of JPEG processing of Pentax )

#2 looks way better btw (down to the cloth texture and details in the reds), though the red is a bit odd judging by how most other samples of the same scene look for almost all other cameras (ie. the red just looks different for #2).
04-09-2012, 01:54 AM   #12
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raw is so inconvienent

raw means killing both your space and time.
04-09-2012, 03:17 AM   #13
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It's kinda irrelevant which is better - I can post process a RAW file to look better or worse than the JPG.

Shooting in JPG means you get what you shoot - errors & all with little room to manoeuvre!.

Shooting in RAW means that you are able to make corrections as you still have the RAW data to hand.

Years ago, when I'd only had my *istDS for day or so, I was reading the manual to set a few things up, took a few test shots indoors & forgot to set the WB back to Auto/Daylight. Went out the next day, taking what I thought were cracking shots of the snow over Harter Fell in the Lake District & they were all exposed for Tungsten - had I shot in RAW, I could simply have set the WB to daylight (or any other level) to totally recover the situation whereas in JPG, the options are considerably limited.

Give me RAW any day>

Last edited by WightWalker; 04-09-2012 at 03:29 AM.
04-09-2012, 03:38 AM   #14
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I can't believe how many people report that No.2 is better, sharper, better colour and so forth when on my monitor exactly the opposite is true. I thought I made a mistake, downloaded the files again, but no No.2 image is still way off. The image looks like as if viewed through a piece of glass that is dirty and needs cleaning. The only difference is in the red yarn where No.2 is clearer, sharper and more defined.

Is anybody out here with a decent and calibrated monitor who can verify what I am seeing ?

04-09-2012, 03:52 AM   #15
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My 27 inch monitor is set by a spyder pro and no 2 walks all over no 1. There is a big difference in favour of no 2. Contrast and sharpness.

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