Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home

Show Printable Version Search this Thread
03-20-2011, 07:47 PM   #1
Forum Member

Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 71
Raw vs Jpeg?

This may be somewhere else and I just couldn't find it. What are the advantages of shooting RAW rather than JPEG? I mainly shoot jpeg because I simply do not understand raw, furthermore my computer always says the filed are corrupt. I also post process using Gimp because I have not landed a copy of PS. I mainly shoot nature and sports (baseball). Can I do more with RAW?

03-20-2011, 07:58 PM   #2
hcc's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 3,482
When you shoot, the oriignal data are in RAW format. If you save the RAW file, you have all the data and you can PP the photograph anytime anywhen (eg 10 years later if the software have improved).

The downside of RAW is the file size: i.e., the file size on your card, the file size on your hard disk, and the time to view your artwrk on your computer (if it is an old one).

When you select JPEG in our camera, the original RAW data, taken during the short, are compressed in a JPEG format. It takes less space, but you loose some information.

Personally I shoot JPEG to have more available space on my card and in my HDD. However, for any important shot, I would select RAW+ (RAW + JPEG) to keep the original photo data.

Food for thoughts..
03-20-2011, 08:14 PM   #3
Forum Member

Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 71
Original Poster
So RAW just has more data? You don't loose resolotion or IQ by shooting either way. Do you need special software for RAW? I always get error messages on my PC.
03-20-2011, 08:27 PM   #4
twitch's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 4,571
QuoteOriginally posted by ChallengedOne Quote
So RAW just has more data? You don't loose resolotion or IQ by shooting either way. Do you need special software for RAW? I always get error messages on my PC.
Not sure what you mean by "just" has more data. Images ae data, so throwing away data and hoping you don't need it later is rather optimistic.

The camera shoots RAW and has a whole lot of data, to produce a JPEG it then uses the WB, sharpening settings, contrast settings etc to render the image, it then compresses the image, it then throws away all the data that didn't make a significant impact on the image given the settings I mentioned before.

Problem is for any one of those settings had have been different, it would have found some data it threw away as useful, and some data it had kept as useless and thrown it away instead. Also, the computer in the camera is tiny with very limited processing power, so it will err on the side of throwing more data away in the interests of speed.

By shooting RAW you throw no data away, in your PP you decide the WB, contrast, sharpening and all the other settings all of which influences which bits of the image data you need, and which you don't. By shooting RAW you will never be in the position of having thrown away data you later needed. Shooting jpeg you will almost always be in that situation as soon as you touch a single setting.

Memory card and HDD space is cheap, you spent a whole lot on your camera and lens so might as well get the best possible IQ out of it by keeping data you may need later to make the best possible image.

03-20-2011, 08:28 PM   #5
Senior Member

Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Sydney
Posts: 137
Yes raw files are not one of the usual image file formats (not usual in that I don't think the usual windows image display programs understand them). For a quick fix you can download irfanview: IrfanView - Official Homepage - one of the most popular viewers worldwide which is free and will handle most raw formats including .DNG and .PEF files. (Edit: assuming you use windows here... not sure of a Mac equivalent). What camera do you have? The software that came with it should also read the raw files, and will allow you to process them.

Last edited by rfg; 03-20-2011 at 08:34 PM.
03-20-2011, 08:36 PM   #6
Inactive Account

Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Virginia
Posts: 3
Raw can be converted to jpeg. Not vice versa
03-20-2011, 08:36 PM   #7
Veteran Member
abmj's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Central California
Posts: 600
If you ever shot with a film camera, you can think of the RAW files as the undeveloped "film" in your digital camera. You don't actually have pictures until the film is developed and printed. With digital RAW, you will have to "develop" the images in a program for that purpose before you can use them - print, e-mail, post to a web site, etc. Your computer cannot natively "see" the RAW images. You need a viewer program or plug-in. Even if you have a program that can see RAW, you won't like what they look like until you "post process" the image in some program. Your camera should have come with the Pentax software for RAW conversion or you can use Photoshop, Elements or many other programs to do that. For JPG images, the camera does all that automatically and puts the image into a form (Jpeg) that the computer or printer can see.
03-20-2011, 08:45 PM   #8
Veteran Member
Coeurdechene's Avatar

Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: madrid
Photos: Albums
Posts: 833
Check out Rawtherapee or Ufraw, both free and open source, to view and do most of the adjustments...Raw is important if you are doing a paid gig because more shots can be saved if you erred on something...
The GIMP is fine if you download and install the Ufraw plugin, the only problem is that it only supports 8 bit images..if you want to squeeze all the image's potential check cinepaint (or just use Rawtherapee).
What OS are you using? if you use windows you can also check out the pentax propietary software that came with the camera.

03-20-2011, 08:46 PM   #9
Senior Member
HEEGZ's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Missouri
Photos: Albums
Posts: 258
QuoteOriginally posted by ChallengedOne Quote
This may be somewhere else and I just couldn't find it. What are the advantages of shooting RAW rather than JPEG? I mainly shoot jpeg because I simply do not understand raw, furthermore my computer always says the filed are corrupt. I also post process using Gimp because I have not landed a copy of PS. I mainly shoot nature and sports (baseball). Can I do more with RAW?
My advice is to stick to JPEG and trust your camera. Don't waste time worrying about RAW and focus on becoming a better photographer for now, you can always pick it up later when you feel like you have a better handle on things. Also, read this excellent article: RAW vs JPG
03-20-2011, 09:15 PM   #10
twitch's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 4,571
QuoteOriginally posted by HEEGZ Quote
Also, read this excellent article: RAW vs JPG
Sorry but that article is about the worst I've read on the topic, it is so filled with misinformation it isn't funny. Maybe 2 or 3 years ago there was a legitimate debate to be had; but these days it's a complete non issue to process RAW, in fact it's easier than JPEG.
03-20-2011, 09:27 PM   #11
Forum Member

Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 71
Original Poster
I have windows xp Pentax software.... Um... I mIght still have that in m box. I currently shoot the k10d.
03-20-2011, 11:29 PM   #12
Veteran Member
Chex's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: The 'Stoke, British Columbia
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,700
RAW vs JPEG?AdoramaTV from Adorama Learning Center
Watch this.. should clear up any questions
03-20-2011, 11:41 PM   #13
Veteran Member
RioRico's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Limbo, California
Posts: 11,264
If you're in a hurry and/or don't care much about final results and/or have a camera that doesn't support RAW, then shoot JPG. Or TIF or GIF or whatever. If you care about images and/or aren't hyperactive nor wired on stimulants, shoot RAW. RAW captures ALL the data from the sensor, for you to bend to your will. Throwing that stuff away is inefficient. Inefficiency is not evolutionarily sustainable. The inefficient are devoured by the efficient. Don't be lunch.
03-21-2011, 12:01 AM - 1 Like   #14
Veteran Member

Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Fife, Scotland
Posts: 834
You have stumbled into one of the 'holy wars' of photography.

RAW is simply the data, unprocessed, from the sensor. The camera processes it and then compresses and saves the result. The two catches are that in developing (processing) it the RAW data is altered and you can never get back to it from the JPG, and JPG is a lossy compression. If you don't know the difference between lossy and lossless compression Wikipedia explains it better than I can:

Lossy compression - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

While you are shooting average scenes in plenty of light the camera makes a great job of producing a JPG from the RAW. The more challenging the conditions get, the less good job the camera does and in my view the more improvement a human with the right software can make.

In the end we cannot decide what you should do. There are good reasons for both. Personally I shot RAW plus a 2MB JPG - I want the JPG as there isn't a codec for PEF files for 64-bits Windows Vista / 7 - the codec would let Windows Explorer display thumbnails of the images. However, I will go and take lots of photos and only decide I really like a few of them, so I can afford (and enjoy) the time processing the RAW takes. I also feel (and I might be wrong!) that the sort of photos I take benefit from that sort of hand-crafted approach. The last ones I really like were waterfall shots taken near sunset in a dark wood, so the exposure times were 2 seconds or more.

You can download the PEF codec from:
03-21-2011, 02:23 AM - 4 Likes   #15

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Chicago suburb, IL, USA
Posts: 1,535
HI C1,

There are numerous Jpeg vs RAW threads on this and all fora on the web. The forum software even supplies a "Similar Threads" listing at the bottom of this page.

I'm a Jpeg shooter almost exclusively, but will be the first to admit that RAW gives you considerably more potential to edit your images. You have the ability to do significant edits with Jpegs, but you can do more with RAW. In the end, you'll probably be converting your images to jpegs for showing or printing and I'd guess that there are few, if any people who can consistently distinguish in what format any given image had been shot originally.

Jpeg compression does discard data from the original file that the sensor creates, but usually this is not as bad as it might sound. Consider that there are usually large areas of any image where each individual sensor cell is capturing the same information as the adjacent ones (I realize that each sensor is color sensitive for red, green or blue, and there are 2 green ones for every red or blue, but I'm considering one group as one cell in this example) -- this information is redundant, and all that the Jpeg compression algorithm does is accumulate a list of pixels with the same value and then re-assign them the same value for the image when the compression of the file is expanded for viewing. My K-5 gives me approximately 2 to 3:1 compression with 6-11 MB files opposed to the 16-26 MB files that DNG RAW produces. Considering the amount of redundant information in most images, this is not extreme compression, and not that much information is actually tossed out.

Jpegs use a lossy compression scheme, and each edit and save of the same file results in the possible addition of compression artifacts, so it's a good idea to always save an edited file to a different name, and if you want to re-edit the image, always start with the original again. With some RAW editing, you can save the editing workflow, start with where you left off, and undo some steps , then redo them, saving the newly edited file to a new name. You can do this with Jpeg editing, but it has to be during the original editing session, before you close the file you're working on. It usually takes at least a few edit and save cycles with the same file before the compression artifacts start to become obvious though, especially when you're starting with the highest quality jpegs out of the camera.

Still, a 14 bit K-5 RAW file will give a whole lot more leeway to pull detail out of shadows and will give extra highlight headroom than the 8 bit Jpeg will. I believe with your K10, they advertised 14 bit RAW, but it turned out to be 12 bit with 2 unused bits so there was no practical difference in DR. Properly exposed jpegs will give all the information that most need for great images. RAW gives you more exposure latitude, and a larger range of potential for editing. RAW also allows you to disregard in-camera settings for image parameters like Contrast, Sharpness, White Balance, etc. You can set up a RAW processor to make these adjustments automatically and process your files in batches.

Setting up Jpeg output to your liking and making sure that you expose at least close to correctly can cut out this intermediate step and save time and storage space, especially if you're a high volume shooter.

The argument that the camera has only a "little" computer that is less powerful than your desktop is true, but not really valid from a practical standpoint, IMO. That "little" image processor may be small in size and not as powerful as the CPU in your computer, but it's dedicated to do only what it was specifically designed to do --process images -- and it can convert RAW data into a jpeg in a few seconds at most (at least some of the lag between taking a picture and being able to review it on the LCD is due to the usual I/O bottleneck of writing to the card). I doubt that many who do batch RAW to Jpeg conversions on their home computers can claim that their setups are more efficient and can do the conversions in less than 2 sec/image with 16MP images.

The argument that memory is cheap is a good one on the surface, but there are hidden implications. Consider that I currently shoot 10-20 K shots/year. At 25MB/RAW file, that's 250 - 500 GB, and if your images are important, then you'll have at least one backup, so that means .5 - 1 TB per year at my current rate. I just bought 2 x 1.5 TB external HDs at $60 each. . . not terribly expensive, but then I tied up a whole day at least to organize the drives, do the backups, and verify them. . . and I only use HDD to backup -- if I were to use single layer DVDs at 8GB per disk, that's at least 30 disks, and they take a while to burn, and who knows how long they'll really last. BDs have 25 GB capacity, and would still take about 10 disks per year, but I haven't invested in this technology yet. I save everything but totally unredeemable shots. I've found that new technology can actually save some shots that I would have discarded 5 years ago, and I regularly spend my winter idle time going over old shots to pick out those that I might find interesting now, but didn't when I took them or in previous reviews.

From the Panny FZs through the DS, K10, K20, K-7 and now with the K-5, I have over 100K images. Because of lower resolution, these files take up a little over 500GB in Jpeg. I can view them all with ACDSee 3.1 (a very old version that I like for its speed) because they are jpegs. If they were RAW, I'd need a program that included every version of PEF for the different models or DNG for the newer ones.
ACDSee Pro will open all the RAW files. If you choose to use PEF, which is Pentax's proprietary RAW format, each new model uses a new version, so PEF users have to wait for software mfgs to release an update that includes their model. For DNG, it's an open source format, so RAW processors that already are set up for DNG, it's no problem, unless Pentax does something strange in their implementation, which I believe has happened in the past . . . I don't really know, I shoot jpegs and don't have that problem.

The argument that you can convert a RAW file to Jpeg, but not the other way around is true, but somewhat mitigated by the ability to shoot RAW + Jpeg if you want to have some insurance. The K10 was the first to have the RAW button which allows you to switch formats on the fly, and the K-5 now allows you to shoot in Jpeg and upon review on the LCD (chimping), you can choose to save the RAW information of the last file while it is still in the buffer by pressing the AE-L button. Although I appreciate all of these options, I rarely have used them, but the new ability to save the RAW file will possibly help save some shots where I've made some exposure errors. . . if I can remember to use it. Personally, I've programmed my RAW button as an instant switch to give me exposure bracketing.

I don't feel that you lose appreciable resolution with Jpegs, as long as you use *** or **** quality settings. I'm a bird shooter, and feather detail is an important element of what I like to do. Here is an example of what Jpeg can capture if everything goes right. . .

Here's a 100% crop with no editing from the lower middle of the frame,

This was shot with a K20. Higher resolution is always nice, but this is certainly good enough for my purposes. . .

It's also argued that RAW files exhibit less noise at higher ISO, but I've gotten good very high ISO performance from my K-5 with Jpegs. I've found that by setting "Sharpness" to -4, with High ISO Noise Reduction (NR) turned OFF, I can shoot Jpegs that probably rival RAW shots at the same sensitivity. I just do the NR and sharpening in PP with Topaz Denoise and InFocus, which I think does at least as well with Jpegs as any RAW NR with possibly better sharpening.

This one's with the K-5 and a Sigma 180/3.5 APO DG Macro wide open at the local Nature Center through glass. ISO 10,000

This one's with the K-5 in ordinary room lighting, using a DA 18-250. ISO 12,800

I was trying to see if miraculously any of the nose leather texture would still be present after NR, it wasn't, but I can't really be disappointed in the result -- it's ISO 12800 after all. . .

I'm confident enough in the K-5's noise performance with Jpegs at my settings that I'm at least starting off the birding season using Auto ISO 200-10000. That's about 3 stops faster than I'd shoot the K20 or K-7, and it's gotta help with the long glass and light-robbing TCs that I shoot most of the time.

I shoot pretty high volume (historically from 10K-20K per year), and to me, Jpeg *** doesn't show any artifacts that might be accentuated by PP, so I don't even shoot the highest quality compression available in the camera. Shooting RAW, I'd not only spend a lot more time in front of the computer just reviewing files, but I'd have to convert them to edit them the way I want anyway as my most used plugins don't work with RAW images AFAIK.

I've found that there are a lot of what I consider myths concerning Jpeg vs RAW. Jpegs are more challenging to set up and expose correctly, but done right, there's little to be gained shooting RAW for me, except for very unusual lighting conditions. Consider all the arguments, choose whichever you prefer for whatever reason you might choose, and don't let anyone tell you that you've made the wrong decision -- there really isn't a "right" to this controversy.


Last edited by snostorm; 03-21-2011 at 03:14 AM.

  • Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook
  • Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter
  • Submit Thread to Digg Digg
Tags - Make this thread easier to find by adding keywords to it!
camera, jpeg, pentax help, photography
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
[K10D RAW+]Exposure difference between RAW and JPEG sterretje Pentax DSLR Discussion 9 04-13-2010 02:06 AM
What do you use most Raw or Jpeg Ivo_Spohr Pentax DSLR Discussion 75 04-02-2010 09:04 PM
JPEG, RAW, JPEG + RAW...huh? Raptorman Troubleshooting and Beginner Help 14 12-22-2009 11:49 AM
RAW or JPEG tkcampbell Pentax DSLR Discussion 24 12-13-2009 04:31 PM
RAW + JPEG with JPEG on One Star quality laissezfaire Pentax DSLR Discussion 58 12-10-2008 02:42 PM

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 03:01 AM. | See also:, part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]