Jul 29, 2015

Is there any advantage to using RAW instead of JPEG when taking photos on a smartphone?

Is there any reason the average person should use RAW format for photos when taking photos with a smartphone? Any reason not to?
It’s all you can do to understand ISO, shutter speed, and how less is more when it comes to aperture. This beast of a camera can produce files in a Raw format, whatever that means, but it also has the nice comfortable JPEG format that we all know and love.

A RAW file is…
not an image file per se (it will require special software to view, though this software is easy to get).
• typically a proprietary format (with the exception of Adobe’s DNG format that isn’t widely used yet).
• at least 8 bits per color – red, green, and blue (12-bits per X,Y location), though most DSLRs record 12-bit color (36-bits per location).
• uncompressed (an 8 megapixel camera will produce a 8 MB Raw file).
• the complete (lossless) data from the camera’s sensor.
• higher in dynamic range (ability to display highlights and shadows).
• lower in contrast (flatter, washed out looking).
• not as sharp.
• not suitable for printing directly from the camera or without post processing.
• read only (all changes are saved in an XMP “sidecar” file or to a JPEG or other image format).
• sometimes admissable in a court as evidence (as opposed to a changeable image format).
• waiting to be processed by your computer.

In comparison a JPEG is…
raw vs jpeg• a standard format readable by any image program on the market or available open source.
• exactly 8-bits per color (12-bits per location).
• compressed (by looking for redundancy in the data like a ZIP file or stripping out what human can’t perceive like a MP3).
• fairly small in file size (an 8 megapixel camera will produce JPEG between 1 and 3 MB’s in size).
• lower in dynamic range.
• higher in contrast.
• sharper.
• immediately suitable for printing, sharing, or posting on the Web.
• not in need of correction most of the time (75% in my experience).
• able to be manipulated, though not without losing data each time an edit is made – even if it’s just to rotate the image (the opposite of lossless).
• processed by your camera.
JPEG is a very compressed format which is small in size and ok in quality. RAW files are quite large and are used in case you plan to further edit you photos. So if you plan to spend some time on every pic on some editing software like Lightroom adjusting colors, balance settings and so on, this is the way to go. In most cases however you wouldn't need it and won't run out of space on your phone as fast.
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