Prediction: RAW is going to eventually be a deprecated file format

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Karim Ghantous, Oct 18, 2019.

  1. Digital cameras ain't what they used to be. For the most part they are an order of magnitude better overall than the first generation or two, which were made in the early part of this century. Modern cameras are much faster, cheaper, more sensitive, more responsive and more functional than their predecessors. It's a very different market now. It has gone way beyond the simple idea of digital taking over from film. What was necessary in the past, namely RAW files, may not be necessary (or every desirable) in the foreseeable future.

    Embedded microprocessors are progressing in terms of processing power and energy efficiency, and that implies that very high quality debayering can be performed on files internally. And maybe this debayering won't be merely good enough for JPEGs, but it could be good enough to make RAW files redundant.

    RAW used to be (and arguably still is) necessary because a really high quality debayer needs more than a fraction of a second to process. It wasn't too long ago that a RAW file, if large enough, needed a minute to render on an average computer. That says a lot about the mathematics behind the process.

    But if a camera can do a very high quality debayer in a fraction of a second, and it can output to a file format which preserves fine detail, and that file format can store 16 bits per channel, then RAW files would be completely unnecessary. Of course I'm thinking of JPEG 2000 here. It's wavelet based, has a higher compression ratio than JPEG, has a higher bit depth, and other nice features such as better error protection.

    RAW will always be available as an option for the foreseeable future. After all, it is very easy to implement. But if I could choose JPEG 2000 or a similar format, I would shoot that exclusively.
  2. I have to give it to you! I am sorry but since I am here on often I also often disagreed with most of your ideas. The need for RAW isn't so much about good chef and bad chef it's about cooking it my way. You can have great chef but he doesn't cook it the way I like it.
  3. For ages everybody told me I needed to shoot raw for maximum quality. I've never equaled camera jpegs in terms of noise and the storage requirements are getting out of hand. The camera manufacturer knows more about processing their sensor data for the best noise quality than the aftermarket software people seem to. Sure, I can recover some highlights, but I can also just expose properly to begin with. IMO, raw is one of those things that sounds good on paper and some people get stuck in an overly tedious and complex work flow, but the benefits aren't that great. The in-camera processing has gotten really good. I finally realized raw wasn't essential when talking to a local pro and he said he never shoots 'em. The work on his office walls is printed very large and looks better than most anything I've ever shot.
  4. Old slide shooters knew how to get it right in the camera.
  5. The issue with JPEG isn't just 8 bits. And it isn't that the algorithms are low quality. The core problem is that the JPEG is created with a processing menu that a stranger developed without seeing your particular image. If the recipe works, fine. It rarely does well enough for me. Another problem is the one BuBu mentioned: processing cooks some processing choices into the image. How are you going to undo the camera's sharpening if you don't like it?

    I could give lots of examples, but I'll just mention two. I often try more than one sharpening method before I find one that works as I want for a particular image. I also often fiddle with masking, to control which areas are sharpened. Another is that the standard contrast enhancements work on all three color channels, and therefore, increasing contrast increases saturation. This effect can be quite dramatic if the contrast enhancement is strong. (To show this when I teach, I start with an image taken under very drab lighting that has a limited tonal range.) If you let the camera process the photo, you just have to accept that. If you process the raw file yourself, there are two ways to avoid it in Photoshop: work in LAB mode, or simpler, use a luminosity blend mode on the adjustment layers. The difference can be quite dramatic if the contrast enhancement is strong. (To show this when I teach, I start with an image taken under very drab lighting that has a limited tonal range.) You can also blend the two methods together.

    If you don't care about this level of control over your images, it may not be worth your bother to work with raw images. if you do care, then better in-camera processing and JPEG 2000 won't help you. It won't help me.

    That completely misses the point. The point isn't that aftermarket software developers know better how a particular image should be processed. The point is that you know better than either of them how one of your images should be processed, and raw gives you better control over that. If for your purposes, it isn't worth the considerable time it takes to develop a level of familiarity with software that lets you have that control, that's fine. Everyone should do what they enjoy. I'm just saying that if you do want that level of control, in-camera processing won't provide it for you.

    I'm an old slide shooter--I started shooting slides seriously more than 40 years ago--and I think this also misses the point. Yes, it is always better to get things as good in camera as you can. But getting it right in camera doens't necessarily get one the image one wants. The biggest drawback of slides, IMHO--and I took thousands of them--is that you don't have the control that a darkroom or digital processing gives you. A slide shooter simply can't do what Ansel Adams did.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
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  6. I have to agree with BeBu's analogy.

    It's not necessarily about getting a better result than what I can get in camera, it's about getting the result I want. Many times I'm perfectly happy with the camera output exactly as rendered, and many other times an image will require varying degrees of tweaks to make me happy.

    Some adjustments that I do regularly are fine on JPEG, but others really can only reasonably done in RAW. This is especially true with digging out shadows.
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  7. What is “right” when it comes to a photo? Right and wrong is ok for praying and ethics classes. Not so much for photography.
    I shoot raw for maximum FLEXIBILITY in getting the result I want.

    From your post, one might think a good photo is based on the level of noise. Don’t get me wrong, lack of noise can be very important, but so are all the other decisions shooting RAW allows me, as opposed to some software developer, to make.
    Yes, and that silly Arthur Rubinstein spent hours practicing when he could have just bought a player piano!
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  8. A good exposure and a level horizon...
  9. I used to photograph a lot of events. There was just no time for the luxury of shooting RAW. With a Mirrorless camera the finished product is right there in the viewfinder. Just twist the dials till it looks right.
  10. OK, so that’s just fabulous! You can get a good exposure and level horizon in camera. That has very little to do with shooting RAW, which I thought was the topic of the thread. I know no one who shoots RAW that can’t get the exposure they want and hold their camera as straight as they want. RAW is not about exposure or horizon orientation.
  11. Just answering your question.
  12. Good point. Assembly line type shooting, where there may be no time for individual processing or interpretation is very different from the type of shooting I do. So it’s good to keep the type of photography we’re each doing in mind when we have these discussions.
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  13. No, actually, you’re the one who brought up “right.” I then asked you what you meant by it. My question is why you brought up “right” in a thread about RAW.
  14. Compression works by grouping similar, adjacent pixels, and assigning the common parameters to the group. This inevitably causes artifacts visible at the pixel level, including aliasing, halos and grid-like patterns. It also reduces the bit depth to 8, which tends to cause posterization when adjustments are applied.

    Flexibility and control were the reasons I preferred to shoot negative film over slides, and why I shoot RAW images today. In practice, I seldom find it necessary to make adjustments beyond the defaults applied by Lightroom. However, when I need to make adjustments, I can.
  15. There is no disadvantage to having a camera that can shoot both RAW and JPEGs, so I see no chance of RAWs vanishing. Conrad is right that RAW encourages fiddling with an image (often to no appreciable advantage), but can also transform the mundane into the extraordinary, so there is no way RAW will vanish. I suppose we should be glad Karim brings up topics to discuss, even if they so often seem bizarre.
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  16. Ha! I was surprised that my new mirrorless has a built in on-screen level, a feature I never knew I needed. Wouldn't you know I've already used it on several occasions. My guess is RAW comes almost for free, so it's unlikely to disappear.
  17. If you were happy with somebody else printing your negatives or slides, you will no doubt be happy with whatever the OEM chooses to give you.
    Nothing wrong with that unless you try to force it on other people.
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  18. Hell, no.
    Even (!) videographers are shooting footages in raw nowadays. They didn't use to.
  19. If that person printing my negs is better than me, great; I'll just take the credit for the superb photo! Not sure I have the ability or desire to force anything on anybody else.
  20. I still shoot slides a lot, and there are times where I look at one and say "this would have been better with a bit more/less exposure"-in fact I do sometimes bracket tricky shots for this exact reason.

    Negative film-whether color or B&W-is essentially analagous to shooting RAW, and whether printing in the darkroom or scanning, there's usually a lot more detail in the negative than what is in the final result. It's your choice as a photographer as to what part of it you want to use.

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