By Jack Berglund
It was not hard to convince me to shoot in RAW rather than JPG but I was always mystified by the usefulness of RAW + JPG. After-all, the whole point of shooting in RAW was to process the file on the computer afterward to come up with a better JPG than the camera could come up with by default. On my recent trip to Colombia, I found myself wishing I had shot in RAW + JPG. In this mode the camera stores both the RAW file but also a JPG image.
What are RAW files?
To take a step back, a RAW file contains the output from your camera sensor without any interpretation performed. Its the digital record of exactly what each pixel on your camera sensor recorded. As you can imagine this leads to some fairly large file sizes (10MB+ per image compared with less than half that for a jpg) which reduces the amount of photos you can store on one card and increases the amount of time it takes to offload them and back them up. Its generally considered better to use the RAW file than a JPG because the process of converting to a jpg inevitably loses some information. By performing that conversion later you essentially control what information to lose leading to a better overall image.
RAW + JPG, a waste of space?
If JPGs are best to save space and RAW is best for ultimate image quality then RAW + JPG just uses more space for the same image quality. So what is the point of this mode? In Colombia I accumulated some nice shots which I really didn’t want to lose. The country has got a lot safer in recent years but there are a number of places, especially in Bogota where even the locals advice not to wear your backpack on your back as someone will try and take things from it. I felt very self conscious wielding an expensive DSLR. This, combined with the moisture in the jungle (admittedly most of it from my own sweating, urrg) didn’t give me a lot of confidence that my photos would make it back in one piece.
To the internet cafe then to upload my photos to the safety of the cloud. This is where the draw backs of RAW files become apparent. At over 10Mb a pop, hundreds of RAW files equals lots and lots of megabytes. The windows upload popup suggested it would take some 10 thousand or more minutes to complete the upload. Not sure how many hours that is exactly but I’m guessing its a lot. Not to worry, I’ll could just upload the best photos so at least I have those saved. Ah, this is where drawback number two comes in. Not only are RAW files large but they also cannot be previewed on most windows PCs without special software. I therefore had no idea which photos I wanted to save. If only I had a JPG copy of the photos…
So it seems in this case that more is really more. If I had used RAW + JPG mode, to record one of each file type, I would have had the RAW file for quality when I got home and the JPG to preview and backup whilst travelling.