Short Description

RAW is an image format that captures more information and requires you to process the image on a computer to produce a final photo. Many professionals use RAW. Because RAW images are unmodified the represent all the detail captured by the digital camera and thus provide better quality, capture more detail in highlights and shadow, and can have their white balance adjusted without degradation. The basic concept behind RAW is to capture the least processed information coming from the cameras image sensor. This provides maximum flexibility post process in how to use it. The RAW image data is not displayable as an image by itself, processing is required to turn the raw data into an image. Most digital cameras senors to not capture a convenient array of pixels with RGB values instead they capture a matrix of colors non evenly distributed using a Bayer filter which must be demosiaced to produce an image. RAW images avoid standard in-camera processing done before the image is saved to JPEG (sharpening, applying gamma curves, white balance, noise reduction, exposure adjustment, demosaicing, etc.) - RAW images allow you to do this all post process experimenting with different setting after the photo has been taken permitting more leeway and flexibility in getting the image to look right.

Advantages of RAW Image Format

  • Permits the capture of 12-14 bits of detail per pixel vs 8bit JPEGs allowing greater dynamic range and flexibility when post processing.
  • Ability to set the white balance/color space after the fact - saving you from getting things perfect while shooting
  • Flexibility on how to de mosaic the file for cameras that use Bayer filters - using alternate algorithms
  • Avoiding the overzealous noise reduction algorithms used in-camera in exchange for your own processing/reduction
  • Take advantage of 16-bit processing in programs like Photoshop

Disadvantages of RAW Image Format

  • RAW files use loseless compression so they take significantly more space than JPEG files which use lossy compression
  • RAW files require processing before you can view them as images - this workflow is not convenient for the casual storing and sharing of files
  • Post processing work to get the image right is required. Many people will find it more convenient to let the camera handle white balance, noise reduction, gamma curves, jpeg compression levels, etc.
  • New camera RAW files may not be compatible with old graphics packages like Photoshop forcing costly upgrades or more cumbersome workflows.

Best Digicams that Shoot RAW

The following point and shoot digital cameras are some of the best that shoot raw.

Green arrow See more of the top digicams that shoot RAW


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