July 19, 2022


Sony and Minolta SLR Weblog

RAW vs JPEG: three reasons to shoot JPEG

I’ve noticed some very interesting discussions in various forums regarding the quality of RAW images from the new Sony A700. I want to explore that in the near future, however Today I want to address the whole RAW versus JPEG issue.

In reading these discussions, I was amazed at the number of comments from photographers who are opposed to shooting RAW. Several people indicated that they never shoot RAW because “post production” was just too much work – it took too long, it didn’t offer much benefit, yada, yada, yada.

Let me get this straight. These people are interested in buying a $1,400 dSLR but they aren’t willing to expend the relatively minor effort needed to get the most out of the camera? To my mind that is like buying a new Corvette and only driving at 25mph on straight roads with no curves. It might be a pleasant drive, but it is not what ‘Vettes are built for. By the same token, dSLRs are built to require post-production to achieve the best results. That’s just the way it is.

RAW versus JPEG: the controversy continues

I realize that the RAW versus JPEG controversy has been going on since the dawn of the dSLR, but I didn’t realize there were that many JPEG holdouts. If you are one of them, please don’t be offended if I seem to be ridiculing the JPEG format. There is nothing wrong with JPEG – it’s just that RAW, IMHO, has so much more to offer.

Continuous Advance: where JPEG shines

Of course there are times and applications when JPEG is the better format. Chief among these is action photography – when you want or need to shoot a motor driven sequence. In all the Minolta and Sony Alpha dSLRs I am familiar with, shooting JPEG ups the frame rate and allows more frames to be recorded in a sequence. The new Alpha A700 will allow you to shoot 18 RAW frames at 5 frame per second, but if you switch to JPEG you can capture as many images as you can fit on your memory card at a steady 5fps. The A100 will also shoot until you fill your memory card when shooting JPEG, but the frame rate is only 3fps. If you shoot RAW with an A100, the maximum number of images that can be captured in a single sequence is only 6. Clearly, this an area where JPEG shines.

Instant printing requires JPEG

A second area is when you want to use your images instantly. You might need images for the web or a Powerpoint deck. If you shoot JPEG you can skip post processing and upload the JPEGs right off your memory card. I have also seen more and more photographers start offering “instant printing” at events and functions. They haul along one of the new dye-sub printers and crank out some instant promotional prints that they can handout during the affair. It’s a great way to get your name and contact info in front of a crowd, and you don’t need to haul along a laptop, because these tiny printers can print directly off a memory card – no computer required. These printers can’t process RAW images, however, so you have to feed them JPEGs.

While these quick turnaround situations might be seem to be a good reason to shoot JPEG, don’t forget that many dSLRs, including the Sony Alpha A100 and A700 offer RAW plus JEPG settings. In this scenario you can use the JPEGs for instant turnaround, then process and make images from the RAW files when you have more time. So you have the best of both worlds, instant access to the JPEGs; and RAW files that you can use to create superior photos when the time allows.

Not enough hard drive space: try JPEG

A third area whee JPEG images seem to have the edge over RAW is file size. Typical JPEGs are much smaller than RAW images – resulting in quicker recording speed and reduced hard-drive storage. So you can typically store more JPEGs on a given memory card or hard drive. This may be a consideration for some, but with today’s inexpensive memory options, I don’t feel it is worth the trade off.

Are there any other advantages to JPEG over RAW? I can’t really think of any. I can, however, think of a host of advantages to the RAW format. That will be the subject of my next post.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think.