When you get a camera you may be faced with the choice of what file type to shoot in.
In fact, you’re going to get multiple choices – and you should understand them all.
Compressed or Uncompressed.
Compressed is USUASLLY lossless and SHOULD contain the same amount of detail as the uncompressed alternative. I am sure there are scientific field tests, but where you can, use compressed RAW files – they’re smaller.
Reasons for NOT choosing compressed include the editing software you may use for post processing, or if you don’t mind waiting for files to transfer and convert.
Large, Medium, Small – what size JPEG file do you desire?
Aspect ratio – 3:2, 1:1, 16:9
Normal, Fine – level of compression in the final JPEG image
Now, if you are confident you get your images right in camera all the time, by all means use JPEG – it allows you to shoot faster, transfer files quicker and share them easier direct from camera to smart devices. Plus you can fit more of these images onto your SD card – especially when using small size JPEG and compression (small, normal)
However if, like me, you enjoy the process of editing your images, go for RAW files. These by default are flat, and do NOT include all of your further in-camera settings (grain, highlights, shadows, sharpness, dynamic range etc) – and you will have to bring all of these details out in post processing. Great fun.
For reference, on my Fuji X100F, here is what equates to what in terms of print size. These numbers change depending on the camera you are using!
All RAW files can print 6000 x 4000 (remember, talking about a Fuji X100F here)
L (3:2) – 6000 X 4000
M (3:2) – 4240 X 2832
S (3:2) – 3008 X 2000
L (16:9) – 6000 X 3376
M (16:9) – 4240 X 2384
S (16:9) – 3008 X 1688
L (1:1) – 4000 X 4000
M (1:1) – 2832 X 2832
S (1:1) – 2000 X 2000
For me, I try as much as possible to set all my settings in camera and end up with a great looking JPEG for quick sharing. However, I also shoot RAW so I can edit them to my liking.
So, I shoot JPEG Large, Fine + RAW in 3:2 aspect ratio. It means I can quickly look at my shots on my smart device to see where I need corrections, and then use the RAW files to edit from scratch, cropping and resizing at my will.
Anyhow, that’s a quick summary of JPEG vs RAW, and how I use them both to enhance my photographic experience.