RAW vs JPEG – What’s Better for Hybrid Photography?

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I was reading an interesting article by David Taylor-Hughes over on SoundImagePlus about whether or not he thought that JPEGs could deliver quality images.  As I was gleaning YouTube for a video that could go along with this article, I found the one above by Matt Granger (aka ThatNikonGuy), who delivers what is one of the most practical and unbiased examinations of the “RAW vs JPEG” argument that I have ever come across.  It’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time to watch.

Now back to David.  It seems that He has developed some vision issues (Double Vision) as a result of spending long hours in front of his computer processing and editing RAW files.

In the article, David states that “I am somewhat concerned about the amount of time I’m spending in front of a screen, and together with a decision to shoot less, I have also resolved to spend less time editing.”

I don’t personally know David nor have I ever met him, but I do enjoy reading his articles and appreciate his insights and opinions on cameras and photography in general.  David appears to be a photo purist that’s passionate about his craft, and he even states in his article that “I’ve always been a raw conversion man.”    But his Double Vision, combined with his pledge to spend less time editing (and his optician bills, no doubt ~_^) have him re-examining his mindset when it comes to RAW vs JPEG.

RAW vs JPEG and the Mirrorless Cameras of Today

Can the advances of today’s mirrorless cameras allow you to produce JPEG images of high enough quality so that you can shoot less RAW?

As you may have read on this site a couple of weeks back, David is also paring his rather impressive camera collection (He has the Sigma DP Merrill cameras (1, 2 and 3), a Nikon D800E, an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and a Panasonic Lumix GH3) down to just 2 cameras, and he’s understandably having a difficult time choosing which ones to keep.   But because of his renewed interest in shooting high quality JPEG files (and RAW where needed), David is taking a closer look at one of those cameras (The Panasonic Lumix GH3, which is our pick for Top Hybrid Camera of 2012).

David goes on to say the following…

“In terms of the cameras I’m going to be keeping, m4/3 is now back in consideration.”

“So today I got out my Panasonic GH3 and 35-100mm f/2.8 lens to see what I could achieve with the OOC jpgs.”

“There is an advantage that the GH3 has in that I can set more parameters for the .jpg settings I use than on some other cameras.”

After shooting RAW and JPEG files with the GH3 and comparing the results, David then concludes…

“I must admit that I was surprised at what I could achieve. I still believe the raw files are slightly sharper, but the OOC jpgs. (which have some added smart sharpening in Photoshop) were better than I imagined. Setting the noise reduction parameter to its minimum seems to have kept the files nice and crisp with none of that characteristic  smearing and softening.
It is early days, and I’m going to need to do a real-world shoot to see if I can live with these jpgs. There are also issues about dynamic range and CA removal, but since I’m still planning to shoot raw files as well, I can work on any “problem” files in my usual way. Its an alternative I will explore more and see what I get from it.
Finally, this has all struck me as to how much a generation of “lab rats” we digital photographers are. From the days of film when we were just one element in the whole process, with film manufacturers, processing labs and repro. houses all fulfilling vital roles, to now, when we do it all. I’ve been totally digital for over 10 years now and while I obviously spend more time on this than most people, I don’t think I’m particularly unique in terms of what many professional photographers do. The double vision was a bit of a wake up call, and it very clearly says to me that I can’t go on working in the way that I have been. And while I concede that heavy duty darkroom work could also have its problems, this constant use of computers for everything may well have long-term repercussions that we are as yet unaware of. Hopefully I can solve my “problem”, particularly as driving home with one eye closed is not something I want to do a lot of!!”  (Read full article and view images on SoundImagePlus)

My 2 Cents on RAW vs JPEG

The RAW Mindset

There are a lot of photographers out there who swear by shooting RAW images, and I am not here to bash them in the least because many are highly talented professionals.  But if I were to make a big generalization and break RAW shooters into 2 categories, they would be…

  1. Seasoned Pros who take their time before shooting to make sure lighting, white balance, ISO settings, etc. are set they way they want them before shooting (in other words, getting it right in the camera).
  2. Those who shoot a gazillion pictures without worrying about anything because they’re thinking that “I’ll just fix the pictures in post”  (in other words, they use RAW as a safety net).

Please understand that I’m not judging either.  I mean, whatever works for you…  But I’m thinking that one of these 2 groups is going to spend a lot less time in post.

RAW vs JPEG and Hybrid Photography

Now we get down to the nitty gritty.  The crux of the matter, if you will.  As we enter into the new era of Hybrid Photography, where the lines between photos and videos will become increasingly obscured, it becomes even more important to cultivate a mindset of getting it right in the camera.  After all, you don’t have as much latitude editing video in post as you do with RAW files (at least not yet), and when you’re putting together a Hybrid project, you’ll want your still photos and videos to look like they belong together.  This is one of the most powerful aspects of today’s Hybrid Cameras.  They allow you to quickly and easily set up the camera to capture images the way you want them to look before you take the shot, and you can instantly see what the results will look like on the camera’s screen or EVF, so there’s little, if no guesswork involved.

Photo purists, take heart.  There will always be room for RAW shooting, but if you’re goal is hybrid then make sure your capturing JPEGs too, and take a few seconds to set up your shot so that you can at least be close to getting it right in the camera.  Then you’ll spend less time in post, less money on opticians and more time shooting more photos and videos, or just enjoying your life!  (For more on the issue, here’s a RAW vs JPEG Hybrid Hangout that some of my colleagues recorded a few months back – Great discussion!)

Here are some of our favorite Hybrid Cameras

(From most expensive to least expensive)

Panasonic Lumix GH3 (Best Hybrid Camera)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 (Amazing 5 Point IBIS)

Sony NEX 6 (Most Advanced NEX Camera to date)


Panasonic Lumix G5 (Hybrid Powerhouse at a Mid-Level Price)

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 (Same sensor and processor as OM-D)

Sony RX-100 (Bundle – one of the best compacts of 2012)

Panasonic Lumix GX1 (GREAT PRICE!)

Panasonic Lumix LX7 (Best Compact Camera Value!)


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