Why shooting RAW is so valuable

Started Nov 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Alastair Norcross Veteran Member • Posts: 5,918
Why shooting RAW is so valuable

I'm sure a lot of people on this forum are well aware of the advantages of shooting RAW, especially those who are used to shooting with a DSLR. But some might not be used to shooting RAW, especially those who have come to the M from a compact point and shoot (not that you can't shoot RAW with many point and shoots--I do with my S100). Since I got my M, I have been shooting RAW + JPEG, mainly to see what the quality of the OOC JPEGs is like. I suspect that, pretty soon, I'll change my setup to RAW only, which is what I shoot on my 7D, except for sports. The OOC JPEGs from the M can be very good, but there is definitely more range for processing with RAW. You often read that RAW gives you more exposure latitude, and more dynamic range. An illustration helps to drive that point home. Here is a processed RAW and the accompanying OOC JPEG. They were both processed with Lightroom. I changed the WB from "as shot" to "auto", because I usually prefer Lightroom's auto white balance to Canon's (though not always). I also tried to squeeze as much dynamic range as I could from both files. I cropped each image, but didn't get the crops exactly the same. First, here's the OOC JPEG, just cropped and resized:

Next, here's the same JPEG with some Lightroom tweaking:

OOC JPEG, WB changed to "auto" in LR, highlight -94, shadow +25

And now here's the processed version of the RAW:

RAW converted in LR 5.2, highlight -94, shadow +25

I could probably have added a bit more vibrance to the JPEG to match the processed RAW more closely, but what I couldn't have done was extract more detail from the wall outside the window. A portion of that was simply blown in the JPEG, and adjusting the highlight slider in Lightroom could darken that portion of the image, but couldn't bring back details. In the RAW, on the other hand, there's a lot of recovered detail. I'm actually quite impressed with the dynamic range of the M's sensor. It seems to me to be a little better than my 7D, but I might just be imagining that. I know the sensors are pretty much the same, but the M is nearly 3 years more recent than the 7D, so there might be some small change. This shot was ISO 800, and I still managed to pull back a lot of detail from an initially blown portion of it. The lower the ISO, the greater the dynamic range.

This shot is also a nice illustration of the 22mm pancake. In terms of quality-price or quality-size ratio, I don't think there's a better lens out there. Even not considering the low price and amazingly compact size, it's a great performer. It makes the M a lot of fun to use. If you're reading this forum, trying to decide whether to get the M (as I was a couple of weeks ago), don't hesitate any longer. Go for it!

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Equipment in profile

 Alastair Norcross's gear list:Alastair Norcross's gear list
Canon PowerShot S100 (2000) Canon PowerShot SD450 Canon PowerShot SD870 IS Canon PowerShot S45 Pentax Optio W60 +16 more
Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM Canon EOS 7D Canon EOS M
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