Are the Adobe RGB vs sRGB Settings on Cameras "Real"

Started 8 months ago | Discussions thread
jackkurtz Veteran Member • Posts: 4,598
Re: Are the Adobe RGB vs sRGB Settings on Cameras "Real"

Most cameras ship with the default color space set to sRGB output. That's why all the cameras you've tested the software with show sRGB color space. But most cameras allow you to select a color space in the set up menu.

Here's where it gets complicated. Most cameras make their exposures in a wider color space than either sRGB or Adobe RGB. In the process of converting the exposure from the native format (.orf, .cr2, .nef; whatever) to JPEG they convert from their native color space to either sRGB or Adobe RGB. They also attach a metadata tag to the file so photo editing apps know what color space the picture has.

If you work with raw files, and convert them in a program like Capture One or Lightroom, you're working with all of the data collected by the camera, including the color data. You select your preferred color space on output.

Most editing applications allow you to convert the color space to another color space. So if you select Adobe RGB you can convert it to sRGB in Affinity Photo (or Photoshop). In general, Adobe is a larger color space than sRGB and contains more color information. In theory this means you can go from Adobe RGB to sRGB with minimal (or no) loss of quality because you're either throwing away or compressing the Adobe RGB information when you go down to sRGB but going from sRGB to Adobe RGB (a smaller color space to a larger color space) is not actually adding the additional colors so it's kind of pointless.

Does any of this matter? That depends on how you use your photos. If you're posting photos to Instagram, FB or other web services, it doesn't matter. Those services all display in sRGB. So even if you post an Adobe RGB file to FB or Instagram it's pushed down to sRGB when others see it. Consumer print services (like Walgreens in the US) work with any file you send them, but their printers are set up for sRGB color space.

There was a time when magazines, books, newspapers etc (offset print) worked with Adobe RGB, which is why photographers who make pictures for print media use preferred Adobe RGB. I was a newspaper photographer and trainer for years before leaving the industry in 2012. We always told our photographers to output their photos in Adobe RGB. I suspect (but don't know) that as publications have laid off photographers and rely on reader submissions and iPhone photos color space is not important and they'll work with Adobe or sRGB files.

In other words, while Adobe RGB might be a "better" (i.e. bigger, containing more color) color space to work in, the reality is that for most people it won't make any difference and they won't see any difference whether they use sRGB or Adobe RGB.

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