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RAW vs JPEG - Fuji and Olympus

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Ray Sachs, May 28, 2012.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I've been a raw shooter ever since I got back into photography a couple of years ago now. Except for Fuji. When I got the X100 last year I was getting jpegs that I could not match with my own raw processing skills, and the jpegs had enough latitude for plenty of post processing. When I got the X-Pro early last month, I was even more impressed and pleased with the jpegs and, even though there's no real raw processor for me to try my hand with the raws, I'm pretty sure I won't. For the short while I had a Ricoh GXR I shot with both raw and jpeg and could do more with the raw files, but was more than satisfied with the jpegs when doing a comparison, so I often just shot with jpegs on that camera too, but not always - in challenging situations I'd often shoot with raw.

    So then when I got the Olympus EM5, I started shooting with jpegs because that's all that was supported initially. And I was happy with them - really happy with them. Everything I shot in New York that made it into my New York City Blurb book started life as a jpeg. No problems. So I thought maybe I'd stick with jpegs on the EM5 as well. But Apple added raw support recently and today we went for a hike in a nearby agricultural preserve and I took the Em5 and shot raw+jpeg just to do a comparison and see if I'd really be OK with the jpegs. And, turns out I'm not. With virtually every raw+jpeg pair I brought back, the jpeg looked really weak in comparison to what I was EASILY able to do with the raw files. Now I'm not the most sophisticated post processing scientist you'll ever meet, but I know what I like and I usually know how to get there, whether I could ever explain it or not. And I've generally found some benefit to shooting raw, but the Fujis have really challenged my assumptions about that. And I thought that as good as Olympus jpegs are generally considered to be, I might be just as well off sticking with the jpegs on that too. But it didn't happen and it took me about a minute and a half to be sure. Those EM5 raw files have a LOT hidden in them that the jpegs don't and I was able to pull up some shadows and even recover some apparently blown highlights in ways that the jpegs wouldn't even begin to allow.

    So, I guess its still a case by case basis for me - I'm sticking with Fuji jpegs (although maybe I'll give the X-Pro raw files a shot once there's a good processor in Aperture), but for Olympus - no way. Still raw all the way.

    -Ray
     
  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Thanks for your observations Ray. I've always been pretty satisfied with JPEGs. Even though I know something can be made better. But the Fuji X100 files have spoiled me. And I just look at the E-M5 files as smeary and noisy most of the time. I think it's a classic case of the hype exceeding the reality. I don't even feel like the files I'm getting are better in any REAL measurable way than I was getting from my E-P3. I'm satisfied enough with the other improvements in the camera to not be bummed out. I just thought that by now if you wanted a clean, noise-free image at ISO400, you could get one.

    I'll give RAW a try and see what I can do. In the mean time, when IQ is paramount and a normal focal range is what I need for a shot I'll stick with the Fuji. And when I want to play with different focal lengths I'll accept the step down in IQ and use the Oly.
     
  3. BruPri

    BruPri SC Top Veteran

    699
    May 11, 2011
    Seattle, Washington USA
    Bruce J. Pritchard
    Hi Ray, I've been shooting with my X-pro and processing with RPP which does a great job. I am wondering myself, if it's actually worth the extra steps involved to process RAW as Aperture and LR4 have yet to issue an update for this. I would really like to hear from anyone who has done a side by side comparison of the Fuji RAW vs JPG and what tips or settings they use to best effect.
     
  4. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I haven't tried RPP with the X-Pro - I probably won't try raw with the X-Pro until Lightroom and Apple support comes along. But I had raw support for the X100 almost from the day I had it and I did a lot of raw shooting and then raw+jpeg and I've been shooting jpegs only ever since the first few experiments. The raw files DID have a bit more latitude, but the jpegs were so damn GOOD that it wasn't latitude I often needed. And the jpegs just looked so right such a high percentage of the time with NO effort and it would often take me a lot of massaging to get the raw files to look as good. And the camera did two thing internally when making jpegs that to me gave it a real advantage. First, for low light, the Fuji NR algorithms seemed better to me than anything I could do with either the Topaz or Nik NR plugins - Fuji just gets NR right with very minimal artifacts. You lose a bit of detail but the files just end up looking sooo good! And the way the cameras deal with the DR in-camera is to push the ISO and then underexpose and push the processing to increase DR. So if you try to keep the DR stuff turned on, the raw files come out pretty underexposed and then you have to do all of that stuff manually. The long and the short was that VERY VERY occasionally I'd find a shot I could do better with a raw starting point than with a jpeg, but it was so rare that it wasn't worth going through and looking for those few to try to make even better in raw. And there was still plenty of latitude in the jpegs to pull some shadow detail up and to do great B&W conversions from the jpeg. So I just didn't see any point in messing with the raw files anymore.

    My bet is I'll feel the same way with the X-Pro because the jpegs are, if anything, better than the X100 jpegs, so even if the raw files allow for more processing, I just don't anticipate I'm gonna want to deal with it for the very small improvement on a very small percentage of the shots. I'll likely give it a try once raw support is more widespread just to satisfy myself, particularly after my surprise at how much better the Olympus raw files are than the jpegs. But I'll be pretty shocked if I end up shooting raw with the X-Pro.

    -Ray
     
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  5. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I haven't tried the EM5 raw files in low light yet. The EM5 jpegs in low light are pretty good, but there are definitely some artifacts in the jpegs that start looking pretty funky if you blow the shot up or do any real cropping. They're there at 3200 and pretty obnoxious at 6400. So I look forward to checking out these raw files in low light. SOME of the NR may be cooked into the raw files, but I'd guess that most of the artifacts should be avoidable with raw. I'll just have to see. The X-Pro definitely looks better to me in low light from what I've seen so far, but I had some 3200 and even a couple of 6400 night shots with the EM5 that I liked enough to include in my book, albeit at a very small print size. So, we'll see...

    -Ray
     
  6. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Ray, set gradation to Auto on the E-M5. That's where all your extra shadow detail is hidden in the jpegs. This setting does the effect of reducing the exposure by about 1/3 stop from the metered value to help preserve the highlights better, but I find that this is usually unecessary and regualrly shoot the E-M5 with around +0.7 EV. I think that ultimately RAW is probably still the way to go, but if I was in a situation where I was running short on memory I would have little hesitation in shooting jpeg only as long as the gradation was enabled.

    Note: I also turn the noise filter off, leave sharpening at 0, and set the funky tone curve adjuster to +2 in the shadows and -1 in the highlights.
     
  7. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Check the colour setting as well. I just have mine set to "i-enhance" at the moment. I suspect that a setting like vivid will apply extra contrast, whereas natural might preserve DR better.

    I was actually just playing with the "film modes" on my GH1 the other day since I have always shot RAW with that camera to preserve the camera's full DR. The "smooth" setting seems to be by far the best for DR, whereas "vibrant" and "dynamic" noticeably compress the DR.