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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Digital Photography Tip: Choosing the right image file format

Everytime you press the shutter button of your digital camera, you capture an image on the image sensor (The image sensor acts as the film in film cameras). This image is saved to a file in many different formats. Most digital cameras offer three formats, namely, JPEG, TIFF, and RAW format having file extensions of .jpg, .tif, and .crw respectively. (note: .crw and .cr2 are file extensions of raw format for Canon Cameras. Other camera brands have different file extensions of raw format i.e. .nef for nikon, .arw for sony).The most commonly used format is the JPEG format because it uses mathematical algorithm to reduce the file size without jeopardizing the image quality. The tiff format on the otherhand offers good image quality (no image quality is lost during conversion) but the file is considerably large. Unlike jpeg and tiff formats, RAW format is a propriety file that does not have most of the camera settings applied to it. Here is a list of raw image file extensions:

  1. .arw .srf .sr2(Sony)
  2. .bay (Casio)
  3. .cr2 .crw (Canon)
  4. .mrw (Minolta)
  5. .nef .nrw (
  6. .orf (Olympus)
  7. .ptx .pef (Pentax)
  8. .pxn (Logitech)
  9. .raf (Fuji)
  10. .raw .rw2 (Panasonic)
  11. .dcr .drf (Kodak)
  12. .x3f(Sigma)
What is RAW image format?
RAW format is the raw data before it is made into a format like jpeg and tiff. The images in raw format are stored in large files and require software like Adobe Camera Raw, Digital Photo Professional (bundled when you buy Canon DSLR) so they can be displayed on the computer.

What is the advantage of using RAW over jpeg and tiff formats?
Raw offers greater flexibility for image adjustments. It is effective when you want to precisely create your own art or shoot a very important subject. One drawback though of using RAW format is it consumes a big chunk of your memory space. With Canon Camera set at high quality (12 megapixel), you can take approximately 460 shots of jpeg format stored in a 2 gigabyte memory as compared to about only 120 shots of raw format in the same memory size.

But don't you know that RAW format is best to use if you want to get best possible pictures from your camera? Camera settings such as white balance, contrast, saturation levels, sharpening, exposure compensation and other camera settings are not applied to a raw image file. Therefore after storing the file in the computer, you have full control over these settings and produce a good quality image the way you want it.


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