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Software Discuss Olympus Master, Studio and Viewer software applications as well as third party programs like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Apple Aperture, and others.

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Old 2nd May 2012
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JPEG vs raw

From time to time we debate whether it is worth shooting raw these days, as in-camera JPEGs are pretty good. I have been a raw devotee since E-1 days, of course I would like to be convinced that we don't need it any more as it would save a lot of disk space (and improve shooting speed, which doesn't bother me a great deal). I have not been convinced yet.

By concidence the fist time I took the E-M5 anywhere I got a shot which confirms my opinion. It is a shot of no photographic merit, just a happy snap of people chatting in a café. Here is the original JPEG, no processing applied except to rescale it for the web (and LR has probably done some implicit sharpening):



As you can probably see, there are burnt-out highlights on the middle guy's face and on the right-hand guy's distinguished silver hair. There is no detail in those areas at all. I tried levels, curves and reducing exposure 2 stops in Photoshop and all that happened was that the highlights turned grey instead of white, with hardly any more detail visible. This is after applying a -2 stop adjustment in Photoshop:



Obviously it's darker overall, that would be easy enough to compensate but there is no point as we haven't recovered most of the highlight data.

I tried it in the latest Lightroom, version 4.1 Release Candidate 2 (it was the only one to support E-M5 raw files until this morning's release of ACR 6.7). Applying the maximum reduction to the Whites and Highlights we get this:



Again, a bit dark overall, easy to correct if need be and this time we have recovered detail in almost all of the highlights. Just to prove it, here is Malc's hair at 100% from the JPEG after its -2 stop adjustment:



and from the adjusted raw file:



There are still some small burnt-out spots, but it has recovered almost all of the highlights.

I also tried Olympus Viewer 2 as it was happy to process the raw files. The only adjustment I could find was Exposure, and it was no more successful on the raw file than Photoshop had been with the JPEG, it just gave featureless grey instead of white. Of course this could be down to my lack of expertise with Viewer (I really don't like it so I have never learnt to use it properly, which is of course a self-reinforcing vicious circle) so if anyone can suggest other approaches I will happily try them. Also Ian has said that Viewer is not yet optimised for E-M5 raw files so it may get better.

This is more than enough evidence to convince me that shooting raw is still worthwhile.

Ciao ... John
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Old 2nd May 2012
Olybirder Olybirder is online now
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Re: JPEG vs raw

Thanks John. That is a very convincing demonstration of the benefits of using raw.

I have found that as a last resort 'Shadows/Highlights' can go some way towards rescuing a JPEG. I hope you don't mind but I tried it quickly on your JPEG image. I had to desaturate the colours slightly afterwards. Obviously it is nowhere as satisfactory as the raw image but is it an improvement over the original? I have no idea what the original colours were like.


Ron
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Old 2nd May 2012
Jim Ford Jim Ford is offline
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Re: JPEG vs raw

Still not right - you haven't removed the name on the camera strap!

;^)

Jim
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Old 2nd May 2012
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Re: JPEG vs raw

Olybirder - don't mind at all. That looks like an impressive result, I'll try shadows/highlights on the full sized version and see how much it digs out.

I noticed the burnout at the time and shot again with -1.3 stops compensation. I haven't done the same forensic analysis on that one (not enough hours in the day) but at a quick glance we still had some burnt-out highlights, and had lost shadows as well.

Jim - I wondered how long it would be before someone spotted the strap!

Ciao ... John
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Re: JPEG vs raw

Following Olybirder's suggestion I have just had a little play with the original using shadow/highlight adjustment on the JPEG. I don't normally think of it, I habitually do all adjustments using adjustment layers and Shadow/highlight is not available there. It certainly produces a more natural-looking result than just using global exposure or levels adjustments, but it leaves the burnt-out patches as they are.

By the way, I updated ACR to 6.7 this morning so was able to compare the recovery between PS CS5/ACR 6.7 and LR4.1/ACR7.1. The extra refinement that you get with the highlights and whites sliders in ACR 7 allows much better recovery than the single recovery slider in ACR 6. The samples above were done with LR4.1/ACR7.1.

Ciao ... John
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Old 2nd May 2012
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Re: JPEG vs raw

Quote:
Jim - I wondered how long it would be before someone spotted the strap!
Aaahhh but is there a camera on the end of the strap
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Michael

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