To RAW or not to RAW

sinnerjohn

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Going back to this old debate. Just reading a review of the Pixel 5, a device I'll probably go up to from my 3 next year and its states,

'There's also the option to record in RAW DNG format with an average file size of around 15MB, although this does also vary.
We see a huge difference between the same picture in RAW and JPEG format when viewed side by side, making clear the extent of intelligent processing going on to create a JPEG.
Truly, the phone automatically realises the camera's maximum potential, squeezing the most amount of tonal detail possible and minimising lens distortion.
There's little more that can be done manually from RAWs that isn't already being done, ergo there is little benefit shooting in RAW format at all.'

The whole review is here if you're interested, but its Android so you're probably not :lmao:

But I think the RAW topic has more mileage in it, thoughts? Who shoots RAW?
 

ImageArt

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Interesting that you should raise this again. I tried Raw at one point but the results I got were not as good as the jpg. However, I am not au fait with many of the extra settings you need to understand to truly get the best results.

Some of the truly spectacular mobile images on the internet are produced by people who use Raw but is it a question of good processing or good photography. I would say a bit of both.

I’m thinking I should give it another go. Maybe find a good online Raw processing course especially with it being Black Friday. Make up my mind once and for all.
 

TomHH

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I also shoot RAW when I'm in the mood to do some development afterwards. But as stated in John's quoted article the JPGs delivered by today's phones are hard to beat.
And of course it's also comparing apples with pears because if you want to have a true comparison, you have to shoot several RAWs, stack them, process them, denoise them etc. to at the same workflow level as the phones.

The real benefit from using RAW is - you! No AI, no automated processing, pushing shadows, smart denoise - it's all you who's in control! If you like it darker in the shadows - go for it! More denoise? Do it.

Working with RAW data means also to have more data to apply filters on and still end up with better quality in the end as most filter are lossy and will remove stuff from your image (this is not finally true as it also depends on the filter).

And as you have more bits per channel (rgb) you will also get more colour information in your image.

What I find quite interesting when working with RAW files is, that you get a feeling what is done in the JPG process within your phone/app. To get a sharp photo you have to do quite some sharpening and things.

This a very basic workflow for processing RAWs but bring's it to the point: http://photographyblogger.net/a-simple-workflow-for-raw-processing/

APPs and software may have extended features and functions but the above is the very basic set.
 
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terse

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Modern JPGs straight out of the camera are very good (if, of course, you get things like exposure and focus right). I can think of three reasons, offhand, to shoot raw.

1. You just like to tinker. Perfectly valid reason. If you're one of these people, you know it already and probably don't need any nudge to start playing with raw.

2. You don't like some things about the automatic processing that gets applied to your out-of-camera JPGs. This can vary from one type of phone to the next, but common complaints are too much sharpening (giving a crunchy look with visible artifacts) and heavy-handed noise reduction that smears details. Sometimes people who complain about these things are pixel-peepers. What matters is whether the flaws show in your intended display format: 1500 pixel MobiTog post, 13x19" color print, etc.

3. You want to take advantage of the extra dynamic range and color depth a raw image can offer and/or you want to develop a different look than the JPG provides.

Extra dynamic range? I often shoot outdoors in bright light with heavy shadows, and it can be a challenge to keep from blowing out the highlights with a JPG, especially when trying to capture glowing white egrets. The extra headroom in the whites that a raw capture offers makes a lot of difference there. On the other hand, if you're doing street shots on a gray day, the extra headroom isn't likely to matter (unless you've got streetlights or something in the frame).

Color depth? I shoot lots of pictures with big expanses of blue sky, and generally I like the look of the color in the standard iPhone JPGs. But with a JPG, if I do more than minimal editing, I have to worry about getting banding and/or color shifts in the sky. A raw capture doesn't eliminate this, but it helps.

When you edit a raw image (I use Lightroom Mobile), one thing you're doing is balancing sharpness and noise. If you're working on a gritty street scene, for example, you may choose to leave some luminance noise because it adds to the look. Or if you're working on a slightly dreamy image of a misty day in the country, you may choose not to add any extra sharpening. With the out-of-camera JPG, you don't get those choices.

I don't know the situation on Android, but on iOS there are a number of camera apps that can save a full-res JPG and a raw from the same capture. That sounds ideal, right? If the JPG is fine you don't need to bother with the raw. The problem is that the camera will expose for and show you a live preview of the JPG, so you won't get the full benefit of the raw, particularly the extra headroom on the highlight end. To get the most out of the raw, you need to -- essentially -- overexpose the JPG, so if you get the raw exposure right, you'll probably have blown highlights in the JPG.

I do use the native iOS cam a lot, especially when I'm just walking around snapshooting or when I need to capture something quickly. I use a raw capture (often Lightroom Mobile's HDR DNG) for landscapes and such when I have time to think.
 

ubbyisis

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Modern JPGs straight out of the camera are very good (if, of course, you get things like exposure and focus right). I can think of three reasons, offhand, to shoot raw.

1. You just like to tinker. Perfectly valid reason. If you're one of these people, you know it already and probably don't need any nudge to start playing with raw.

2. You don't like some things about the automatic processing that gets applied to your out-of-camera JPGs. This can vary from one type of phone to the next, but common complaints are too much sharpening (giving a crunchy look with visible artifacts) and heavy-handed noise reduction that smears details. Sometimes people who complain about these things are pixel-peepers. What matters is whether the flaws show in your intended display format: 1500 pixel MobiTog post, 13x19" color print, etc.

3. You want to take advantage of the extra dynamic range and color depth a raw image can offer and/or you want to develop a different look than the JPG provides.

Extra dynamic range? I often shoot outdoors in bright light with heavy shadows, and it can be a challenge to keep from blowing out the highlights with a JPG, especially when trying to capture glowing white egrets. The extra headroom in the whites that a raw capture offers makes a lot of difference there. On the other hand, if you're doing street shots on a gray day, the extra headroom isn't likely to matter (unless you've got streetlights or something in the frame).

Color depth? I shoot lots of pictures with big expanses of blue sky, and generally I like the look of the color in the standard iPhone JPGs. But with a JPG, if I do more than minimal editing, I have to worry about getting banding and/or color shifts in the sky. A raw capture doesn't eliminate this, but it helps.

When you edit a raw image (I use Lightroom Mobile), one thing you're doing is balancing sharpness and noise. If you're working on a gritty street scene, for example, you may choose to leave some luminance noise because it adds to the look. Or if you're working on a slightly dreamy image of a misty day in the country, you may choose not to add any extra sharpening. With the out-of-camera JPG, you don't get those choices.

I don't know the situation on Android, but on iOS there are a number of camera apps that can save a full-res JPG and a raw from the same capture. That sounds ideal, right? If the JPG is fine you don't need to bother with the raw. The problem is that the camera will expose for and show you a live preview of the JPG, so you won't get the full benefit of the raw, particularly the extra headroom on the highlight end. To get the most out of the raw, you need to -- essentially -- overexpose the JPG, so if you get the raw exposure right, you'll probably have blown highlights in the JPG.

I do use the native iOS cam a lot, especially when I'm just walking around snapshooting or when I need to capture something quickly. I use a raw capture (often Lightroom Mobile's HDR DNG) for landscapes and such when I have time to think.
Thanks for this ”lesson” I’ve always felt insecure about RAW. Now I learned a lot :thumbs:
 

Uuglypher

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Going back to this old debate. Just reading a review of the Pixel 5, a device I'll probably go up to from my 3 next year and its states,

'There's also the option to record in RAW DNG format with an average file size of around 15MB, although this does also vary.
We see a huge difference between the same picture in RAW and JPEG format when viewed side by side, making clear the extent of intelligent processing going on to create a JPEG.
Truly, the phone automatically realises the camera's maximum potential, squeezing the most amount of tonal detail possible and minimising lens distortion.
There's little more that can be done manually from RAWs that isn't already being done, ergo there is little benefit shooting in RAW format at all.'

The whole review is here if you're interested, but its Android so you're probably not :lmao:

But I think the RAW topic has more mileage in it, thoughts? Who shoots RAW?

Who shoots raw image data captures?
Only those photographers / including smartphone photographers - hoping to capture the maximum image data quality ( highest possible S:N ratio and a 12 bit-depth tonal spectrum of 4096 rather than the paltry tonal spectrum of 256 tones of a piddly 8 bit-depth JPEG image file). That diddly-squat JPEG file might - in a stretch- provide an acceptable 16x20 full frame print, but a properly exposed 12 bit-depth raw capture* will easily yield a TIFF file that prints out at 36”x48” with amazing discernible detail.
But keep in mind that a properly exposed raw capture is a totally different imaging medium from a quotidian JPEG file - and requires a totally different exposure strategy.

A jpeg is exposed by the same strategy as has been used for exposing photosensitive emulsions since the latter half of the19th Century. A subject tone is exposed to produce that same tone in the finished image.

A raw image data capture is properly exposed such that every brightness value in the entire histogram - from darkest shadow detail to brightest highlight detail - has been exposed with the maximum possible number of photons with no saturation of any of the electron wells . “ Expose for the brightest possible image with no clipping of highlight detail; but come as close to clipping as possible without actually clipping!” That’s a totally different exposure strategy from that used for Jpegs and traditional emulsion photography.

The properly exposed raw image file provides an immensely greater potential creative latitude in post processing than can ever be imagined for a JPEG file.

Who shoots raw image files ? Those aware of the above stated principles of optimal raw image data exposure. That’s who (to answer your earlier question).

Dave
 

Uuglypher

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Who shoots raw image data captures?
Only those photographers / including smartphone photographers - hoping to capture the maximum image data quality ( highest possible S:N ratio and a 12 bit-depth tonal spectrum of 4096 rather than the paltry tonal spectrum of 256 tones of a piddly 8 bit-depth JPEG image file). That diddly-squat JPEG file might - in a stretch- provide an acceptable 16x20 full frame print, but a properly exposed 12 bit-depth raw capture* will easily yield a TIFF file that prints out at 36”x48” with amazing discernible detail.
But keep in mind that a properly exposed raw capture is a totally different imaging medium from a quotidian JPEG file - and requires a totally different exposure strategy.

A jpeg is exposed by the same strategy as has been used for exposing photosensitive emulsions since the latter half of the19th Century. A subject tone is exposed to produce that same tone in the finished image.

A raw image data capture is properly exposed such that every brightness value in the entire histogram - from darkest shadow detail to brightest highlight detail - has been exposed with the maximum possible number of photons with no saturation of any of the electron wells . “ Expose for the brightest possible image with no clipping of highlight detail; but come as close to clipping as possible without actually clipping!” That’s a totally different exposure strategy from that used for Jpegs and traditional emulsion photography.

The properly exposed raw image file provides an immensely greater potential creative latitude in post processing than can ever be imagined for a JPEG file.

Who shoots raw image files ? Those aware of the above stated principles of optimal raw image data exposure. That’s who (to answer your earlier question).

Dave
Really?
No substantive replies?
Retorts?
Slings and arrows?
Geez...no fun!
Dave
 

Uuglypher

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Well, I read it and realized quickly that this was high above my knowledge level. And decided I will continue shooting jpegs and heics :)After all I’m just a happy amateur:rolleyes:
Thank you for your realistic assessment and your candor, unless one is interested in producing larger prints of high image quality, and/or in exercising the greatest possible breadth of one’s individual creative- artistic otential, and plans to display their images online or as relatively small prints, there is no real benefit to be gained by developing proficiency with raw capture.
Best regards,
Dave
 

sinnerjohn

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Really?
No substantive replies?
Retorts?
Slings and arrows?
Geez...no fun!
Dave
Well I wasn't sure your discourse needed a reply but I did read it and yes I get the theory. Maybe I should have worded the original question as 'who on this forum shoots RAW'

I'd hazard a guess that only a couple of us bother with all the extra mb's of space required, to only have to process the image back into jpg to display it. Sharing images online is what this forum is all about and Instagram and Flickr etc. Its not about printing files, which may benefit from the extra work RAW will entail. Not saying that sometimes we should make the effort and print some images, we should, I should, I don't!

I still think the advances in computational photography have killed RAW I'm afraid.

Slings and arrows? I'd say a challenge for you would be to post an image here that has been processed from RAW and another of the same subject purely from jpg and we can see the difference all that effort makes, or not.
 

TomHH

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If would go for printing I would definitly not use my phone for post processing! The screen is way to small, the interface is way to clumpsy and the tools are very limited in comparison to a desktop/laptop computer.
As we're here dealing with shots processed on the phone RAW is a kind of fun stuff for me. The only benefit I see is that I have to do all the development myself. Sometimes it's better than the JPEG, sometime the JPEG is better. The magic applied to the images is quite impressive and good nowadays.
 

ImageArt

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If would go for printing I would definitly not use my phone for post processing! The screen is way to small, the interface is way to clumpsy and the tools are very limited in comparison to a desktop/laptop computer.
As we're here dealing with shots processed on the phone RAW is a kind of fun stuff for me. The only benefit I see is that I have to do all the development myself. Sometimes it's better than the JPEG, sometime the JPEG is better. The magic applied to the images is quite impressive and good nowadays.
I’m not actually sure I would process my images on my computer. I have a desktop not a laptop and the quality of the screen is bad compared to my iPad. Images that look great on my iPad look mediocre on my computer screen. I also prefer the apps on my iPad. I do have Affinity Photo but have never sat down to learn the tuning tools on it.

Maybe one day I’ll sit down and really learn to process RAW but at the moment I prefer a wall of lots of 8in x 8in which is what I am about to do. In that way my images and my DH’s images can both go up without either of us having to sacrifice. Not surprisingly he prefers his and I prefer mine although nice together.
 

Uuglypher

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I’m not actually sure I would process my images on my computer. I have a desktop not a laptop and the quality of the screen is bad compared to my iPad. Images that look great on my iPad look mediocre on my computer screen. I also prefer the apps on my iPad. I do have Affinity Photo but have never sat down to learn the tuning tools on it.

Maybe one day I’ll sit down and really learn to process RAW but at the moment I prefer a wall of lots of 8in x 8in which is what I am about to do. In that way my images and my DH’s images can both go up without either of us having to sacrifice. Not surprisingly he prefers his and I prefer mine although nice together.
Well, hi there Sinnerjohn, TomHH, and ImageArt, so, yd wanna see proof of the pudding, eh?
Well, you sure won’t get it with display online! And if that’s your level of aspiration re image data quality, I agree that you stick with 8-bit Jpegs for your image display.
But any who decry the ability of a 12 bit-depth tiff file of a raw capture image from any decent 12 bit- depth mobile phone camera to yield a detail and resolution-rich 36”X 48” print to be viewed at NDV of 7 to 9 feet or greater is simply speaking out of ignorance born of inexperience! They have never given it a serious effort!
Best I can do for you is to post three identical tiny crops from a jpeg and two raw> tiff file s that yielded a magnificent 18”X 36” print. Compare the 8 bit-depth jpeg with the ETTR raw exposure and the EBTR exposure that benefitted from the camera’s full dynamic range. Those crops came from the same site in those three image files.
Read ‘em and weap!
Don’t discount the ability of raw image files from smartphones to deliver large prints of exceptional quality.
The nay-sayers who obviously have never actually given it a serious try remind me of the aeronautical engineers who, after careful theorizing, determined that the bumblebee cannot fly!
Best regards,
Dave
 

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TomHH

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Well, hi there Sinnerjohn, TomHH, and ImageArt, so, yd wanna see proof of the pudding, eh?
Well, you sure won’t get it with display online! And if that’s your level of aspiration re image data quality, I agree that you stick with 8-bit Jpegs for your image display.
Agree.
But any who decry the ability of a 12 bit-depth tiff file of a raw capture image from any decent 12 bit- depth mobile phone camera to yield a detail and resolution-rich 36”X 48” print to be viewed at NDV of 7 to 9 feet or greater is simply speaking out of ignorance born of inexperience! They have never given it a serious effort!
Best I can do for you is to post three identical tiny crops from a jpeg and two raw> tiff file s that yielded a magnificent 18”X 36” print. Compare the 8 bit-depth jpeg with the ETTR raw exposure and the EBTR exposure that benefitted from the camera’s full dynamic range. Those crops came from the same site in those three image files.
I do not disagree but the way and the tools to achieve a high quality image would be different for me (as describe in my previous post). No phone tools but solid display (at best calibrate) and quality software to handle different aspects of improving parts of the image.
Also viewing a print is different to view an image online. You will view large prints from greater distance in opposite to have it displayed on a screen.
Picking up the headline of this post it depends what you want to achieve and what is your target media. For online images I don't see the benefit of RAW processing in comparison to the effort. Going for print is slightly a different approach and will benefit more because of more data (having the option to apply more processing without or minor loss of quality).
Also remember that phones processing algorithyms are optimized for displays, not for printing!

Read ‘em and weap!
Don’t discount the ability of raw image files from smartphones to deliver large prints of exceptional quality.
The nay-sayers who obviously have never actually given it a serious try remind me of the aeronautical engineers who, after careful theorizing, determined that the bumblebee cannot fly!
Best regards,
Dave
Well, as always in live there is not THE SOLUTION! It always depends on what you wanna do.

Finalizing all those thoughts and ideas: go for print use RAW, go for screen - mmmh - most times not worth it. IMHO

Tom
 

Uuglypher

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Well, hi there Sinnerjohn, TomHH, and ImageArt, so, yd wanna see proof of the pudding, eh?
Well, you sure won’t get it with display online! And if that’s your level of aspiration re image data quality, I agree that you stick with 8-bit Jpegs for your image display.
But any who decry the ability of a 12 bit-depth tiff file of a raw capture image from any decent 12 bit- depth mobile phone camera to yield a detail and resolution-rich 36”X 48” print to be viewed at NDV of 7 to 9 feet or greater is simply speaking out of ignorance born of inexperience! They have never given it a serious effort!
Best I can do for you is to post three identical tiny crops from a jpeg and two raw> tiff file s that yielded a magnificent 18”X 36” print. Compare the 8 bit-depth jpeg with the ETTR raw exposure and the EBTR exposure that benefitted from the camera’s full dynamic range. Those crops came from the same site in those three image files.
Read ‘em and weap!
Don’t discount the ability of raw image files from smartphones to deliver large prints of exceptional quality.
The nay-sayers who obviously have never actually given it a serious try remind me of the aeronautical engineers who, after careful theorizing, determined that the bumblebee cannot fly!
Best regards,
Dave
Did you find the site of the crops in the full landscape? Challenge posed and met, I ‘d say.
Any questions? Comments?
 

Uuglypher

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Agree.

I do not disagree but the way and the tools to achieve a high quality image would be different for me (as describe in my previous post). No phone tools but solid display (at best calibrate) and quality software to handle different aspects of improving parts of the image.
Also viewing a print is different to view an image online. You will view large prints from greater distance in opposite to have it displayed on a screen.
Picking up the headline of this post it depends what you want to achieve and what is your target media. For online images I don't see the benefit of RAW processing in comparison to the effort. Going for print is slightly a different approach and will benefit more because of more data (having the option to apply more processing without or minor loss of quality).
Also remember that phones processing algorithyms are optimized for displays, not for printing!


Well, as always in live there is not THE SOLUTION! It always depends on what you wanna do.

Finalizing all those thoughts and ideas: go for print use RAW, go for screen - mmmh - most times not worth it. IMHO

Tom
Thank you, Tom. For re-stating my original point,
Best regards,
Dave
 

Uuglypher

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Thank you, Tom. For re-stating my original point,
Best regards,
Dave
Just so there is no misunderstanding. The original image files of my demonstration images were made with an iPhone ProMax using the LightroomMobile raw camera, post processed through raw and TIFF conversion in Lightroom Mobile in the iPhone and submitted to my printing lab from the iPhone.
 

rizole

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Well I have a new phone that takes RAW and I'm just at the beginning of exploring it myself and certainly can't answer sinnerjohn's original question yet but am hoping to come to educated and balanced thoughts sometime soon. If I can't pull that off I might just have aim for casually opinionated and stupid. :D

So far, with a starting place of developing, I've fallen down the side topics of blending modes and the levels tool both of which I have a better understanding of but not so much processing.

Am I right in thinking it's as simple as it looks? Snapseed offers RAW developing settings that look identical to settings that are elsewhere in the app which makes me wonder why bother? There are extra white balance settings over and above the norm so that's something. Can you, Uuglypher, or anyone else shed extra light on that?

What is or does ETTR and EBTR do/stand for?

Has anyone any broad advice, tips or wisdom for RAW or have any good online stuff from others you can point me at?
 

terse

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What is or does ETTR and EBTR do/stand for?
ETTR = Expose to the right. It refers to the shape of the histogram when setting the exposure for a photo. The idea is that to capture the most information/detail in a digital photo, you need to push the exposure as far into the whites (the right end) as you can without clipping, even though that means that the preview you see on your screen while setting the exposure may look overexposed. You get the properly exposed look when you edit.

EBTR = Expose beyond the right. The idea/argument here is that the preview image and histogram you see on screen when setting up your shot are using the JPEG image, which is a processed image. If you are shooting raw, the argument goes, you actually have more headroom in the whites than the onscreen preview and histogram show you, so to make best use of that extra latitude, you need to push the exposure further to the right. The JPEG-based histogram will show that you are clipping, but -- if you judge it correctly -- the raw image will not be clipped.

I did some simple tests of my own and found that my iPhone XS seems to have 0.5 to 0.75 of an fstop available beyond what the histogram shows.
 
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terse

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Snapseed offers RAW developing settings that look identical to settings that are elsewhere in the app which makes me wonder why bother?
I've never been sure about Snapseed and raw images. It can read them and let you edit them, but is it actually taking advantage of them?

I'd suggest trying out Lightroom Mobile (there's an Android version) for developing raw images. You don't need the subscription or any of the online stuff -- the free functions give you everything you need.

For me, the main thing I do with LRM when editing a raw image is to fiddle with the sharpness/clarity vs. noise reduction settings to get the best balance. Often I end up with both noise reduction and sharpness at lower settings than what LRM applies by default.

The next most important thing I do is adjust the lighting to make sure I keep detail in the highlights (if that's what I want for a particular image).

After I've adjusted an image in LRM, I usually finish it off elsewhere -- Snapseed, ACDSee Pro, Photos, whatever.

EDIT: The Lightroom camera is pretty good in Professional and HDR modes.
 

terse

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Has anyone any broad advice, tips or wisdom for RAW or have any good online stuff from others you can point me at?
Chris Feichtner (nocamerabag on Instagram) has laid out his LRM raw workflow here:




A couple of notes: He says you have to have the LRM subscription to develop raw files in LRM, but that's not entirely true. In the iPhone version, at least, you can develop iPhone raw files from LRM itself or any other iPhone raw app without needing a subscription. I'd guess it's the same with the Android version. You do need a subscription to develop raw files from other cameras (Canon, Nikon, etc.).

Also, in his workflow, he does use the perspective correction tool in LRM, which does require a subscription. I do that stuff in Snapseed.

There may be one or two other things, but in the main, you can do what he does with the free version.
 

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JPEG from my Pixel: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nmwJq0QNqLjVb5Pd6hsMAbD5JKO-29qt/view?usp=sharing
TIFF developed with Affinity Photo, optimized with DXO PhotoLab 4 - all you can get: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MLxYjJDlkBt0B5nNR9lbshAu_YljhZXC/view?usp=sharing

that is in numbers 4MB (8bit/channel, sRGB) vs 70MB (16bit/channel, sRGB). For a real comparison you need to keep the changes as good as possible aligned with the camera image but that's quite hard - I didn't do that. Open the file and have a look at details and exposure...

NOTE: the TIFF file would be the way for print. Of course I did all my processing with my MacBook. ;)
 

rizole

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Rizole
Device
Huawei
Clipboard01.jpg

A little playing from photos taken today and the jpeg/raw pics are clearly different in the amount of detail in them and I really can't say I know what I'm doing yet, just fumbling around with my fat, clumsy fingers.

To RAW or not? Well I'll certainly be using it more often and pushing to see what I can get with it. I'd become disatisfied with the quality limitations of my old phone and with lockdown really limiting the amount of photos I was taking anyway I was a bit disenchanted with the whole thing. A new phone has definately helped with that and RAW is also peeking my interest.

The other huge benefit of more detail, of course, is being able to crop in tighter and still get a good pic.

As for RAW or not RAW? No one needs more than 512kb storage, 1mb ram, 56k dial up speed, 1mp sensor, 256mhz processor...until they do of course.
 
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