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By setting your camera to shoot in Raw mode, you are effectively bypassing
this in-camera processing of the sensor data. This means that before you can
view the files, you have to process the data yourself and this is where the
huge advantage of working with Raw files becomes clear.
When Raw image data is processed in the camera to produce a JPEG or a TIFF
file, decisions are made about how the data is interpreted – some of the data
are even discarded. The camera's processing algorithms are designed to
produce the best results under all possible conditions, but your camera can't
tell if the image it is processing is correctly exposed, if the scene before it
contained a full range of tones, or whether the shadow detail is more
important to you than the highlights. By delaying processing of the Raw file
until you've seen the image you can decide for yourself how best to interpret
the data to produce a robust RGB file.
You can, of course, manipulate tones and colors and make other changes to
an 8-bit TIFF or JPEG file processed by your camera, but these edits are
FIG. 1.5 dSLR parameter settings
provide in-camera control over
some aspects of Raw processing.
Camera Raw |
7
Increased Latitude
Latitude describes the exposure characteristics of film emulsions or digital
sensors in terms of their ability to cope with a range of light levels. When the
range of light levels (called the dynamic range) in a subject is within that
capable of being recorded by the film or sensor, latitude provides an indication
of the degree to which the image can be over or underexposed while
still producing acceptable results (i.e. details in the highlights and shadows).
In a Raw workflow, your images have greater latitude than if you're working
with RGB files. By using Aperture's Exposure, Levels, and Highlight and
Shadow tools, you can ensure that the critical tonal regions receive the most
bits. In practice, this means you can pull detail from apparently blown
highlights and, to a lesser degree, rescue shadow detail and produce a robust
image capable of withstanding further pixel manipulation.
Future Improvements
Currently, Aperture's Raw converter does an excellent job of producing high
quality RGB files from Camera Raw data, even in relatively inexperienced
hands. Future releases will no doubt improve on this, making it possible for
you to revisit you archived library and produce even better images for your
2050 retrospective.
Disadvantages
More to Do
In many digital imaging workflows, Raw images introduce an extra processing
stage as they must be converted to RGB files before they can be used,
for example, printed, added to a Web Page or undergo further editing.
Because Aperture treats all files as master images, and stores Versions and
their edits and adjustments internally, there is in fact little difference
between working with Raw files and JPEGs or TIFFs.
Bigger Files
Raw files are bigger than JPEGs and this has consequences all the way down
the line. It takes longer to write Raw files to a data card in the camera with
the obvious consequences for action photography. Raw files will take up
more hard disk space and, because of the necessity to generate an RGB TIFF if
you want to edit the image in Photoshop, it's necessary to produce duplicates.
On the upside, because Aperture handles all adjustments to the
original Raw master on the fly, there's no need to keep several edited
versions of images.
Proprietary, Closed Formats
As we've seen, Raw is not one format but encompasses many different
proprietary file formats. This carries a risk in terms of the availability of future
support for existing Camera Raw formats.