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RAW Files


Heisler
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I finally broke down and picked up the camera I have had my eye on for some time. It was on sale, good price and I didn't have to buy it online so I have local support.

 

So this is a Nikon D50 which has the capability to store pictures in a RAW format (it can do JPG as well). Essentially this format is like developed but unprocessed film which means that the camera is not making any decisions for you which is what happens in a JPG. If you want to manipulate the image the RAW format is the why to go. RAW format files are very large because they contain so much information. This would, for instance, allow you to set the white balance with the software rather than have the camera do it when it creates the jpg.

 

Nikon, obviously, included their version of a RAW converter. They have an upgraded version of the software for an additional $100. So three questions. Is anybody here working with RAW files, what software are you using and do you like it?

 

By the way Nikon has dropped support for all but two of their film cameras (they are keeping their two high end F series cameras) and are now concentrating on the digital market. From what I understand Canon has done the same. Canon has gone one step further and is starting to make their lenses usable only with their digital cameras. Right now Nikon has not followed that trail completely but I wanted to get this D50 before that changed. They do make one lense (the 18-55 that is packaged with the high end D50 kit) that only works on their digital SLRs.

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I work with raw images with my camera, but I think it's stored in a proprietary format. In any event, my camera (a Pentax *istD) came with some software that handles these, and converts to JPG. It works fine for me, so I really don't have any helpful information for you.

 

The reason I bought my Pentax camera was because the lenses for my existing film SLR (a Pentax ZX-50, I think) were interchangeable with the digital one.

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That sounds like a sweet feature. Mine only saves in standard JPG files or large filesize TIFF format.

 

Sadly, Olympus (who made my digi) appear to be dropping their digital line altogether. There is still product support, but it looks like they've conceded the market to Canon and Nikon...much to my chagrin.

 

WAY down the road (or when I win the Lotto, whichever comes first), I want a good DSLR..and I'll be sure to look for RAW capability.

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Looks like all the DSLRs have the RAW format capability. Of course each manufacturer has their own slightly different version but it looks like the third party software is going to be able to keep up. The one I'm leaning towards right now is RAW Shooter Essentials added bonus its free.

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Right now I generally use Photoshop and ACDSee Pro for RAW file stuff. A lot of the basic stuff I handle with ACDSee (converting to useful formats, cropping, batch adjustments...). If I need to get in and really mess things up - I'll do that with Photoshop.

 

Probably 999 times out of 1000 though I just shoot JPG. RAW files really offer little over the JPG files unless you are dealing with very low contrast or otherwise unique images. Most of the internal processors are now able to do an amazing job at getting things right on their own...so the loss of color depth isn't a huge deal (dropping from 12 bits to 8 bits per channel on my camera). When I went back to compare two identical photos (one in RAW and one in Fine JPG format) in Photoshop, the histograms were nearly identical. Once I painfully did all the adjustments by hand and converted the RAW image to a useable JPG image, it was roughly 750 kB larger than the image created by the camera and had no more useful data based off from a numerical comparison of the images (I couldn't visually see any more detail, so I compared the image using a mosaic filter to see how close they matched...they ended up being 99.6% identical).

 

Anywho, while RAW are cool to play with if you have the time and the tools - I wouldn't use that as a factor on getting a camera. If you are looking for a good set of tools, take a look at ACDSee Pro. Very good toolset for the RAW files, as well as a lot for other images and generally takin control of your pictures.

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When I shoot in RAW format we use Nikon Capture Software. I prefer it to other converters tested and it's fully supported by Nikon Prp Services. More often I shoot JPEGs but there are situations that benefit from RAW file imaging.

Pixmantec's program is good as well and they have a trial version available.

Pixmantec

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Heisler, I have the same camera you do and while I'm not the best photographer, I am very talented at using Photoshop. I have really yet to see any drastic difference between RAW and the higher resolution JPG's that the D50 takes of my miniatures and scenery. When you add a lightbox into the eqaution it's even harder to see the differences unless you really know what you are looking for.

 

I find that it's personal preference which format to use, but I agree with Joe, Photoshop is a good pacakge to use for editing pictures (if you can afford it or get a student version of the app).

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Let see, the current price on Photoshop CS2 is $600 so that really is out of the question at this point in time.

 

I was messing around with pictures last night exploring the RAW Shooter Essentials program and I would have to say I didn't spend any more time editing RAW files than I would have spent editing JPG files. I didn't find it any more painful to move the slider bars in that program than I would have spent messing around with Photoshop (v5). Since I don't use Photoshop very much I find it to have a pretty high learning curve. I'm sure if I used it more it would be easier to use. RAW Shooter is much more intuitive to use. ACDsee looks interesting but it looks like its more of a photo managament system with editing capabilities and I'm really looking for a stand alone editor.

 

As near as I can tell all DSLRs shoot both RAW and JPG and sometimes TIFF formats (although I did find one that only shoots RAW). Some of the point and shoots also have a RAW option now. I certainly wouldn't be shooting RAW files for everything that I do, especially for your more standard point and shoot type of photography. On the other hand I tend to take high res JPGs which take up a fair amount of room themselves. Every picture I take is done with the intent to print it including miniature pictures. Actually especially miniature pictures, on 8x10 no less, nothing like being able to see all your screw ups to know what to correct.

 

However, the fact that the D50 has the RAW capability is more a bonus than anything else. My main goal was to be able to use all the equipment I already had before Nikon makes a move that will restrict it to just my film Nikons. Which means there are one or two lenses for my film Nikons that I need to get before they disappear. I'm more of an old school photographer I guess. I enjoy the work in the darkroom (and I did have my own wet darkroom for a number of years) manipulating the image and the RAW files are really going to let me do that more than the JPG files will. The negative is the score, the print is the performance.

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ACDSee started as a management tool many moons ago - but the current editing tool they bundle with it (Photoslate I think it is called) can do almost everything I can do with Photoshop...without the bells and whistles (and a much more limited filter set). Download the trial and give it a go.

 

With Photoshop, they often have discounted deals and what not that allow you to get it for a greatly reduced price (I use CS right now - and I think I got mine bundled with GoLive for right around $300 or so). A bit pricey for certain - but when you compare it to the old way of doing things (darkroom, darkroom equipment, darkroom chemicals) it is a steal of a deal.

 

Also, hit the bookstores in your area. Often you can get some good software from the throw away CD on the cover of computer magazines. The ones published by UK company Future publishing seem to have some of the best (Computer Arts and Computer Arts Projects most notably for this type of stuff). Generally come in at the $10 mark or so per issue - but they include a full version of software on almost every CD, plus lots of trial and educational versions.

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