Part 1 – The road to RAW…
In the last posting pondering the quirks of digital photography I ended by giving up comparing the two cameras (E500 versus E620 part 1, part 2) and trying to settle for my black and whites just looking different with the E620. But it seems there is no cure for curiosity and the addiction to dig into things.
In the beginning of my own personal digital era I had stalked RAW as everyone told me it was so much better to work with but at that moment it was a bit too much to take in with all the other changes I was trying to digest. So I had shelved the idea for later use. When discussing the results of my experiments after the camera change with my inspiring photo-mail-mate Rinus, among other things also the Picasa guru, he hinted that ‘maybe I should take RAW off the shelve and have another look at it?’ Now, why didn’t I think of that? :-) And off I was, taking pictures in RAW format.
Taking the pictures is no problem of course. It is the same as with jpg, no special settings required except the RAW mode. Color or monotone have no influence on the results, at least not on my Olympus, though some developing software will not show the color info if the camera is set to monotone (e.g. Olympus Master2). But with the correct software you can still go colour or black and white as you wish in a later stage. In the case of the E620 using monotone only changes the LCD display. I tend to leave that on monotone, maybe just out of habit… Importing with Olympus Master does not show the color info but the moment the photos arrive in LR, the colors are there – so no panic… Exposure should still be as accurate as possible depending on what you want to see, of course. A good practice in the beginning is using the RAW & jpg setting a few times so you can compare exactly the same photo and see the difference in details and developing possibilities.
For those who have never worked with RAW, it can be compared vaguely with the negative of the old-fashioned analogue photography. But as Rinus remarked after reading the English version, this definition I used out of sheer habit is confusing. What you get is a positive picture, not a negative. It is the full sensor capture without the compression jpg imposes in the camera and the color information is added to it. Nor is the color info comparable with the negatives of ‘olden times’ that showed only three colors and needed dark room or lab work to turn into what we would recognize as a photo. With RAW you do get all the colors you had seen when taking the picture. The comparison with a negative may be based on the fact that both, the negative and RAW captures contain the basic details and need some developing to become a good photo. And Adobe launching the concept of ‘digital darkroom’ probably did not help much in clearing the negative/RAW confusion.
Ok, let’s continue then.. All the above makes for huge files as you might be able to imagine. About the maximum of what your camera can produce by way of pixels. In my case each RAW capture is somewhere between 11 and 13 MB. So, if you should think of trying it, make sure your computer can handle all those pixels and that you won’t have to reboot each time you have been working on one or two photos🙂 It is also important to put a memory card in your camera that can handle those sizes. My 620 has 12 mega pixels and with a 4 GB card I can go over 200 pictures, just to give you an idea.
The next step is ‘developing’ the ‘negative’ – and again no, your camera does not give you a negative picture, don’t worry… it looks the same as your jpg except that it is better. With the appropriate software that recognizes RAW you are able to fiddle with much more details in white balance, colors or gray tones than it would ever be possible in jpg format.
But there are catches…
Almost each software packet that comes free and can handle RAW to a degree seems to produce a different interpretation of the color info attached to RAWs as I could see from the experiments of Rinus, my above mentioned photo-friend. We were both very surprised to see the results.
I have no experience with IrfanView or XnView that Rinus works with but I do have my own collection of free software. So I walked a few RAWs through Olympus Master2, FastStone and once more through Picasa, this time trying black and white as well as that was the reason I had switched to RAW in the first place. Though FastStone and Picasa came out best in colors, I was not really happy. Qualitywise it was a definite ‘yessss!’ but b&w still gave me better results in CS2 as a jpg…
It turned out that an older version of some software will not recognize the more recent RAW format of a camera as happened to me in Photoshop CS2. Even if Olympus uses .orf extension for RAW captures, apparently behind the screens not every orf is an orf. Or so thinks my CS2… E500 was still ok but the E620 got a response that to me looked like the equivalent of ‘Euh?….’ As the CS2 is also kind of old for the Adobe RAW plug-in you can attach to newer versions, I seemed to have arrived at a point I had to take some serious decisions…
It was then that I remembered Lightroom…
Click for PART 2
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