Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When am I supposed to use JPEG fine, JPEG normal, JPEG basic and NEF(RAW) (...and what the heck do they mean, anyway?!)

Camera File Formats:  By Anya Knoth

If you have been using your camera for a while, you may have noticed a menu option called image quality. 

The options for this feature are JPEG fine, JPEG normal, JPEG basic and NEF(RAW)

Whoever invented those phrases obviously was not thinking about the fact that they make little sense, but that’s irrelevant. Hopefully, this guide will teach you what each option is and why you would want to ever use it.

Most of you probably know about JPEG, which is the standard file format for photos and is what we are all used to dealing with. JPEG files are pre-compressed by the camera, which basically means it takes the original photo and makes it slightly smaller and less detailed. Pretty much, no one will ever notice that. Because the JPEG is compressed, it is not the completely original file. This means that whenever you edit it, it loses a little bit of data and the more it is manipulated the worse it looks. That is basically the main problem.

The options for JPEG are basic, normal and fine. Basically, basic is the smallest, normal is the middle and fine is the most detailed. I always shoot in JPEG fine because it doesn’t really matter but it will get me good quality and that way I don’t have to worry about blowing images up super large.

Now RAW. RAW is essentially the original file, the complete data from the camera’s sensor. This file format is super big- because it is uncompressed, it is usually about 4x a large as a JPEG is. Also, RAW isn’t really a photo because it can’t be opened by most software. In order to use RAW, you have to get special software like photoshop, bridge or other free options that will allow you to edit it and convert it. Basically the only good thing about this file format is the fact that it is super big. Also, when you edit it, it has a much wider range in that the file is a lot less likely to look really bad after editing it for a while, so it can be manipulated at much greater lengths.

Essentially, RAW is a much bigger pain in the ass to use, and isn’t that useful most of the time. However, there are times when it is appropriate to use RAW. But at least shoot in JPEG fine.