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Comparison of Different Camera RAW Formats

There is a lot of confusion and debate which surrounds camera RAW formats. This is mostly due to whether or not you should shoot in RAW or some other type of format. In this article we will clarify exactly what RAW mode is and the difference between the different RAW formats.

RAW Mode Defined

When you are shooting with a digital camera, the volume of light which reaches each pixel is recorded by an imaging chip inside the camera. The recording is an analog voltage which is then converted into a digital characterization. Depending upon the type of camera you have, the circuitry will determine the amount of data bits that are recorded. The number of data bits will determine the level of brightness in the exposure.

The amount of brightness you can achieve with the photo is determined by the format in which you save an image. If you save it in RAW format, this allows you to work with a greater number of brightness levels as opposed to saving it in JPG. Camera RAW files are considered to be unprocessed, which means you have more to work with when you process the photos on your PC. This includes tint, hue and temperature adjustments, to name a few processes. For these reasons, RAW format is the preferred format for working with digital images.

Different Camera RAW Formats

There are different RAW formats. Let’s take a look at a few common RAW formats to compare the differences. Note that different types of RAW photos are saved by a specific brand of camera but can be processed with a broad range of image editing programs.

  • SRF: This is a RAW format which is used by upper end cameras manufactured by Sony. This type can be processed using conversion software for image data which is compatible with the Windows operating system.
  • NEF: It is a RAW format which is used with Nikon cameras and is stored in the exact format as recorded by CCD (Charged-Coupled Device) technology. NEF can be processed with Nikon Capture software using a Windows-based PC and by Mac OS compatible software.
  • CR2: The CR2 format is a RAW image format that is created by high-end Canon digital cameras. It is based on TIFF (Tagged Image File Format). However, if you have an earlier Canon, then the image will be in CRW format based on CIFF, or Camera Image File Format. You can process CR2 with ZoomBrowser software or Canon Digital Photo Professional for Mac OS.
  • ORF: This is a format used with Olympus digital cameras. The format varies according to the type of Olympus camera you are using. The images are taken using the camera’s sensor with exposure settings modified with Olympus Master for MacOS and Windows.
  • RAF: It refers to uncompressed RAW images that are produced using a high-end Fuji digital camera. RAF is typically produced along with a JPG version and can be processed using Fuji Hyper-Utility Software for both Windows and Mac OS.
  • PEF: This is an uncompressed RAW format which stands for Pentax Electronic Format and is produced by a Pentax digital camera. The image is taken with the camera’s sensor minus color modifications and compression and can be processed using the Pentax Photo Browser or Photo Laboratory for both Windows and Mac OS.

These are a few of the common types of RAW formats used with different brands of digital cameras. It is also important to mention that all formats can be processed using Adobe Creative Suite CS6. If you are working with the Linux operating system, you can process RAW formats using Google Picasa or GIMP editing software.

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