The RAW versus JPEG controversy has been going on since the dawn of the digital photography. Most professionals and advanced amateur photographers prefer to shoot in RAW, because the RAW format offers some real benefits that JPEG just can’t match. There are times, however, when JPEG can be the better choice.
Continuous Advance: JPEG is faster
JPEG’s real strength is action photography – when you need or want to shoot a motor driven sequence. In most dSLRs, shooting JPEG allows you to capture more frames per second (fps) and often permits more images to be recorded in a sequence. Of course, camera makers continue to push the envelope in dSLR design, so JPEG’s capture rate advantage may someday come to an end. For the immediate future, however, this one area where JPEG shines
Immediate use requires JPEG
A second area is when you want to use your images immediately. You might need images for the web or a Powerpoint deck. If you shoot JPEG you can skip post processing and grab the JPEGs right off your memory card. In addition, more and more photographers are starting to offer “instant printing” at events and functions. They haul along one of the new dye-sub printers and hand out instant promotional prints that were captured during the affair. It’s a great way to get your name and contact info in front of a crowd, and you don’t need to drag along a laptop, because these tiny printers can print directly off a memory card – no computer required. These printers can’t process RAW images, however, so you have to feed them JPEGs.
While these quick turnaround situations might be seem to be a good reason to shoot JPEG, don’t forget that many dSLRs offer a RAW plus JEPG setting. In this scenario you can use the JPEGs for instant turnaround, then process and make images from the RAW files when you have more time. So you have the best of both worlds, JPEGs for instant printing; and RAW files that you can use to create superior photos when the time allows.
Hard drive filling up? Try JPEG
A third area where JPEG images currently have the edge over RAW is file size. Typical JPEGs are much smaller than RAW images – resulting in quicker recording speed and reduced hard-drive storage. So you can typically store more JPEGs on a given memory card or hard drive. This may be a consideration for some, but with today’s inexpensive memory options, you have to ask yourself if it is really worth the trade off.
In most digital photography situations, shooting in the RAW format will produce superior images. As we have seen, however, there are still times when JPEG captures offer significant advantages.