RAW vs JPEG? The Debate Needs To End


Did I post-processed a RAW file or is this a camera-made JPEG? Does it matter?

There’s a debate in the photographic community that I get really tired of: RAW vs. JPEG. Most of the time, what I find is RAW shooters telling JPEG shooters that they shouldn’t shoot JPEGs for one reason or another. Usually there’s name-calling or a put-down thrown in or a condescending tone. Sometimes it’s the other way around, although I find that to be much more rare. Here’s my opinion: find what works best for you and your photography, and do that.

I wasn’t intending to write this post today, but over the last few days I’ve seen a number of articles and videos that tell me why RAW is really remarkable and JPEGs are just junk. Some make a reasonable argument, while others are absolutely ridiculous. Earlier today I watched a video that falls into the latter category, and that’s why I’m writing this.

Here’s the deal: it wasn’t very long ago that camera makers across all brands did a poor job at in-camera JPEGs. Some were better than others, but by-and-large none of them were great. RAW made sense, since you were going to be editing your pictures. But over the last decade every camera brand has improved their camera’s JPEGs, and some, like Fujifilm, have really made massive strides in this department. Today’s camera-made JPEGs are nothing like they were 10 years ago. Fujifilm’s JPEGs can look like post-processed RAW images, or even film-like. If you plan to edit your pictures, RAW is your best bet. If you don’t want to edit your pictures (or only lightly edit), you can achieve some great looks right out of camera. Neither option is the “right” or “wrong” way, just different means to an end, which is a finished photograph that you’re happy with.

Shoot RAW if that’s what you want to do. Shoot JPEG if that’s what you want to do. One method is not inherently better than the other. One way might be right for you, but wrong for another. You might find that you use both, just depending on the situation. While I almost always shoot JPEG, I do also still shoot RAW sometimes (it’s helpful for developing JPEG recipes). I used to shoot RAW exclusively once upon a time, but I don’t anymore.

RAW vs. JPEG is a tired debate. You don’t need to justify with strangers why you choose one over the other. I don’t want to hear why I’m “wrong” for shooting JPEGs. Don’t try to convince me that RAW is better. I won’t try to convince you to abandon RAW and shoot JPEG only. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and there is a time and place for both. I would encourage you, if you are unsure whether to shoot RAW or JPEG, to try both for a time, and see which you prefer. There isn’t one right path. The debate needs to end—find what works best for you and your photography, and do that!

Fujifilm X RAW Studio

Fujifilm recently launched X RAW Studio, which is a new RAW photo editing software with a twist. What’s unique is that it uses your Fujifilm camera’s built-in RAW editor to do the actual work. The program basically allows you to view and edit pictures on your computer monitor instead of the back of the camera, but you are still using the camera to post-process.

The latest firmware updates for X-Trans III cameras (plus the GFX-50S) allow you to pair the camera to the X RAW Studio software. For the X100F this was the “big” change with the 2.0 firmware update. If you don’t have the latest firmware update, you can’t use X RAW Studio. As of December 2017, X RAW Studio is only available for Mac, but a Windows version is slated to be released sometime in January of 2018.

To use the software, you must first go into the camera’s settings menu and, under the wrench, choose Connection Setting, then PC Connection Mode, and then USB RAW Conversion. If you don’t do that it won’t work. If you select the USB RAW Conversion setting and you normally upload your pictures to your computer using a USB cable, that will no longer work, so consider how you transfer your photos from your camera to your computer.

Speaking of transferring images from the camera to the computer, I thought that you could do this using X RAW Studio, but you cannot. Even though the camera is attached to the computer via a USB cable, you cannot transfer anything or even view the pictures. You have to transfer your images to the computer before you can use the software. If your files aren’t already on the computer X RAW Studio won’t be able to find them. It would be much more convenient if you could use the software to transfer files from the camera to the computer, and I hope a future update will allow this.


Old Log In Kolob Canyon – Zion NP, UT – Fujifilm X100F

If your Fujifilm camera is set to RAW or RAW+JPEG, you can use X RAW Studio to edit the RAW files and convert them to JPEGs. The software sends the RAW file through the USB cable back to the camera (where it is processed) and then sends a finished JPEG to the computer. When using the GFX-50S, there is an option to save as TIFFs instead of JPEGs, but it’s only available for that one camera. It would be appreciated if a future update allowed the TIFF option no matter the camera.

The post-processing options that X RAW Studio provides are the exact same ones found on your camera’s built-in RAW converter. Using this software is the same as doing the RAW conversions on your camera. The only benefits are that you can see it on a large screen and you can batch edit. I like that there’s a histogram, and so you get a better idea of what exactly each adjustment is doing. But beyond that, there’s nothing particularly exciting about X RAW Studio.

I was hoping it was something that would give me the flexibility of fixing the occasional exposure that I didn’t get quite right in-camera while not slowing down my process too much. What I found is that it slowed me down a whole bunch, but I was able to fix some photographs that needed work because I screwed up when I captured them. So it was helpful in one aspect and not in another.

I think, for the RAW+JPEG shooter, the best way to use the software is to set aside the RAW files for the occasional pictures that need work, and then use it for those few pictures. If you’re sorting through hundreds of exposures, it’ll take much too long using X RAW Studio. It could simply supplement your current process from time-to-time when needed.


Nagunt Mesa Monochrome – Zion NP, UT – Fujifilm X100F

If you are a RAW-only photographer, I don’t suspect you’ll find much use for this software because you probably paid money for something that’s much more capable. However, if you like the look of the different film simulations, perhaps you might find some use for it. If you are a JPEG-only shooter, this software does nothing for you.

I hope Fujifilm improves X RAW Studio in the future. Besides adding the ability to transfer photos from the camera to the computer with the software and the option to save-as TIFFs, I have a couple of other suggestions that would make it more useful. I think adding a Digital Teleconverter would be great. When you shoot RAW+JPEG you cannot use the camera’s built-in Digital Teleconverter, so having the option to use it in X RAW Studio would be very helpful. Another suggestion would be the ability to crop, even if it is the same simple crop option found in the camera.

Fujifilm’s X RAW Studio is a unique software for converting RAW files to JPEGs. I imagine that some people will find it useful and many will not. It’s brand new, and I think that some improvements are coming in the future, and if done right, it could be a nice tool. I suggest trying it and seeing what you think for yourself. Just keep your expectations low.

Old Log In Kolob Canyon was originally captured in-camera using my Velvia Film Simulation recipe, but, using X RAW Studio, I reprocessed the RAW file using my Vintage Kodachrome Film Simulation recipeNagunt Mesa Monochrome was originally captured using my Velvia Film Simulation recipe, but I reprocessed it using my Acros Push-Process Film Simulation recipe.

Fujifilm X100F: 8-Bit JPEG or 14-Bit RAW?


After writing Digital Film – Why I Shoot JPEGs With the Fujifilm X100Fone piece of feedback that I received was in regards to bit-depth. JPEG produces an 8-bit file while RAW on the X100F produces a 14-bit file. Why wouldn’t I want more bit-depth? Why would I ever choose 8-bit over 14-bit?

You may be confused about what exactly all this bit stuff is about, so let me briefly explain. Computers use a language comprised of a series of zeros and ones, which is known as binary code. A “bit” is a single digit, either a zero or a one. An eight digit string of zeros and ones would be 8-bit (JPEG files are 8-bit). Likewise a fourteen digit string of zeros and ones would be 14-bit (RAW files are typically 12, 14 or 16-bit). For every dot (or square, really) in a picture there are three separate strings of zeros and ones stored, one for each color channel (red, green and blue).

The entire photograph is stored this way. It’s a seemingly endless string of zeros and ones. Literally thousands of strings of zeros and ones. If you put all of those numbers together in software, it makes an image that can be viewed. An 8-bit file is significantly smaller than a 14-bit file.

More is always better, right? Well, it depends. A larger file contains much more information than a smaller file. You have a larger amount to play with. But it also takes up more memory, which will effect storage and software speed.


Bicycle Blue – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Because a 14-bit file has a lot more information, it can hold up better to manipulation. If you are going to be making significant adjustments to your pictures, you’ll probably want as much information as you can get. An 8-bit file can handle some editing, but it’s not difficult to push it too far, and the image will begin to degrade. Banding is a common side effect of this.

8-bit is capable of recording more colors than the human eye can perceive. It can handle smooth gradations. If you don’t significantly alter your 8-bit files, there are no practical advantages to 14-bit. It’s only when you try to change the data too much after the fact (adjusting color and luminance) that 14-bit comes in handy.

My Fujifilm X100F captures an exposure in 14-bit whether in RAW or JPEG format. After the exposure, if I save in JPEG, the software processes the 14-bit file and throws away 6-bits of data, information that has been deemed unnecessary. It compress the file to 8-bit. It’s the same as if you edited the RAW file on your computer and saved the finished image in JPEG format.

The reason that a lot of people choose 14-bit (RAW) over 8-bit (JPEG) is because their cameras don’t make very good JPEGs, so they have to post-process their pictures. They’re going to be manipulating the files a bunch, so more bit-depth comes in handy.


Hair & Lips – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X100F

The Fujifilm X100F is capable of creating excellent JPEGs that rarely require any manipulation. It’s pretty incredible, yet it’s sad, considering where digital technology is today, that most cameras make substandard JPEGs. Your camera doesn’t have to be bad at JPEGs, and thankfully Fujifilm bucks the trend by committing to JPEG quality. Other camera makers should follow suit.

There are people who will swear that 14-bit is superior to 8-bit, and will scoff at those who think 8-bit is plenty good. I have seen where a single RAW file is edited and then converted to a TIFF (which retains all the data) and a JPEG (which throws away some of the data). It’s the same picture, just one is 14-bit and one is 8-bit. Then a massive crop is made from each file and the two are compared side-by-side. The person will proclaim, “Look, the TIFF is better!” And I look at it and don’t see any difference. “Maybe, just maybe, there is a little more shadow detail,” I say to myself. Maybe.

But nobody looks at images that closely. And nobody in real life compares two versions of the same image side-by-side. If you placed an enlargement on a wall and asked viewers to determine if it had been printed from an 8-bit JPEG or a 14-bit TIFF, nobody could answer correctly outside of a lucky guess. And, perhaps more importantly, nobody would care.

A larger bit-depth is only advantageous if you will be manipulating your images. If your camera makes junk JPEGs, then you’ll be doing just that. But if your camera makes great straight-out-of-camera JPEGs, then you won’t be editing the files, and there is no advantage to the larger bit-depth. And that’s why I don’t really care about bit-depth when it comes to the X100F.

Digital Film – Why I Shoot JPEGs With The Fujifilm X100F


I don’t shoot RAW with my Fujifilm X100F. I rely on camera-made JPEGs.

Wait! Don’t click the X in the corner! Let me explain.

Those who shoot JPEGs have been unfairly stigmatized. It’s kind of crazy. You will find on message boards, social media posts, and in the comment section of websites this argument that RAW is for pros and JPEG is for amateurs.

And it’s not true. Or not completely true. But it’s touted as if it’s common knowledge.

There are many professional photographers who don’t use RAW. Perhaps they don’t have time to mess with it (constantly off to new assignments or their photos are needed immediately). Maybe their clients demand straight-out-of-camera JPEGs (think photojournalists). Or they simply like the look of their camera-made JPEGs (mostly, this is Fujifilm users). Whatever the reason, there are many pros that prefer JPEGs over RAW. No, really, this is a fact.


And vice versa. There are plenty of amateurs that shoot RAW because someone on the internet said that they should. They don’t know what they’re doing or why, but they’re doing it anyway because they don’t want to be thought of as amateurish.

So if professional photographers are using JPEG and amateurs are using RAW, what does this do for that argument that RAW is for pros and JPEG is for amateurs? It shows that it is poppycock–empty words by people who try to make themselves seem superior.

“But, really, you should learn how to use RAW,” someone is saying in their heads right now. If that’s you, here is something you should know: I’ve been shooting and editing RAW files for a decade. I’ve shot tens of thousands of RAW exposures. I know all about RAW. I might even have more experience with it than you. So stop.

It’s ridiculous that I have to qualify this before I even begin to type the rest of this article. But if I don’t, everything else that I want to say will be dismissed. People will tune out.

Digital Film


Sitting Large – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

It’s been well known for several years now that Fujifilm has the best JPEG engine in the business. Yes, Canon and Nikon both make good JPEGs, but there is just something about those from Fujifilm cameras–that Fujifilm look!

With the X100F, Fujifilm has elevated the camera-made JPEG to a whole new level. They made several significant improvements. They added a new monochrome setting and film grain. This is a big deal!

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to talk a little about how Fujifilm rethought the whole camera-made JPEG concept. They approached it differently, and it shows in the results.

You are probably well aware that Fujifilm was a popular film manufacturer well before digital photography was big. They still make film. The soul of the company is analog film photography.

Fujifilm took their knowledge and experience with film and applied it to their digital cameras. They designed and programmed that analog soul into their modern cameras.


Hair & Lips – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Instead of traditional JPEG settings, Fujifilm made Film Simulations, which mimic the look of different 35mm films. My favorites are Acros and Classic Chrome. They even have fake (yet convincing) film grain as an option. They tried to make their JPEGs look less digital and more film-like.

You can see this in how they process digital noise. It looks completely different on Fujifilm cameras. They did their best to make the noise look less digital and more organic, more like film grain.

Fujifilm also came up a neat little trick for maximizing dynamic range. Basically, the camera underexposes to prevent clipped highlights, then increases the shadows and midtones to the appropriate level. It’s very seamless, but the results are far superior to the narrow dynamic range found on typical camera-made JPEGs.

Because of things like that, Fujifilm JPEGs are better than everyone else’s. I call it Digital Film.

RAW Because You Have To


KeyBank Building – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Let’s face it, the reason that almost everyone who shoots RAW does so is because they have to, and not because they want to. Their cameras make JPEGs that aren’t good enough. If their JPEGs didn’t stink so bad, they’d certainly rely on them. But since they aren’t reliable, people choose RAW format instead.

But camera-made JPEGs don’t have to stink. Your camera could be programmed in such a way that the strait-out-of-camera JPEGs look like how you would make them look if you shot RAW and post-processed them on your computer. The technology exists. Camera makers just haven’t included it in their products.

If the JPEGs produced by your camera matched the look of your post-processed RAW files, why would you continue to shoot RAW? Why wouldn’t you save a whole ton of time and money and shoot JPEG instead?

The Fujifilm X100F is the first camera that I have ever used that I feel produces JPEGs that match how I would edit my RAW files. It creates in-camera the look that I want. That’s why I don’t shoot RAW. That’s why I am now a JPEG only guy.



Lightning Strikes Antelope Island – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F

When I shot film (I still do occasionally), and I shot a lot of it, I had my go-to options. I used Velvia 50, Ektachrome 100VS and 100SW, and Kodachrome 25 and 64 for color. I used Ilford Delta 100 and 400 for black and white. I used plenty of other films over the years, but those were my main options.

When you shot film, you exposed a whole roll of it, typically 24 or 36 exposures. All of the images you captured had a consistent look because they were captured using the same film. When you embarked on a project, you used the same film for the entirety of that project.

Even thinking long term, my images had a consistent look because most were captured with one of a handful of different films. Over the course of years, even decades, there was a uniformity to the look of my pictures.


Ilford Harman Technology – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

That’s a lot harder to accomplish digitally because there are so many options and ways to customize each image. For example, Alien Skin Exposure X2 has over 500 one-click presets that can be heavily customized. With so many choices, it takes some serious discipline and restraint to stick with just a few. Creating and applying an undeviating style to your RAW workflow is something that’s rarely realized.

I think it’s better to have a consistent look that you can easily recognize. Especially within projects. It shouldn’t be all over the place. It looks incoherent if its inconsistent.

By shooting JPEG and relying on the Film Simulations found in the X100F, I can get back to the consistent look that I achieved as a film shooter. I have a few custom recipes that I use, and because of that there is a uniformity that my pictures lacked for a long time.



Haugen – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100F

There’s been a lot of controversy lately with photographer’s use of Photoshop. Some very big names have shown up in the news. There’s been many debates on how much editing is too much. It’s all subjective, and so the line will always remain grey. Besides, people have been manipulating pictures since the early days of photography.

But there is a point when a photograph loses its authenticity. Its not hard to move from photography into graphic design or digital artistry. Photography is less believable now than it used to be.

I get asked often, “Is that how it really looked? How much did you Photoshop this?” People look at photography as a mix of reality and fantasy. They don’t take it at face value anymore. It lacks truth, it lacks authenticity.


Man In The Straw Hat – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

It’s like the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I think people are tired of being fooled and tricked by pictures that have been heavily manipulated.

Many news outlets have begun requiring that only straight-out-of-camera JPEGs be submitted. There have been too many examples where some photograph in a big story turned out to be significantly edited. Now many news outlets want only what the camera captured, no manipulation please! This is to save the integrity of the genre, which has lost significant credibility.

Shooting JPEGs allows you to answer, “This is how the camera captured it. I didn’t use Photoshop or any other software. This is straight from the camera unedited.” This isn’t for bragging rights. There is value in creating authentic pictures, and this is becoming more true every day.



Yashica Rangefinder & Fujicolor – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Several weeks ago I was asked to photograph for someone, and he needed the pictures immediately. He paid me a higher premium for this service. I made my exposures and, using the screen on the back of my X100F, deleted the ones that weren’t good. After I was finished I uploaded the pictures directly to his laptop. From the moment that I arrived to the delivery of the finished pictures was about an hour–photoshoot completely finished and check in my hand.

As I was driving away, I thought that this is how it should be every time. In the past I would have spent a day post-processing the pictures. But since the straight-out-of-camera JPEGs look so darn good, I felt more than comfortable delivering them to the client unedited. And this person contacted me twice afterwards to tell me just how pleased he was with the pictures. “They were perfect,” he said.

I save so much time and money by not shooting RAW. There are plenty of good reasons to choose JPEG instead, all of which I laid out above. All of the photographs in this article that were captured using the X100F are straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I just wish that there wasn’t such a stigmatic attitude towards it. But times are changing, and technology is advancing, and I think that the lowly camera-made JPEG will see new life in the upcoming years.