Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lumix GM1 - RAW or JPEG?

My friend was wondering why I was shooting JPEG with the Lumix GM1, they were wrong; I was actually shooting both... the highest quality JPEG and the new RW2 RAW format, which I have a problem opening with my Photoshop CS5.

I know you can do it with the supplied, clunky Silkypix software, but unlike the name, the user interface is anything but silky!

Adobe to the rescue!  Last week Adobe released their latest, free DNG Converter 8.3, which allow me to convert the Lumix RW2 files to DNG format.

The question of whether you should use the Lumix RW2 RAW or the more universal DNG format can be found here.
Lets take a look if the RAW files from the GM1 are that much better than the converted DNG RAW.

Afterall, a DNG file weighs in at 13.1 MB big while the same JPEG file is only 2.7 MB, tiny!

Remember this shot?  Well, the top picture was DNG and the lower, from JPEG. They both look identical!  The JPEG colour look a bit more contrasty and punchy, you might like that to the more muted look of the DNG RAW.

So, why should I use up more storage on my SD card when I am able to shoot many more photos in JPEG?

That argument is hard to dispute because the quality of JPEG (provided you set your camera to the highest quality JPEG setting) is so good, you can be perfectly happy with the smaller files :)

What about your UNDER EXPOSED pictures? Will they come out better in RAW?  Lets take a look...

This picture was taken at our Wellington Airport two weeks ago, the little GM1 was fooled by the very strong backlit windows and decided to underexposed 5 stops!
The underexposed DNG file was opened in Adobe Camera Raw with the "Fill Light" set at 90%
The underexposed JPEG file was opened in Adobe Camera Raw with the "Fill Light" set at 100%
Can you see the DNG file having more details, especially in the shadow area; than the JPEG file which had 10% more "Fill Light" boost than the RAW file!  Lets zoom into the big bird and compare...

A 100% crop from the two underexposed DNG and JPEG images. Can you see how the RAW (DNG) image show smoother details than the JPEG (bottom)?

What about OVEREXPOSED images?

This shot of my work colleagues was purposely overexposed by filling in with the little in build flash of the GM1.  I estimated a whopping 7 stops over in the foreground, and a complete wash-out of the sun drenched background, more than 20 stops of frying? ;)

Can this picture be salvage to a usable image, if you have both a JPEG AND RAW?

Again, the top image was processed and adjusted from the vastly overexposed DNG RAW image, the lower, from JPEG.

I was actually amazed how well the compressed, lossy JPEG held out, sure; the RAW file is a bit better, but both files were useable!

But in the real world please try not to overexpose like me ;)

This was underexposed for two stops to preserve background detail, the image was then lightened up in ACR.

Famous Last Words...

If you own the small wonder (GM1) which can deliver incredible detail in your picture, it is perfectly safe to shoot just JPEGs.

But if you are a photographer that must have all the captured raw pixels and you only trust yourself to process it... go RAW ;)


I shoot both JPEG and RAW, using Adobe DNG converter; I convert all the RW2 files to DNG format and then I thrash all the RW2.  :)

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