According to Sony, “Lossless compression is a popular format that allows you to reduce image size without compromising on quality.” which begs the question – why bother shooting in uncompressed raw at all? Don’t bother is the short answer to that. Ha!
So, if you’re curious about the differences between them, let’s take a look at the uncompressed raw, lossless compressed raw and compressed raw files to compare them to see and understand their differences.
Uncompressed Raw Vs Compressed Raw
To set the record straight, I shoot compressed raw on my Fujifilm X-T5. This is because it’s the best combination of file size and file data to meet my needs, which I’ll explain later in this post. Peppered throughout the post are some pictures to make it more visually pleasing, none of which are uncompressed raw. And before we get into why I shoot using compressed raw, here is a side-by-side example of the three different raw files from my X-T5.
To compare the files as closely as possible, this flower was taken in each raw format with precisely the same camera settings. They have also been batch processed with the identical Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) adjustments, which you can see below. Because picture dimensions are reduced for the web, you will find download links below to see the adjusted files only because WordPress won’t allow the upload of the Fujifilm raw files.
Shot 1: Uncompressed – 81.04 MB
Shot 2: Lossless Compressed – 38.03 MB
Shot 3: Compressed – 26.06 MB
White balance – 4600k
Aperture – f/2.4
Shutter speed – 1/30 sec
ISO – 200
Lens – Fujifilm 60mm Macro
There are two differences between the files. The file sizes are significantly different, and the original files do not look significantly different. The compressed raw file is less than 1/3rd of the size of the uncompressed file, and the lossless compressed is under 1/2 the size, and there is next to no difference between the pictures produced.
Once I applied the adjustments in ACR, the differences remained as insignificant as the originals, which is no surprise. The test wasn’t to see if I could replicate a file I preferred; it was to see if there was a difference between the files, which there is: size and minor differences in the pictures. I have zero preference between the output shots because the differences are so minor, but I have no doubt it would be possible to match the one you had a preference for.
2 Reasons to Shoot Compressed Raw
Raw is intertwined with our human needs. We have this insatiable appetite for preservation. We don’t like to get rid of stuff, and we appreciate the thought of preserving everything we can in the best way we can, even though it may have no practical benefit. So, is it time you considered shooting compressed raw? Here are two reasons you might want to.
1 | The Perfect Blend of JPEG and Raw
I never used to shoot raw until I started to take travel photography seriously. I found that shooting raw never offered sufficient benefits over JPEG for the amount of content I was creating in my own time, which wasn’t much. JPEG was adequate for my needs. And it still would be if I wasn’t shooting tons more imagery. Shooting in a raw format is about something other than quality or detail or how much I can edit a file (because there isn’t much difference, believe it or not). It’s far more straightforward than that.
When I started to shoot a lot more travel photography for this blog, I wanted to match colour temperatures and whatnot for several pictures, which is where the raw files came in handy. That’s because it’s possible to match kelvin values in the edit, whereas you can’t match these values with the JPEG files. But apart from that, a JPEG file met my needs; they are still highly editable, despite what people tell you. Go and test it for yourself and find out. You’ll see a JPEG file can perform well.
Anyway, fast forward to the X-T5, and I found the raw files are insanely big – upwards of 80 MB for an average file. The files are enormous and take up too much space on my Mac and in my online storage for my liking. Then there appeared to be a better solution – shooting compressed raw. It gives me all the flexibility of a raw file at less than half of the file size. Perfect, right? Do they have a third of the detail? No, of course not.
The compressed raw files offer the perfect balance between JPEG and raw files – they are small, like JPEGS, but provide the extra flexibility to adjust the things I’m interested in to match files, such as white balance. JPEGs are overlooked and underrated, and in many cases, they are excellent. For me, they lack one crucial factor, which is control of the white balance, but more importantly, being able to match it between frames if I’ve shot in auto white balance (which I almost always do). I don’t particularly care that JPEGs don’t contain as many colours as raw files because, for the most part, they have enough.
This is where compressed raw files come in – they offer better file sizes, which I’ll talk about next, but offer the flexibility to adjust certain things better and have a greater bit depth if that’s something you’re concerned about.
2 | The File Sizes are Smaller
As you’ve seen, the file sizes are significantly smaller in both the lossless compressed and compressed raw files than in the uncompressed raw file, yet there isn’t a significant difference in the output files. And back to Sony’s point – if lossless compressed raw enables you to reduce the file size without reducing the quality, then why bother wasting the storage space an uncompressed raw file consumes?
Storage is a concern for me. Storage costs money, despite how cheap it is. And the more data, the longer the transfer times between camera and laptop and laptop and cloud storage. As transfer speeds improve between the camera and the computer and the computer and the internet, this problem degrades. Still, it seems a waste of time, no matter how small, and a waste of computer and cloud storage space to transfer and store uncompressed raw files when they have no significant benefit over compressed raw files.
Finally, here are a few bullet points to summarise the fundamental differences between uncompressed raw vs compressed raw files.
What are the differences between raw files?
- Uncompressed raw:
- An uncompressed raw file preserves all the data captured from the sensor.
- No file compression.
- Uncompressed raw produces the largest file sizes.
- Lossless compressed raw:
- Lossless compression reduces file size without compromising quality.
- The file is compressed and can be uncompressed, like a ZIP file.
- A lossless compressed image is processed by post-processing software.
- Smaller files than uncompressed raw, but larger than compressed raw.
- Compressed raw:
- Compressed raw removes some of the information in the file.
- A compressed raw file requires less storage space.
- Compressed raw formats can’t be decompressed, meaning they lose some data.
- Compressed raw produces the smallest file sizes of the three formats.
What’s the difference between uncompressed raw and compressed raw?
The difference between uncompressed raw and compressed raw is that all information is retained in the uncompressed raw file, and some information is lost in the compressed raw. In real terms, the output file has very little noticeable difference. However, there is a significant difference in the file sizes.
Uncompressed Raw Vs Compressed Raw
- Uncompressed Raw Vs Compressed Raw
- 2 Reasons to Shoot Compressed Raw
- What are the differences between raw files?
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