If you shoot RAW files you’ll have noticed by now that the colours and tonal renditions you get from third-party RAW converters like Adobe Camera Raw, DxO Optics Pro or Capture One do not quite match those of the in-camera JPEGs.
That’s because the camera has its own internal RAW converter. Whether you shoot RAW or JPEG, the image is initially captured as RAW data. If you shoot RAW, the RAW files are saved out as-is to the memory card. If you shoot JPEGs, the RAW data is converted on the fly into JPEGs, which are then saved on the card.
The thing is that all RAW converters are different. Third-party RAW converters don’t use the same RAW conversion process as the camera (or the camera maker’s own RAW conversion software). Instead, they use their own. It’s like swapping from a film maker’s own developer in the old days, to a different formulation from an independent company.
Now you may often prefer the look that Capture One gives to your Nikon NEFs, or you may like what DxO Optics Pro does with your Pentax PEFs, but it can work the other way too. Sometimes you have to do quite a bit of work on your RAW files to get them back to the visual appeal of the in-camera JPEGs.
So that’s why I want to point out a feature in many current D-SLRs and CSCs that’s often overlooked – in-camera RAW conversion. Increasingly, camera makers are adding the ability to process RAW files already saved on the memory card. You can change things like white balance, exposure compensation, picture style (‘landscape’, ‘black and white’ etc) and then save out a new, processed JPEG alongside the RAW original.
You don’t get the same depth of control as RAW converters on a computer, but you do get quick access to the most commonly-used tweaks AND you get exactly the colour and tonal reproduction the camera maker intended.
This was really brought home to me when I started shooting with a Fuji XA-1. Fujifilm cameras deliver their own particular ‘look’, and the only way to get it is by shooting JPEGs. I haven’t yet found any RAW converter that can deliver the same results, and I’m including the one that comes with the camera. This is SilkyPix, a low-cost generic RAW converter also used by Panasonic. SilkyPix isn’t just complex and messy (don’t get me started!), it doesn’t even reproduce the Fujifilm ‘look’.
That’s why I love the fact camera has in-built RAW conversion tools. I can shoot RAW files I can tweak where I need to and save out images that look as Fujifilm intended.
I set this site up to talk about Photoshop alternatives, so I don’t want to overlook the one inside the camera…