RAW Format Explained

Raw Format Explained

What is RAW Format?

First of all, let’s explain what RAW is. The word RAW, which we see with the use of objects such as fruit and vegetables, is a term in photography that tells the photographer that no action has been taken by the camera and the photograph has not been processed.

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Today, many cameras are capable of taking pictures in this format in any size. In the case of this file format in such cameras, the light information generated in the sensor is written directly to the memory card. Variables such as color, white balance, contrast are not transferred to the photo, but most of the settings are saved as separate elements in this file. In this way, we have obtained the purest form of the photograph, and since all the data are added as separate elements, we also have the possibility to edit these settings without losing the image quality.

“The RAW format can be compared to the negative film in the dark room in the analog period. People already called the RAW files the digital negatives.”

This format on the memory card occupies more space than the JPEG file format. RAW photos do not appear in our cameras as .raw. Instead of this file format, each brand has created its own format. At the end of our article, you can find out the RAW format of the camera brands.

Why should we take RAW photos?

1. Storing Photos

The RAW file records all the light color and contrast information of the captured image separately. Thus, no matter how much time passes, this format file is the most advantageous format for storing your photos. If we want to make some arrangements with new applications after years, we can make many different arrangements by recalling all the information in RAW format. In addition, with the advancement of technology in color editing and processing, we can adapt these improved techniques to our old RAW photos.

2. Adjusting White Balance

The cameras are not as successful as our eyes. If we look at a scene with our eyes at any time of the day, we will choose the right colors despite a lot of light deviations, but this is not the case for our cameras. The cameras detect colors but can’t recognize them, so we need to adjust what color of the wavelength corresponds to our camera.

This setting is called white balance. The white balance is processed directly on the photos as JPEG. Because these color settings are processed on the image, changing it later causes us to renounce sharpness and photo quality, but when we shoot in RAW, the white balance is not applied to the picture, instead, all white balance values are saved as separate elements in the photo file. In this way, we can change the white balance from the computer without disturbing the picture quality and sharpness.

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3. Reducing Noise

Another advantage of RAW photography is that it is possible to correct the distortion that we call noise or grain. As you know, when the light is insufficient, distortion occurs in the photos taken with high ISO value. You can edit these distortions in this format in the best way. In JPEG or other formats, you can also do noise reduction, but you will experience a lot of loss in color, texture, sharpness. To minimize this loss, be sure to take photos at night in this format.

4. Color Adjustment

This image format is a great way to change color, brightness, and contrast without any loss of quality. This format, which allows for easy correction of distortion and chromatic aberration, allows us to make a wider range of color arrangements as it provides more bit depth than JPEG or other formats.

5. Good Prints

If you want to print your photos, you should definitely choose this format. This format has 12-14 bit density information, has much more color information than JPEG format, and of course, a more flexible color range provides you with the highest quality when printing. Normally, some color, contrast and brightness adjustments are made in order to make the photo to be printed better. These adjustments to JPEG images reduce the quality of the picture, but you will not experience such a problem in this format.

Of course, if this format is so good, why does JPEG have another format? RAW photos have advantages over JPEG photos, as well as JPEG photos have advantages over RAW photos. Now let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages/Disadvantages of RAW


  • Delivers much higher quality and color depth than JPEG.
  • As a result of sharpening and noise reduction, there is a minimal quality loss in the photograph.
  • JPEG uses a specified color space on the camera, but you can select it in RAW format when editing the desired color space.
  • RAW files have 12-14-16 bit color density values. JPEG photography provides only 8-bit density. For this reason, this format photography provides much more sensitive data in shadow, bright, saturated regions.
  • When JPEG or other file formats go through compression, this format delivers all the data that the camera uses.
  • You can change the color, brightness, sharpness, and saturation of the images you take with this format without any fear of any distortions.


  • The RAW uses much more memory than JPEG. For example, a JPEG photo uses a memory of 5-15mb, while a RAW photo uses a memory of 20-80mb. This causes your memory card to fill faster.
  • This format generates too much data. It may take some time to be write this format images to the memory card while you are taking pictures. For this reason, the number of frames you take per second in the burst option decreases due to size. For example; The Canon 77D can hold up to 6 frames per second in JPEG format, 30 photos per second, while in RAW this number drops to 19.
  • Almost every brand has created its own RAW format. For this reason, adaptation problems may occur when you open photos in different softwares.

RAW Formats Used by Camera Manufacturers and Softwares

Adobe: .dng
Canon: .crw .cr2
Casio: .bay
Epson: .erf
Fuji: .raf
Hasselblad: .3fr
Kodak: .dcs .dcr .drf .k25 .kdc .tif
Leaf: .mos
Leica: .raw .rwl .dng
Mamiya: .mef
Minolta: .mrw
Nikon: .nef .nrw
Olympus: .orf
Panasonic: .raw .rw2
Pentax: .ptx .pef
Phase One: .cap .tif .iiq .eip
RED: .r3d
Samsung: .pef, .nef
Sigma: .x3f
Sony: .arw .srf .sr2


As a result, this photo format is a great feature that makes it easy for the photographer to save a lot of photos thanks to softwares. We have to make use of this feature when we are going to use high ISO at night shots or when we make adjustments in our photos. If you don’t have a problem with memory and software, it is in your best interest to take every photo in RAW format.

Do you have any other information about the RAW format? Left your ideas and questions in the comments section below! and please don’t forget to follow kuulphoto.com on Twitter @kuulphoto


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