JPG vs RAW – Tests – Day 1

Following the previous post about Ken Rockwell’s article, “I avoid shooting Raw”, I decided to make some tests with my Nikon D70. I wanted to check for myself his claims on the equivalence between the two formats.

I took some photos from my home windows with my sharpest lens, a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX Macro. The in-camera settings were as follow (the ones I usually use for my Raw shooting workflow):

  • Sharpening: none
  • Tone compensation: normal
  • Color mode: II (AdobeRGB)
  • Saturation: normal

Probably these are not the optimum settings for JPG shooting, but as a first test I wanted to compare my usual settings on JPG output.

The first result I will show you today is the scene from my window shot with these parameters:

  • ISO: 200
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Speed: 1/20
  • White Balance: cloudy
  • Exposure: center-average, manual
  • Exposure compensation: none
  • Tripod

I imported the two images in Adobe Lightroom 1.3 and re-exported without any further adjustments as JPG at 75 quality setting. This means that to the JPG no sharpening is applied at all and definitely it looks much softer, and also more contrasted. I must investigate on what kind of sharpening Lightroom applies to the RAW files during import. I do not apply any develop present at import time.
Ok, here are the whole images and 100% crops.

Full RAW image
Full JPG image
RAW 100% crop in the center of the image
JPG 100% crop in the center of the image

You can also note that the Blackbird moved between these two shots.
I have tried to apply some sharpening to the JPG in Lightroom and I can get it as sharp as the RAW, but the different contrast persists. I’ll show these result with some about adjusting the exposure to the same image but shot at -2 stop underexposed, in the coming posts.

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