Do you have an irrational fear of JPEGs?

CoolCat Color - Utrecht, Netherlands

CoolCat Color – Utrecht, Netherlands

Do you have an irrational fear of JPEGs? Many enthusiast photographers seem to, insisting that photos must be shot in RAW, to be any good. It’s easy to be seduced by the promise of increased dynamic range and a larger color palette. But there are good reasons to shoot in JPEG.

I was reminded of this recently, when looking through my Fujifilm X100S photos from 2014. I shot all 1,500 photos from my Netherlands trip, including today’s photo in JPEG. In fact, every photo I shot with the X100S is in JPEG. Why? Two reasons. Back in 2014, the RAW converters for Fuji weren’t too good. But more importantly, JPEGs from Fuji cameras, with the choice of film simulations, are excellent. Even four years later, my Fuji photos still look great.

My objective is to make great photos and with the least amount of effort. That means, depending on the camera, I either shoot only RAW, only JPEG or both. I have a look I like to achieve and I concentrate on getting that look, and not be hung up about file formats. I post process every photo, regardless of if it’s RAW or JPEG. I shot today’s photo in tough conditions, and I was able to achieved what I was hoping for, with the Fuji and some light post processing.

I already mentioned that I shot exclusively JPEG with the Fujifilm X100S. With the Nikon 1 J1, I found the JPEGs lacking, so I shot everything in RAW. With my Olympus cameras, I go both ways. With my PEN-F, I shoot RAW + JPEG, usually set to black and white. I sometimes use the black and white JPEG or process the RAW into either a black and white or color photograph. With the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, I usually just shoot in RAW.

The Canon G7X Mark II is an interesting beast. I shoot JPEG + RAW and use the photo that looks better. The default JPEG is often very good and I especially like it for my family snapshots. I find that the in-camera colors and skin tones are excellent and I’m rather embarrassed to admit that my post processing often falls short.

What you may not realize is camera companies are doing really sophisticated in-camera processing these days, often to correct lens deficiencies. In the case of the G7X Mark II, the JPEG is sharper edge to edge, with better distortion correction. Canon really knows how to augment the optical weakness of their lens, better than what Capture One can do.

On the other hand, for my non-snapshot, “serious” photos, I often use the G7X Mark II’s RAW. I get two benefits from this. For inanimate scenes and street photography, I tend to saturate and push the RAWs, which achieves a grittier look. I also need RAWs to create my Cinematics, which I like for their immersive feel.

The bottom line? Don’t blindly use RAW. There is a useful place for JPEG and it’s worth investigating which works better for a given situation.

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12 thoughts on “Do you have an irrational fear of JPEGs?

    1. Thank you Sadje. Of course, smartphone cameras have gotten so good these days… Pretty soon only photo enthusiasts and pros will be buying dedicated cameras.

      1. I think that is the case even now. But photography has always fascinated me. And I love the way you capture the feel of the scene in one shot!

  1. i use an fuji x100f. I shoot 99.9% jpeg. There are enough incamera adjustments that I have enough to think about with the jpeg settings, I don’t want to do that again back home

    1. X100F is a very nice camera and fixes all the things that bugged my about the X100S. Both are fantastic, as well as Fujifilm in general, about making excellent JPEGs.

  2. Your photos are inspiring–thank you. How do you feel about the in-camera RAW processing on the G7? I’m not one to do a lot of JPG processing once I save the images to my computer, so easy and useful is best.

    1. Hi Jeff, I’ve never done any RAW processing on any camera. I rather use my 27″ computer screen to determine what kind of processing I need.

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