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More Non-Arguments In Photography

In photography, there are a number of non arguments. That is, arguments that people have that simply are not valid because there is a lack of context when it comes to the nature of the discussion.

JPEG or RAW? Why the discussion?

One such argument is the question of whether JPEG is better than raw or raw is better than JPEG. The fact is that both are used extensively by professional photographers. If you are a landscape photographer or a wedding photographer, very often you will shoot in raw with JPEG backup for the simple reason that you may have to reveal extra detail or work on the images to make sure that you capture the moment. You often face difficult lighting conditions and raw gives you that flexibility.

On the other hand, there are many sporting photographers that take just about everything in JPEG because it’s all about immediacy and they’ve set their camera up to get a very good JPEG. JPEGs are significantly better than they used to be and while they do not have the latitude that raw files have, they do have particularly good image quality and good color development. In fact many JPEGS out of camera are better than many photographers can achieve using a raw converter. Especially without getting real training on use of the raw converter.

Some of us have access to several raw converters and create our own pre-sets to speed to process. I shoot both raw and jpeg usually unless I’m shooting with a high megapixel camera in which case I just shoot raw and use presets in Capture 1 or DxO PhotoLab to get the results I’m after. However the latitude in the larger files means that I work with raw to save details in the shadows. That said, Most JPEG files are very good and in a lot of situations [including weddings] you might be surprised at how good they can be with a little judicious tuning of the preset for JPEGS settings.

Context Kills The Discussion

And so, the fact is that both raw and JPEG have their place. If you understand what the place for each type of file can be and where it should be, then you can be very comfortable with that decision.

And it has to be said that there are some landscape photographers and wedding photographers who find themselves using JPEGs, so it’s not an exclusive club but there’s no point in arguing about which is better. It is really a question of which is the most appropriate to the workflow that you are using, and once you establish which is the most appropriate to your workflow and to your personal capabilities as a photographer, you can decide what best to use. Over the years I’ve taken weddings using both raw and with JPEG as back up and have at times found myself just using a number of the JPEGs because they were simply that good. I’d set up my camera appropriate for that particular style and it worked perfectly.

Mirrorless Bodies are Generally Smaller but Have You Seen Those Lenses?

Another one of those non arguments is the idea of using mirrorless cameras because they are smaller and lighter than DSLR cameras. If you look at the way that the whole industry is going, it is true that mirrorless bodies are usually smaller, but look at the size of their lenses. They are simply huge. So, mirrorless combinations are not smaller and lighter because we continue to add larger lenses to the bodies which over balance the units making them front heavy. In the old days with DSLR there was often a better balance with standard lenses. But today even standard lenses for mirror less are getting larger and heavier. The choice between DSLR and mirrorless cameras is not really about size at all. It’s about the ability to see the image as you compose it using an optical view finder versus an electronic view finder. When you have an electronic view finder, you can have all the information pertinent to the shot that you’re trying to get right there in the view finder. You can essentially see the finished shot.

Both Have Advantages

You don’t shoot and guess or shoot and depend upon having a real clear mental image of the type of image you were trying to get. An electronic view finder allows you to see what you’re doing and so if you wind down or wind up the compensation, you can immediately see the effect that this choice is having on the image, and it can help you to arrive at some creative results. Also, highly underrated with mirrorless cameras are the range of inbuilt features like filters. For example, Olympus incorporate an ND filter of various levels into their cameras as well as styles. Sony do the same thing as do some other companies. These styles allow you to finish in camera with real creativity.  [in JPEG admittedly for many cameras] When using styles you can literally output an image that you can use almost immediately when you get it out of your camera.

With Olympus, they take it a step further and they allow you to use a number of their features within raw. So, for example, you can take a raw image using an ND filter, but the inbuilt filter is an electronic filter built into the camera’s programming. So, the difference between DSLRs and mirrorless is that mirrorless is giving you computer aided capabilities to add to your photography and giving you a screen to view them on that’s allowing you to capture creatively and to use creativity in a more immediate manner.

So, it’s not about size, it’s just another non argument.

Context Is Important

Context Changes The Discussion

So, there’s two non arguments that we’ve covered. Is raw better than JPEG, JPEG better than raw? They both have their place. Is DSLR as good as mirrorless or mirrorless as good as DSLR? They simply are two different approaches to photography and is one choice based on size? Absolutely not. The fact is that mirrorless camera bodies are smaller, but when you pair them with good lenses they often end up being heavier or just as heavy as the DSLR equivalent. And the fact is that lenses are heavy because good quality glass with many glass elements within a lens does contribute to the weight of the rig. We need to get used to weight. Very few cameras are sticking to the idea of keeping things light in the professional end of the market.

Take A Step Back

So, when you see some of these debates being argued out there in the internet, take a step back and think about what constitutes the context of the question. Is this question really a question that fits with the facts that I can observe as I look at the various discussions that are taking place? There’s a place for all the various approaches to photography out there and it’s good to engage in them and it’s good to engage with the equipment, but it’s also good to have the proper context when considering the questions and subjects being raised.