Apr 13, 2005


Article written by Michael H. Reichmann

In every field there is a leader; a product that others seek to surpass, or at least catch up with. When it comes to raw file converters, Phase One’s Capture One fills that role. Though it wasn’t first to market, and still doesn’t support as wide a range of cameras as some competitors, like Adobe’s Camera Raw, for many photographers, especially pros, Capture One has become the program of choice for raw file conversion. But before being able to understand why this is the case, it’s necessary to have a look at what a raw file converter does. Indeed, what is a raw file?

A Raw File Is?

Digital cameras typically produce one of two different file types. The most familiar is the JPG file. This is a compressed and completed file, ready in many instances for use straight out of the camera. It has had white balance, sharpening, contrast adjustments and everything else that one could wish applied by the camera. In fact it’s as if you had a mini version of Photoshop or some other image processing software built into the camera, because what is done to the file is pretty much the same as you and Photoshop would do to it.

But the JPG file that’s saved to the camera’s memory card isn’t the original. That is the so-called raw file, which when you make your camera settings you can decide to keep or to discard. If you shoot JPG files only, the camera is still shooting a raw file, and using it as the source for your in-camera JPG. It’s just throwing the raw file away afterward.

Well, what’s wrong with that you may ask. Nothing really, except that it’s something akin to getting prints back from the photofinisher but no negatives or slides. Oh those? Well, we threw them away.

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This article, written by Michael Reichmann, is hosted on the PHASE ONE web site. Mr. Reichmann is a fine art landscape and documentary photographer. He is the publisher and primary author of The Luminous Landscape, the world’s largest non-commercial site devoted to photographic education. See the PSN story on “The Understanding Series“/

Michael also teaches field workshops and seminars around the world, and is a contributing editor to Photo Techniques magazine. He also publishes The Video Journal, the world’s only quarterly DVD-video based magazine devoted to photography. Michael is a resident of Toronto, Canada.

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