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    • Yeah, when I started running the numbers, I realized that was more so the design of the file structure. It's the upper limit to what can be stored, not a count of possibilities that the sensor can capture per pixel. That sounds complicated. I just found it interesting how a few more bits leads to exponentially more data.

    • Your comments are on point. Just to add my thoughts and recapitulate what many here have said: The flexibility afforded by RAW files is massive. I see it in every shot I take on my d810. If you have highlights and shadows in your image, jpg loses significant information that is only "recoverable" in a distorted sense in post. The RAWs just have it all there.

      I've got fast cards, a fast computer, and infinite storage through my work, so the extra processing time doesn't bother me. Especially since I started using multiple catalogues in Adobe Lightroom (my primary pp application)

    • One important thing that I think most people don't fully understand is that most photos will be viewed as 8-bit sRGB jpegs on the web whether you record them as RAW or not. Either the camera software converts them or a program like Lightroom does.

      In either case, I see a lot of photos converted from RAW to Adobe RGB, often in-camera. And then they have to be converted to sRGB with color loss, and people blame the jpeg format for the loss.

      The thing is, sRGB is pretty good in the reds and yellows so it can provide fine gradations in skin tones. It's biased toward colors that occur in nature. And I think that's why we get away with it so well on the web and on phones.

      But if the camera must convert from 12-bit color in RAWs to the selection of colors Adobe provides in their 8-bit color space, we have eliminated a lot of colors we could have represented in sRGB.

    • Absolutely correct. To elaborate, both sRGB and Adobe RGB 8 bit files have exactly the same amount of color data. It's the "distribution" of the data that is different between those two file formats.

      If you work in any of the programs which allow lossless editing from RAW files, and if you save the intermediate work in a format which preserves the original image data, you can still make any changes you want in a later post-production editing session.

      If you just save the original RAW file for the image (don't discard the camera's original RAW file after an edit session), you might have to start over, but at least you have the original goods.

      If you work with an editor like Lightroom or Phase One - Capture One Pro (my favorite), then just save the session in the application's native file format. Those applications don't affect the original RAW file in any way when you save the session; you are just saving the "directions" for working the image data. You can change the working color space at any time to sRGB, A-RGB or CYMK color spaces, for instance, and then output an 8-bit file (or 16-bit file) as needed for your use.

    • Lightroom internally uses a variation of ProPhoto RGB in the development module. Soft proofing can be used to switch between ProPhoto RGB and the target color space if you want better control over your exported results.