Photographers have been getting higher image quality for more than 10 years by “shooting raw,” which means that the image file from the camera’s image sensor is saved as is, before it’s processed into a JPEG, PNG, or other format. Although this means the photographer will have to do more work processing the photos manually, most enjoy the flexibility of shooting raw.
Digital single lens reflex cameras, mirrorless cameras, and even high-end compact cameras all have the ability to shoot in raw, but smartphones, unfortunately, do not — until now. Google’s latest update to its Android mobile operating system has allowed programmers to add raw photo support to apps, allowing photographers to finally shoot raw with their mobile devices.
“Because no information is compressed when shooting RAW a photographer is generally able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct issues with images that would be beyond fixing if shot in the JPEG format,” according to Jonathan Davis, manager at 42nd Street Photo, a top New York City camera store.
Prior to the new update, the only phones that supported raw were the Nokia Lumia 1520 and 1020, but now Google’s Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 will also be able to shoot in raw with the FV-5 camera app, which costs only a couple of dollars in the Google Play Store.
As mentioned, there are several advantages of shooting raw. First, no image data is lost as a result of compression algorithms. Second, there’s more depth, which means there are finer gradations that allow photographers to work with more details. Third, there’s more control over white balance.
At the same time, there are several distinct disadvantages of shooting raw. Firstly, working with the raw data is far more complicated. The average smartphone user would likely not be able to even share, edit, or do much of anything with it. Secondly, raw files are about three times as big as JPEGs and other formats.
Although shooting raw is much more complicated than pointing and shooting, those who need to scratch the itch from being bit by the photo bug will definitely want to take advantage of Android’s new feature.