I recently upgraded from a Nikon D3100 to a D600. The D600 has many more correction features such as Active D-Lighting, Filters, color tone, vignette control, Noise reduction, etc.

Is there an advantage to having the camera perform these manipulations rather than post shot in photoshop?

The only concrete advantage I can see is that if you are shooting JPEG and if the camera performs the manipulation before it is written as a jpeg, the edit is done before lossyness. However, if the camera corrects after it is a Jpeg, I can't see how it is anything more than a convenience feature.

I will need to look at the manual some more, I am guessing you can't even use these in RAW mode.

Additional Info - added after I posted question I just read a post by someone that claims that when you use "Long Exposure Noise Reduction", the camera will take two exposures and use the second exposure (with shutter closed) to spot and cancel noise as false data. I am guessing you can't really make a generalization and instead need to look at each of the process options and how they work. http://scottreither.com/blogwp/2012/07/01/nikon-d800-e-long-exposure-issues-problems-2/


4 Answers 4


It is just for convenience if you intend to use only the RAW files later.

The camera does write some color correction information into the RAW file, but it is in proprietary encrypted format (shame on Nikon). The Nikon software and some third party software that has presumably paid off Nikon or otherwise gotten the specs can read this information and use it as a good first pass approximation of color correction and the like. Still, you don't really need this information. My software, for example, doesn't decode it and I do just fine using only the raw sensor information. The automatic white ballance can get fooled in various circumstances, so it's a starting suggestion at best anyway.

The main advantage to automatic post-processing inside the camera is for preview on the camera's screen. I must say that my Nikon does a pretty decent job of that. The picture as presented on the LCD is usually pretty well corrected, especially since it's only purpose is to very that the information was indeed captured and sometimes to zoom in and look at details while I only have the camera with me. Once I get back and get the image into the computer, I only use the raw sensor data and don't care what the camera thinks was the right "correction".



You called it yourself a convenience feature and that is correct. With film, most people conveniently bring their negatives to be developed, while some do it themselves. This is even more true now because with in-camera processing, you shoot and you are done. You have a final image ready as soon as you click the shutter.

Camera processing is highly tuned and extremely well done with minimal effort. One question which is often asked on this site is how to get RAW images looking as good as in-camera JPEG and it does take effort to do so.

Sure you can do it in post from RAW later and get even better results but it will cost you time, something which is in short supply. Many would simply rather shoot more and be more creative in their photography than their post-processing.

  • yes! i have PS Elements and you have to edit the raw file in a rinky external tool and it takes forever. As a hobbyist, i just shoot jpeg only now. if I was professional would certainly at least turn on raw as a backup.
    – Rich M
    Jan 3, 2013 at 9:18
  • @RichM - That is a good strategy. I call it RAW as a safety net and honestly I extremely rarely have to even look at those RAW files.
    – Itai
    Jan 3, 2013 at 13:53

More precisely, those corrections, filters, etc. happen only on the JPG images. The RAW files (if you are shooting raw) are not affected. Sometimes the settings are recorded in the RAW files, but they do not change the RAW image.

The main advantage of the camera processing settings are for users who don't use a post processing package. Back when all you had was Photoshop at $$$, maybe it made sense. These days very powerful packages such as Aperture or Lightroom 4 sell for about $100, and there are less powerful but very useful packages for even less. If you want to do any processing, adjustment the in-camera stuff is at best redundant.

As you move up to serious enthusiast and professional cameras, I wish the brands would just cut out all this cruft.

  • There are still two reasons for having some post processing in the camera. 1: The image preview on the built in screen needs to look reasonable, at least enough so that you can tell you captured what you wanted to capture. 2: When taking a large number of pictures, like with a time lapse sequence. In that case, the much smaller post-processed JPG files are useful. Many more fit on a memory card, and you probably don't really want to post-process every one of them anyway. At best you'll apply some batch job, but might as well let the camera do it then. Dec 27, 2012 at 19:19
  • Yes, exactly however my question was if the camera does the processing before it writes the Jpeg. Jpeg is always lossy, meaning if there are blocks of threshold of similar tone and color, they are averaged and compressed to be the same tone and color in the file which results in a smaller faster file and unfortunately, you can never return to the original level of detail. Thus the main reason for RAW. If the camera does noise reduction on board against the original data stream, it theoretically should be better than doing so on JPEG on a computer later.
    – Rich M
    Jan 3, 2013 at 1:10
  • 2
    @RichM The camera does the processing before it writes the JPG, but so does Lightroom (if you shoot in RAW). I take your question to mean "can the camera convert raw data to JPG better than a computer can?". Theoretically, converting from raw to JPG can always be done the same or better in post, because post has orders of magnitude more time and processing power, and you can tweak each image individually. Even long exposure noise reduction, where the camera collects additional data that generally won't be available in post, could be replicated in post by shooting the "dark frame" manually. Jan 3, 2013 at 2:44
  • Ah...yes thank you...this is what I was asking. I can see the instant feedback point. But the screen is basically a thumbnail unless you zoom and scroll. I have done this to check focus and I suppose you could to get a feel for tone, etc too.
    – Rich M
    Jan 3, 2013 at 8:56

Is there an advantage to having the camera perform these manipulations rather than post shot in photoshop?

Two points that haven't been raised yet:

  1. Instant feedback. Digital cameras profoundly changed how photography is done by letting photographers see their images as they're being taken. Not having to wait a week (or even just an hour) to see your images makes the process interactive. Instead of shooting three dozen images and then heading to the darkroom, you can shoot one, take a look, make adjustments, and shoot again. Learning is easier, and even pros are better able to create the image they want. Letting the camera add effects like black and white conversion, filters, etc. maintains that immediacy instead of sending users back to the shoot now, see later days. Even if you intend to do your own processing later, having a preview available as you shoot can be helpful.

  2. Using images directly from the camera. Sometimes it's nice to be able to use your photos straight from the camera, without having to dump them into a computer first. For example, you may be able to print directly to a desktop printer, e-mail images, display images on a nearby HDTV, or post them straight to a web site. Nikon and Canon are both starting to incorporate WiFi network connections into their cameras, and with more ways to use images directly it seems likely that users will rely more heavily on processing in the camera in the future.

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