I like the dynamic range of RAW files, but I don't want raw sensor data, but I don't want 8-bit jpegs. What can I do to get the desired result?

Request camera manufacturers to allow TIFF file creation? Perhaps DNG format offers an alternative to the RAW data?

Any insight appreciated

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    I think there might be some misconceptions here. What exactly is the "desired result" you want? – mattdm Aug 10 '16 at 23:35
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    Why not just use RAW? – mattdm Aug 10 '16 at 23:50
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    @mattdm because I don't want raw sensor data that is open to separate interpretation by every program. just want a raster image with greater bit depth and color space. – CQM Aug 10 '16 at 23:51
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    @CQM Your 16-bit raster image still has to be remapped to 8-bit color space to be viewable on the overwhelming majority of display devices in the world. Which means there's still wiggle room with regard to exactly how that downsampling is done. – Michael C Aug 11 '16 at 3:12
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    DNG is also just RAW in Adobe's format. – DetlevCM Aug 11 '16 at 10:29

You get the desired result if you convert you raw file to tiff. If you don't like "separate interpretation by every program" as you said in one of your comments, use manufacturers convertor - that will give you the interpretation the manufacturer believe is the best and that is usually very close to the one that the in-camera JPEG processor has.

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    You may add that a RAW file ideally is the best kind of information available from camera and that OEMs cannot give something even better than that. – Euri Pinhollow Aug 11 '16 at 9:45
  • @EuriPinhollow that's incorrect. RAW is pure pixel signal values. Only the manufacturer "knows" the pixel responsivity map and the color-filter spectral transmissivity maps. Without those, you're just guessing as to the "true" spectrum of the input photons the sensor collected. – Carl Witthoft Aug 11 '16 at 11:17
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    @carl-witthoft: unfortunately there is no "true" colour mapping for all cameras with some very rare exceptions. Manufacturers do what people pay them for and average consumer needs are very bad for many experienced users. See this example of how cameras fail in some basic tasks. I do not entrust colour conversions to people who cannot manage even smooth gradients, and another OEM of another pricey camera which I own fails miserably. – Euri Pinhollow Aug 11 '16 at 11:53
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    @EuriPinhollow The mfrs may do poor colormapping, but if you don't know the color-filter parameters, good luck doing your own mappings. If you really wanted precise spectral correspondence, you'd need a multispectral camera, not a mere 3- or 4-band sensor. – Carl Witthoft Aug 11 '16 at 12:27
  • @carl-witthoft: Comments are not for extended discussion. – Euri Pinhollow Aug 11 '16 at 13:14

I like the dynamic range of RAW files, but I don't want raw sensor data, but I don't want 8-bit jpegs. What can I do to get the desired result?

You should use the most neutral RAW processor to preserve the best qualities of an image. There is no other option: the last cameras capable of writing 16 bit TIFFs are discontinued - for a reason.

There are two programs which I have personally verified to preserve as much data as possible:

  • dcraw. With this program you may exclude any processing alltogether (option -D) or enable just the debayerisation (option -d). You may also set the native white balance to preserve channel data which gets cut otherwise (option -r 1 1 1 1 -W) but the handling of WB will be different.
  • RawTherapee. This program is just as good as dcraw in preserving image data (with correct settings) but also includes better debayerisation algorythms.

Both of them may not have the colour profiles which you would like but RawTherapee handles DCP and ICC input profiles.

Other programs (including Adobe programs and programs from OEMs) may introduce colour shifts and undesirable effects.

Your comments reveal that you want OEMs to make cameras output 16 bit TIFF images. As I said, there are no such cameras produced any more, this is not the feature which customers liked and wanted to pay for.

RAW output is superior in every way except requiring additional workflow steps if you SPECIFICALLY want raster TIFF in the middle of your workflow (for which I know no reason). Uncompressed 16bit TIFF file of a 24 MP image would be 144MB large and would offer no advantages over a RAW file combined with RAW processor of choice. It happens so that people are fine with using additional software to get the best results.

You may try asking OEMs output 16 bit TIFFs but I wonder what will be the result if there are still OEMs which do not output DNG.

DNG may be both 16 bit raster and totally RAW depending on what camera puts in it. No camera puts 16 bit raster data into DNG.

  • I am very curious about a raw RAW really looks like from my cameras now! :) I can see why people wouldn't want an uncompressed 16bit TIFF that already had color filters applied from the manufacturer's preferences. I would like the option to fill up my memory card just like the 4K video processing does. – CQM Aug 11 '16 at 21:05

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