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When I switch my Nikon D750 from sRGB to the Adobe RGB color space in the Photo Shooting menu, how does it affect the content of my NEF files? I understand what would happen to JPEGs, but the camera manual is not clear whether this setting affects raw files or not.

Also, I am interested in how this or a similar setting affects raw files in other recent Nikon and Canon cameras.

marked as duplicate by mattdm, scottbb, AJ Henderson, Michael C canon Jun 9 '17 at 8:23

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  • If you want these camera defaults (color space, white balance, etc) to also be the default in raw images, you should set them to be the defaults in your raw editor. Otherwise, the idea of raw is to set what you want to help that specific picture. – WayneF Jun 8 '17 at 19:25
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It has no impact on the RAW data. It may not even affect the embedded JPEG used as preview but I am not certain about that.

The point is that RAW images do not have color info at each pixel and so are not in any color-space. They have color primaries correspond the the wavelengths that the Bayer filter on each pixel but that is fixed and cannot change with any camera setting. They output you get in the RAW file is simply linear intensity values at each pixel from a single primary.

You specifically asked about NEF which is Nikon and most cameras work exactly the same way, even Fuji uses the same primaries but they are just arranged in a pseudo-random way. The only exception to this are Sigma cameras with Foveon sensors. Still, they have their own color-space which must be processed into sRGB or AdoneRGB to turn into a JPEG.

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    I would only add that RAW files do record the colour space setting (and others) that was in place when the picture was taken. That is so RAW processors can start by rendering the image with the setting you used when you took the picture. – Ian Lelsie Jun 8 '17 at 15:10
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    And as a trivial matter in Nikon changing it will change the filename to prepend an underscore to the name, which does not affect the content of course, but is confusing to some people. – Linwood Jun 8 '17 at 16:42
  • While it may not affect the embedded JPEG preview, it will affect the accompanying JPEG when using RAW+JPEG mode. This probably goes without saying, just thought I'd mention it for completeness. – thomasrutter Jun 9 '17 at 1:00
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The in-camera color settings don't affect RAW in any way. Changing color space (i.e. from sRGB to Adobe RGB) changes only the look and embedded color space of your in-camera JPEG, and also the JPEG preview embedded in your RAW files, that you see on the camera display and in most image viewers.

Raw data is just that, raw data, it contains only raw light values of each particular physical pixel of the camera sensor. It's completely independent of any color space or even color model (RGB, LAB, HSL, CMYK etc.). So it is completely up to a RAW converter software to interpret that data and make an image out of it, usually with your additional adjustments. Different converters have different algorithms for making this interpretation and different default values set up by the developers, that's why they will yield different images from the same RAW file.

Only when saving the RAW image to a raster file (jpeg, tiff, etc.) does the idea of color space comes into play as each pixel's final values (usually RGB) have to correspond to a color space for your photo to show correct colors.

If you always shoot in RAW and never use camera JPEGs for commercial printing it's best to leave color space settings at sRGB for the sake of convenience (correct colors in previews) and workflow consistency.

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