Are there any non-obvious advantages/disadvantages of setting my 7D to use small or medium RAW instead of large?

I seldom print pictures, and the way I take photos the sensor is almost never the limiting factor when it comes to resolution. Hence I tend to use small RAW size, as that gives me more shots from the same CF and limits disk-guzzling.

Apart from the risk of missing out on some great shot that could've been even greater cropped or printed in large sizes, are there any technical considerations doing this?

Theoretically, less pixels in the final image than in the sensor should leave room for noise-reduction through interpolation, but I guess that's not happening?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ See also photo.stackexchange.com/questions/3419 for details about sraw and mraw. I'm not sure this is quite a duplicate since that just summarizes the technical differences not the pros/cons. (Which may not necessarily be obvious from the technical details.) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 19, 2011 at 14:19

4 Answers 4


You may be able to sacrifice a bunch of pixels before your final rendering of the image, especially if you're just going to display the image on the web. However, by choosing a smaller filesize in camera, you lose control over how those pixels are lost. There are many different ways to downscale an image (this question shows several); each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages; some are sharper for certain image types than others, etc.

Probably the most useful way to throw away pixels is by cropping. You won't be able to crop as tightly and still have a sharp image if you're only storing half-size RAWs.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that cropping is probably the best use for spare pixels. Regarding control over the downsizing, I understand but can't help but think this is quite a bit above my level. And reading the info mattdm linked to, sRAW doesn't seem to be that bad. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erika
    Mar 19, 2011 at 20:40

You say 'I just want to know if I've overlooked something'.

It is possible you have overlooked the fact that your needs and goals will change over time. As time passes your photos will acquire an additional emotional and nostalgic value. And this value increases with the years. You will then see your photographic imagery in a whole new way that will suggest new ways of using them.

By capturing the highest quality images you retain the ability in later years to process them, re-interpret or print them in accordance with your changed needs and goals.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point, easy to overlook when you're young and at it. However I'm not sure it convinces me to go with the extra storage need. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erika
    Mar 19, 2011 at 20:12

Advantage in creating squance photos for Time-lapses.

I use mRAW (sRAW) quite a bit with Lightroom to enhance the sequence of images for creating Time-lapse videos afterwards. As they are mostly produced in 1080p or 2k7 I dont need the full size RAW but still want the dynamic range of RAW to work with. I cant think of any other not mentioned reason to use smaller sizes RAW files.


It sounds like you are already aware of the trade offs.

You can't create the data later. Hard drives are cheap.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Everything's relative, this is the way I like it. :) I just want to know if I've overlooked something. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erika
    Mar 19, 2011 at 7:12
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Hard drives are cheap but our time gets more and more expensive. Processing smaller RAW files takes less time, and that's not a bad thing. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2011 at 12:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jędrek Kostecki, but computers get faster and faster, allowing the RAW files to be processed ever more quickly. \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Mar 19, 2011 at 20:41

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