Letter to the Editor

The RAW vs TIFF vs JPEG Debate

I liked your article “Digital-Image Management” in the September-October 2008 issue of Evidence Technology Magazine.

One area did concern me in your article. On Page 15, Tip Number 6 states the following: “Also, bear in mind that RAW image files are large and require more storage space than other file formats such as TIFF and JPEG.”

JPEG files are smaller compared to RAW files, and RAW files are smaller compared to TIFF files. A RAW file, as you know, is uncompressed, and has not been managed by the camera, unlike JPEG and TIFF files. When an image is captured as a TIFF file, or converted to TIFF from a JPEG or RAW format, a TIFF file is then stored with separate [image] layers (R-G-B). This makes for a much larger file size compared to JPEG and RAW. While TIFF can be captured as a lossless file, the size is still much larger compared to RAW, and incredibly large compared to JPEG—all of which leads to storage issues when shooting in TIFF format.

The argument of which format is better—RAW vs JPEG vs TIFF—is an argument that has been covered many times, and in my opinion will be debated by cockroaches after a nuclear inferno.

RAW has its advantages and disadvantages, as Erik Berg pointed out. Knowing Erik personally, I feel he and I can disagree that the proprietary nature of RAW is not as much of an issue as one might think, and is secondary to the overall usefulness of RAW files. I also think the benefits of RAW are often overlooked by many in law enforcement, and not always understood (albeit, they are clearly understood by Erik).

1) RAW files are considered by many as being a “digital negative,” which is a great thing to have within well-written SOPs.

2) RAW files are easier to manage or enhance compared to JPEG and TIFF file formats. Due to the fact that a RAW file has not been managed by the camera, your colors are easier to correct, and details are easier to enhance with a RAW file.

3) The Adobe RAW interface on Photoshop CS, CS2, and CS3 allows for just about any RAW file format to open (from name-brand cameras such as Nikon, Canon, and Fuji to name a few), even those that are several years old. Furthermore, most departments that converted to digital technologies several years ago were more than likely shooting JPEG-only due to the concerns with RAW files that existed at that time. Today, those RAW file format concerns are almost nonexistent.

All in all, it was nice to see imaging receive so much attention in the current issue of Evidence Technology Magazine.

Michael J. Brooks
President of Training
Brooks Photographic Imaging, LLC
Woodbridge, Virginia

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I enjoyed the article in the latest Evidence Technology Magazine covering digital-image management (September-October 2008, Vol. 6 No. 5). One point of clarification though:

The last paragraph of Tip #6 states: “Also, bear in mind that RAW image files are large and require more storage space than other file formats such as TIFF or JPEG.”

While the article was accurate about RAW files typically being larger than JPEG files, the same can’t be said of the TIFF comparison. The same image captured with a camera in RAW file format will usually be much smaller than the same image captured in the TIFF file format. For example, my Nikon D2X digital camera’s RAW files are roughly 20 MB each. The same image captured by the camera as a TIFF image is roughly 36 MB.

This file size difference is mainly due to the fact that RAW images are as the name implies: the exact data that the camera captures without any processing performed by the camera. TIFF files are processed by the camera to apply the color data to the image

Andrew Schriever
Latent Print Examiner
Las Vegas, Nevada

"Letter to the Editor"
November-December 2008 (Volume 6, Number 6)
Evidence Technology Magazine
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