The dynamic range of the naked eye is large (approx. 12 stops). On a sunny day we'll not only see the sun-lit landscape, but at the same time we are able to distinguish what is happening in the shadows.
We are able to see dim stars in the sky and at the same time the houses under bright city lights. This is almost double the dynamic range of slide film (6 stops). Digital camera and regular analog films - depending on brand, type, ISO range and noise - have a usable dynamic range between 6 and 9 stops. Will a RAW file deliver you a larger dynamic range?
More and more photographers choose to store their images as a RAW file. But a lot of photo-editing software can't read a RAW file. You'll need special software to open and edit RAW files: a RAW converter or RAW conversion software. Using a RAW converter you can open and edit a RAW file and save it as a tif, psd or jpg file. Often you get a free RAW converter, like Digital Photo Professional (DPP) from Canon, when you buy a camera.
Before you take a picture, you decide in which type of file-format (jpg, RAW or both) your pictures will be stored in the camera.
In more than 99% of the moments you'll take a picture, storing the file as a high quality jpg will be good enough to obtain a very beautiful print with natural colors. A jpg file can reproduce 16,7 million colors, which is more than a naked eye can distinguish. You will - as far as color is concerned - not see the difference between a jpg file and a RAW file (with up to 4.398.046 million colors).
However, this changes when you decide to edit your pictures. A RAW file will show less quality loss when you adjust levels, curves, white balance, sharpness, chromatic aberration or vignetting (click here).