What is the dynamic range of a RAW file?

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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.
Our eyes really are able to bridge an enormous light intensity difference.

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?

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What is a RAW converter; free RAW software

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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.
But free RAW conversion software often oprovides less functionality in comparison with commercially available RAW conversion software.

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What is a RAW file?

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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.
A RAW file (CR2, NEF, ORF) contains the unedited signal of the camera sensor. You need special software, a raw converter / raw conversion software, to view or edit a raw file. Some camera manufacturers, like Canon, provide you with a free RAW converter when you buy their camera. A jpg file is already edited by the camera (color, contrast and sharpness) before the image is saved on the CF-card or SD card. Which one is better, RAW or jpg?

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What is posterization?

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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).
On this page we'll discuss the advantages of editing a file in 16 bits modus (for raw) over editing in 8 bits modus (for jpg).

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