Fuji X-Pro1 RAW vs. JPG

As I mentioned in a previous post, a few nights back I was in Shenzhen and went to see my buddies Kaktooz – they were one of the two house bands at Amazonia in Hong Kong for a couple of years, now they’re the house band at X-Ta-Sea Bar in the Shekou district of Shenzhen.  That night I had my Fuji X-Pro1 camera with the 35mm lens with me.  The stage lighting there is horrendous (for photographers anyway) and I felt I didn’t come away with any usable shots.

The thing was, as I was looking at the RAW shots in Lightroom, they looked very different from the images I saw on the camera’s LCD screen that night.  Here’s one shot chosen almost at random – 1/125th of a second, F1.4, ISO 6400 (my logic here? lens as wide open as it will get, 1/125 about the minimum to freeze action on musicians on stage, so no choice but to bump up the ISO like crazy).

This first shot is the RAW file, unprocessed in any way except to export it from Lightroom:

Now, here’s the same photo, this time exported from the JPG instead of the RAW, again with no processing done by me:

That’s lead guitarist Jeph.

Now, let’s compare the histograms on the two.  The first one is the histogram for the RAW file, the second for the JPG:

Now, I know there’s all sorts of technical reasons for this.  But the main thing from my point of view is that some of the highlights are blown out on the RAW while the JPG is in much better shape, not to mention that the Fuji has done a decent job on the noise reduction all on its own.

Could I have get the same result by spending time editing the RAW file in Lightroom?  Yeah, I’ve dropped down the highlights, white clipping and light tones using the Tone Curve adjustment and gotten reasonably close .  But why spend the time to do it when the JPG already seems quite acceptable?

At this rate, I might not bother to shoot RAW with the X-Pro1 – at least not in challenging low light situations like this.

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