If you enjoy photography, don't make the mistake I did.
Using my then-new SLR in 2005 and 2006, I photographed everything from my new son to otherworldly canyons we visited in Utah. The only problem: the photos were taken only in JPEG format.
JPEG is fine as far as it goes, and indeed for most folks it will suffice. But having rediscovered my enjoyment of photography in the digital era, I wish I'd used the raw image format that comes with SLRs and higher-end compact cameras.
My initial regret was from the realization that raw photos, although taking up about three times the storage space as a JPEG and requiring manual processing, offer higher quality and more flexibility. But what I've come to understand since then is a second advantage of raw: because processing software improves over time, raw photos in effect can get better with age.
For that reason, I've begun recommending friends who show some enthusiasm for photography that they should think about shooting important events in raw format alongside JPEG. You don't have to mess with the raw files today, but if it's an important event like a wedding, you might want them for later.
I've included below some samples of a noisy image shot in near-darkness at ISO 25,600 from my SLR. They may not convince you that shooting raw is a miracle cure for photo quality, but they do illustrate some differences with the camera's JPEG and that the raw-processing software isn't standing still. … Read more