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What is "RAW"?

James Alexander , May 11, 2004; 10:01 p.m.

Is "RAW" an acronym or a word? If it is an acronym, what does it stand for? If it is a word, why is it written in all caps?

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Mr. Zapped , May 11, 2004; 10:18 p.m.

It's a word, and it refers to the data taken directly from the camera's sensor. The RAW file must be run through software to transform it into a viewable Tif or Jpg.

More here.

Peter Phan , May 12, 2004; 01:05 a.m.

It's a word, and it's in all caps to differentiate it from the word "raw", which can be used to describe all kinds of things. But "RAW" refers to the digital image format.

RAW = a digital image format
raw = a state of being uncooked (as in food)

Jean-Baptiste Queru , May 12, 2004; 01:32 a.m.

It's a word. It refers to the data being raw, i.e. unprocessed, i.e. the digital data as it was at the very first digital stage.

It's often written in caps because pretty much all the image file format names are acronyms (JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, PSD...).

Guy Hammond , May 12, 2004; 07:30 a.m.

Also note that a RAW file will actually have a file extension like .CRW (Canon) or .NEF (Nikon). Just to confuse matters further :-)

Biju S , May 12, 2004; 10:23 a.m.

You can read a lot on RAW here (WARNING: lot of math) http://www.normankoren.com/digital_tonality.html

Mike Sisk , May 12, 2004; 02:57 p.m.

Y'all are missing the point.

The original author is likely a grammarian "stickler" and wonders why -- as do I -- we're incorrectly writing "raw" in all caps.

Things like JPEG (Joint Photographic Expert Group) or TIFF (Tagged Interchange File Format) are easy to explain -- RAW just ain't right.

But, it looks like we're stuck with RAW just like we are with "8 Items or Less".

Jesper de Jong , May 13, 2004; 01:58 p.m.

James Alexander , May 13, 2004; 09:04 p.m.

Mike, you are exactly right. I would prefer to think that I'm a stickler for clarity rather than a stickler for grammer, but in either case it appears that I lose in this instance.

Peter, lots of words have more than one definition but we don't normally indicate a specific definition by writing in all caps.

Jean-Baptiste, as I understand it "RAW" is not a specific file format like JPEG or TIFF, but more a category of file formats. This seems to make about as much sense as writing "COMPRESSED" when we're talking about JPEG files or "LOSSLESS" when we're talking about TIFF files.

Oh, well. So much for clear thought. Thanks everyone for the comments.

Jean-Baptiste Queru , May 13, 2004; 09:19 p.m.

James - Contrary to what you will believe, I am not trying to confuse you any further.

JPEG is actually a family of compression formats, some lossy, some lossless, some 8-bit, some 16-bit. What we often call a "JPEG" file is actually a JFIF file with YUV/DCT/Decimated/Huffman JPEG data. JFIF is a file format.

TIFF is a "meta-format", which can contain data in many different formats. Typical formats are 8- and 16-bit uncompressed, or compressed with LZW/LZ77, but JPEG data is also an option, and I'm sure that there are plenty more.

Now, de-facto usage has been that JPEG are almost always used in lossy 8-bit applications, and TIFFs in 8- and 16-bit lossless applications, but that's a usage habit, not a standard.


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