Joined: Feb. 2006
|What you get with RAW images and TIFF and PSD files is a wider dynamic range, which allows you to revisit the interpretation as your skills and your software improve. |
Depending on the camera, RAW's pretty good for pulling out about 14 stops of dynamic range. Black and white paper gives about 7 stops, velvia about 5, some chrome perhaps a stop more.
B&W negative film's capable of recording oh about 10 stops, which is why various contrast grades of paper are made (low contrast B&W paper lets you compress those 10 stops from a contrasty scene onto 7 stops, likewise a low-contrast scene printed on high-contrast paper can take advantage of the full dynamic range of the paper).
Shooting digital and capturing only JPEG is a bit like shooting chrome, i.e. you'll end up with saturation and the dynamic range of the image adjusted to fit whichever JPEG mode you've chosen (most cameras let you select various saturation levels, etc).
Shooting RAW is more like shooting a B&W neg with even better dynamic range, with the work required to adjust the dynamic range of the image to match the output device you're working with (print media, screen, etc) being much easier than learning the huge bag of darkroom tricks required to make top-notch B&W prints (without requiring a PhD in the Zone System :) ).
Sigh, there are probably younger people here who've never photographed on film and who don't know what a darkroom is! :)