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Raw (DNG) vs JPEG on a smartphone: comparison images

Posted: , posted by Victor H.

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Raw (DNG) vs JPEG on a smartphone: comparison images

Smartphone cameras have evolved hugely throughout the years, getting more detailed by the year, with larger sensors, and image quality that in most conditions easily matches that of point-and-shoot cameras. Not just the hardware has improved, though - phone makers have had time to improve image processing and noise reduction, as well as streamline their camera apps.

The end result is apparent - smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 1020 (camera comparison here), Samsung Galaxy S5 (camera comparison here), Sony Xperia Z2, Apple iPhone 5s and others are setting a bar of high photographic quality.

However, one option smartphones still lack that has been on dedicated cameras for a while is raw file output. Having large, uncompressed images allows for great freedom in post-processing and often the results you can achieve with a raw file are a huge improvement over traditional JPEG-compressed images.

But that’s only in theory. What would the real difference be if you compare raw files slightly retouched by an image pro against compressed JPEG files? Francois Simmond of the Cyanogenmod demonstrates this on his OnePlus One.

The OnePlus One comes with the new Sony IMX214 13-megapixel camera sensor and has been tweaked to output DNG files along with the traditional JPEG compressed images. Note that each DNG picture is adjusted for white balance, exposure, highlights & shadows, sometimes also whites & blacks in Lighroom, and a couple have a slight clarity boost, while the swan picture has some added color vibrance, according to Simmond who tweaked the images. The photographs here are not particularly artistic - their goal is to show how much of a difference in dynamics and colors can be achieved, as well as how noise can be suppressed, if you work with the full-sized DNG file rather than a JPEG one.

The idea of these images is to serve as an illustration rather than a direct comparison, though, as they come from a development build of the camera app with noise reduction disabled (we have included the full disclaimer by Francois Simmond in the quote below). For all else, though, the results are fairly impressive, don’t you think?

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