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Chapter 1. Digital Camera Raw: Exploitin... > What Is a Digital Raw File?

What Is a Digital Raw File?

Fundamentally, a digital raw file is a record of the raw sensor data from the camera, accompanied by some camera-generated metadata (literally, data about data). I’ll discuss metadata in great detail in Chapter 8, Mastering Metadata, but for now, all you need to know is that the camera metadata supplies information about the way the image was captured, including ISO setting, shutter speed and aperture value, white balance setting, and so on.

Different camera vendors may encode the raw data in different ways, apply various compression strategies, and in some cases even apply encryption, so it’s important to realize that “digital camera raw” isn’t a single file format. Rather, it’s a catch-all term that encompasses Canon .CRW and CR2, Minolta .MRW, Nikon .NEF, Olympus .ORF, and all the other raw formats on the ever-growing list that’s readable by Adobe Camera Raw. But all the various flavors of raw files share the same basic properties and offer the same basic advantages. To understand these, you need to know a little something about how digital cameras work.


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