sRAW Format Explained

With the release of the D4s and D810 cameras, Nikon has introduced a new format to store images – sRAW, or “RAW Size Small”, as referred to by Nikon. Although Canon has had this format available in its DSLRs for years, this is Nikon’s first time introducing it. As a result, a lot of Nikon users are wondering what this format is, how it works and how it compares to standard RAW files. Personally, I had very limited knowledge of this format and thought it would be an exciting feature, until I dug deeper and found out what it was all about. After a few hours of research (and some input from Iliah Borg, I decided to summarize my findings in this article, which I hope our readers will find useful. Let’s start with the basics first.

sRAW vs RAW Format

1) What is sRAW?

sRAW, which stands for “Small RAW” or “Small Resolution RAW” is a file format that was introduced by Kodak to allow photographers to capture images at smaller size in order to allow more images to be stored on memory cards and allow for faster workflow when full resolution files are not needed (since computers were slow for processing RAW data). The sRAW format was created as a bridge between full resolution RAW files and JPEG images. Since JPEG images are already processed, compressed and only contain 8-bit data, sRAW allowed more flexibility with more bit depth (Kodak’s original design of the sRAW format was 10-bit). The advantage was noticeably smaller file size, but at the expense of resolution – the resulting images contained either twice, or four times less megapixels. Still, these images contained more data than JPEG files for later post-processing, which increased the popularity of the format.

Nikon introduced the sRAW format with the Nikon D4s release in February of 2014. Since then, newer DSLRs like Nikon D810 have also received the capability to record sRAW images.

2) RAW vs sRAW – Smaller File and Lower Noise?

The advantage of the sRAW format is supposed to be twofold – reduction in file size for more storage and faster post-processing, and decreased noise due to reduction of pixels. The first part is self-explanatory, but the second part raises a lot of questions. How does a smaller image reduce noise? Well, there are two methods of reducing noise: hardware noise reduction via a process called “pixel binning” (combining multiple pixels into a single “bin”, thus “binning”) and software noise reduction via resizing / down-sampling. Pixel binning is a complex process performed at the hardware level that combines and averages multiple pixels to create a single pixel, which obviously reduces the resolution of the image by up to 4 times. This process results in reduced noise levels in smaller images. Pixel binning was an option on CCD sensors used for such needs as astrophotography, but such sensors were and still are rare and expensive. With the introduction of CMOS sensors, certain implementations of hardware pixel binning (particularly the PIXELUX technology by Kodak design, manufactured by IBM) allowed to gain 1 stop lower noise with full-color pixel binning, which is more than half a stop better compared to down-sampling via software. The problem with hardware pixel binning on a full-color Bayer sensors, is that it does not always lead to quality photographic results. Depending on the subject position relative to the sensor Bayer pattern and subject having sharp color transitions, also in relation to the pattern on the sensor, it results in unpredictable jagged edges. While for CCD sensors binning is quite a complex process, binning is part of the nature of CMOS sensors. A number of industrial CMOS sensors with pixel binning exist, for example based on Aptina sensors.

Resizing / down-sampling, on the other hand, is a process of reducing a processed file to a smaller resolution via software such as Lightroom and Photoshop, which effectively reduces noise in the resulting image, since pixels are combined together via different resizing algorithms.

So once again, the difference between these two methods is potentially the amount of noise – true pixel pinning produces cleaner images than software down-sampling, as explained above.

3) sRAW is NOT Pixel Binning

If this all sounds exciting, then you are probably excited about the new sRAW format. Well, don’t get too excited, because sRAW is actually not pixel binning. Canon has provided some bits of information on the sRAW format through patents and Canon’s Chuck Westfall also disclosed some information in a monthly column to The Digital Journalist magazine, which explains how the format works:

Canon has not disclosed the exact methods it uses to reduce resolution for sRAW (small RAW) images and Medium or Small in-camera JPEGs, but each of these recording formats involves downsampling from the original full-resolution raw image data. In tests I’ve performed at various EOS 50D image quality settings, I have come to the conclusion that there is no significant change in noise at pixel level caused by downsampling alone. However, at any given print size, images captured by the EOS 50D will look their best (cleanest) when working from full-resolution files.

As you can see, Canon’s sRAW and mRAW files are simply down-sampled images from the original full-resolution RAW files. If you were to take a RAW file, then down-sample it yourself in Photoshop, you would get a similar result. Except you would have the full RAW file data to work with in wide gamut color space, while sRAW actually strips out a lot of information. So sRAW is actually not anything like the original RAW file!

Unfortunately, neither Canon nor Nikon have provided full information on this format, which involves some guesswork by third party RAW developers. This means that only manufacturer’s own RAW converters such as DPP and Capture NX are able to properly decode those files – all other converters, including those from companies like Adobe, would not be as good.

What about Nikon’s sRAW? Well, as a few number of people like Iliah Borg of RawDigger already figured out, it works similarly!

4) sRAW is NOT RAW

An uncompressed RAW / NEF file contains 14-bits of data per filtered pixel, so color and luminance information is demosaiced by software to form RGB pixel data. When you open a RAW file in Camera RAW or Lightroom, the software reconstructs the image in color by using a demosaicing algorithm on the bayer pattern. An sRAW file is already demosaiced and reconstructed by manufacturer’s camera firmware, so it does not contain most of the information from the RAW file. Although Nikon sRAW is supposed to contain 12-bit data, Iliah Borg measured only 11 bits of data in his thorough study. Canon’s sRAW files are a bit better in this regard, as they contain up to 14-bit of data on more advanced cameras that have support for it. Still, it seems like sRAW is more of a glorified JPEG image that contains more bits / colors. With a true RAW file, you have a lot of leverage in post-processing – from changing white balance completely to applying gamma corrections. sRAW already have those cooked in, so there is not a lot of data to manipulate (although white balance adjustments are still possible). As soon as you reach one of the histograms, you start clipping the data. So you cannot edit an sRAW file the same way you can edit a true RAW file.

Here is an example of what a true 14-bit RAW file can do compared to an sRAW file from the Nikon D810 when recovering highlights (-4 EV):

Nikon D810 -4 EV RAW Recovery Nikon D810 -4 EV sRAW Recovery NX-D

As you can see, a lot of the data is missing on the sRAW file.

5) sRAW vs RAW / NEF Lossy Compressed

Although both Nikon and Canon claim that sRAW format produces smaller files than RAW, the difference is actually not that big if you are looking at smaller compressed RAW files. For example, a typical sRAW file is roughly the same size as a 12-bit NEF Lossy Compressed RAW file. At just 9 MP on the D810, you would be getting the same size file as a full 36 MP RAW file that contains way more data. Once you know this, using sRAW won’t make any sense anymore – you are simply throwing away all those megapixels for nothing. On the Nikon D4s, an sRAW file is roughly 12 MB, while a full resolution 12-bit Lossy Compressed NEF is around 13 MB, so it only makes sense to use the latter format – there are no significant space savings as one might think!

6) sRAW is heavy for processors and bad for batteries

If you look at the buffer table of the Nikon D810, you will realize that while the sRAW format produces files that are roughly twice smaller in size than full uncompressed 12-bit RAW files. However, despite the smaller file size, the buffer speed is actually worse in comparison. In full resolution the D810 can shoot 34 frames before the buffer fills up, while shooting in sRAW only yields 18! In this particular case, sRAW seems to be twice smaller in comparison. This has to do with the heavy load the sRAW file puts on Nikon’s EXPEED processor. In addition, with Nikon sRAW using frame buffer for processing raw into sRAW, battery life is also negatively impacted.

7) Summary

To summarize all of the above, one could state that the sRAW format is simply a marketing gimmick. It is not a useful format by any means, so you should avoid using it on your camera at all costs and rather shoot with a smaller RAW format instead, which will give you full resolution and way more data at the same bit rate. On a positive note, if Nikon and Canon introduce a secondary JPEG format based on sRAW compression hardware instead of regular 8-bit JPEG, that would be a welcome change. With the progress of modern wide gamut monitors, 8-bit JPEGs just don’t cut it anymore…


  1. 1) Matt
    June 29, 2014 at 11:44 am

    “Once you know this, using sRAW won’t make any sense anymore – you are simply throwing away all those megapixels for nothing”

    THIS is what I was expecting to hear. Thanks for the very detailed explanation. I was afraid that Nikon was just offering a shortcut versus really wowing us with a new processor. The EXPEED 4 is only marginally better from what I have heard. I shoot sports with my D7100, but even with an Extreme Pro SD card, the buffer can only handle so much.

    I used a Sony A7 for two wedding shoots this weekend, and all three other photographers (2 Canon/1 Nikon) involved were blown away by the high ISO handling and overall image quality. It needs to be a little faster, and they do need to develop some faster lenses for it, but given Sony’s recent track record, I think we’ll see both very soon. As a D7100 owner, I am a little jealous of Sony users who can now get the 12 fps A77 II for the same price. It’s hard to keep getting excited about new Nikon releases, when we are 2 years from the original D800 and still only seeing marginal upgrades.

    • 1.1) DVDMike
      June 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Why were there 4 wedding photographers shooting the same weeding? I hope you were all working under one photographer! I’ve shot many weddings with two photographers shooting for me. But 3? This must gave been a big wedding.

      On paper, I see the most of new features of the D810 being excellent and appropriate additions. See

      • 1.1.1) Matt
        June 29, 2014 at 12:51 pm

        As I said, it was two different weddings, with different photographers. One of them was manning the photo booth for the reception. Hope that explains it.

        As I look at it, Sony has the A7 and A7R competing very well with the D810, with the A7 $1,500 less and the A7R nearly $1,000 less. All three are great cameras, but Sony seems to be pushing the envelope a little farther than Nikon these days.

    • June 29, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      > The EXPEED 4 is only marginally better from what I have heard.

      That would be a wrong interpretation of the facts in the article.

      • 1.2.1) Matt
        June 29, 2014 at 3:28 pm

        That was not my interpretation of this article. I said “from what I have heard” to indicate that I was basing my statement on other information I have read, from other reviews and articles about cameras that have the EXPEED 4. But perhaps that really has more to do with Nikon crippling their cameras instead of the processor itself. Personally, after dealing with the buffer of the D7100, I was disappointed to find that Nikon had released it so early when they could have waited a few months to put the EXP. 4 in it. And they released the D610 with the old EXP. 3 instead. I feel like Nikon could be getting a lot more out of their cameras, based on what other companies are accomplishing. But that’s just my opinion, and obviously all photographers have different wants/needs.

        • Profile photo of Iliah Borg Iliah Borg
          June 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm

          Well, in that case I do not see how you bringing EXPEED 4 to the discussion being relevant to the topic at hand.
          But to address this EXPEED 4 critics in a blunt way – very few reviewers have information on electronic components, or decent understanding of programming in-camera processors.
          I do not understand the “camera crippling” issue, neither I have any understanding how waiting a few months affects 2-year development cycle.
          Every cameramaker is heavily criticised for “not getting more out of their cameras”, but in fact it is not about them most of the cases, but about how good we are with the cameras we have.

          • Matt
            June 29, 2014 at 7:26 pm

            In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with comparing different offerings from different companies and questioning whether the brand you use is giving you the best quality for the money. If Sony can offer 12 fps at 24 mp for the same price that Nikon is offering 6 fps at the same resolution, it seems fair to question whether Nikon is trying hard enough to compete. Many D800 users have expressed a desire for a smaller RAW file option so they could still shoot in RAW without the huge file sizes. Nikon has hyped up the sRAW addition to the D810, but as this article seems to make clear, sRAW is really not that great.

            As for the rest of it, I really do not feel the need to try to explain myself any further other than to say that I feel like Nikon has released some transitional cameras that were not as developed as they needed to be. Maybe I have misjudged the D810 and it really is worth the cost of the upgrade. We all thought the D7100 sounded great on paper as well, but soon after its release there were many who said it wasn’t much of an improvement. I guess we will all find out when the D810 starts shipping and people get to use it. Have a nice day.

            • Profile photo of Iliah Borg Iliah Borg
              June 29, 2014 at 7:35 pm

              > there is nothing wrong with comparing different offerings from different companies and questioning whether the brand you use is giving you the best quality for the money

              Much of the quality is in the hands of the photographer.

              As to the comparison between brands, —
              > If Sony can offer 12 fps at 24 mp for the same price that Nikon is offering 6 fps at the same resolution

              Resolution is not all we need, and 12 fps sometimes are only good on the paper. If the buffer is not lasting for 4 seconds and battery is capable of 2 to 3 hundred shots per charge 12 fps is a gimmick :) So much for the comparison.

              > Nikon has hyped up the sRAW addition to the D810

              How exactly did Nikon hyped it?

  2. 2) Sergio
    June 29, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Interesting information. Thanks for sharing!

  3. 3) Richard D
    June 29, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Hi, Nasim,

    I’m not sure if you answered this, but I’ve long been curious as to what the NEF (RAW) Recording type is on my D600. The two options are: On Lossless Compressed; and ON Compressed. This tells me that RAW is always compressed because these two options don’t look as if you can have an “Off” compressed, lossless or not.

    The only difference I have seen so far is that with the lossless compression, RAW files typically are 28 to 30 Mbytes with lossless compression, and they are typically smaller, being maybe 25 to 28 Mb with the non-lossless compression option.

    I do use 14 bits as the bit depth.

    What is the difference in these options, and am I correct in saying that all RAW files on the D600 are compressed in some manner? And, how does this relate, if at all, to sRAW? You might have somewhat covered this in item 5 above, but it’s still unclear to me.

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      Richard, to get an idea of what the D800/D810 cameras have in terms of RAW recording options, please take a look at this article:

      Basically, you have Lossless Compressed in 12 and 14-bit, Compressed in 12 and 14 bit and Uncompressed in 12 and 14-bit – a total of 6 RAW options. The D810 has sRAW as well, so the number of options has been expanded on the D810. The D600 has Lossless Compressed and Compressed only, so there are a total of 4 options. Obviously this is all in FX mode – if you count DX, then there are twice more. So yes, the D600 RAW images are compressed, whether they are lossless or lossy. Lossless compression yields larger files, because there is more data in it. Now this does not really relate to sRAW, because there is no sRAW option on the D600…

  4. 4) Harsha
    June 29, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks Nasim. We finally have an article about sRAW that a layman can understand :)

  5. 5) Russell MacDonald
    June 29, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    On my D800, 12bit lossy compressed images are 34MB each.

    I assume this would be similar size with the same mode on the D810.

    If that is true, and the sRAW mode reduces file size to 9MB, that would seem to be a major size advantage and very useful.

    • June 29, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      > sRAW mode reduces file size to 9MB

      It reduces pixel dimensions to 9 megapixels, but the sRAW file size is 28 megabytes.

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Russell, please note that I specifically used “9 MP” (megapixels), not “9 MB” (megabytes).

  6. 6) Karen Grigoryan
    June 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Nasim!

    My only reason for upgrading to D810 was sRAW… Well, better AF and high ISO (don’t care about 64 though) are nice too, but I thought sRAW is a real RAW until recently… People are saying that it is cooked, but I had downloaded D4s RAW and sRAW samples and was playing with WB and found that sRAW WB adjustment is behaving the same as RAW and not like JPEg that give you Purple/Green cast when you adjust WB… Yes, there is some loss in DR, but I didn’t find it huge…

    Can you or someone else who owns D4s (or somehow has D810 pre production in hands) do a simple test? Shoot RAW and sRAW outside (or inside with direct flash) with tungsten WB (to make it blue) or opposite – inside under tungsten light setting WB to sun to make it orange and compare them after quick WB correction in LR?

    The all purpose of the sRAW for me would be reception shots (I am a full time wedding photographer) as well as PJ shots when no HQ required… I also heard that sRAW has even cleaner Hi ISO images due to the combination of the 4 pixels together, thus 4 time more light but I guess you answered this question with “no binning”…

    For now I am using 2 D3s bodies for weddings, but sometimes need more pixels especially at the huge group shots…

    I do have D800 for that purpose, but was thinking about getting all in one nice D810 package…

    Please advise…

    God bless,


    • June 29, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Karen, if I can get a hold of a D4s, I will do a comparison for illustration purposes. Now in terms of sRAW vs RAW, the point of the article is to show that you are better off shooting in full RAW with compressed RAW files, rather than only getting 4 or 9 megapixel images with more bit data than JPEG. There is simply no advantage to sRAW, so it is best to avoid using it, as recommended here. That’s why Nikon has not introduced sRAW for many years, since their engineers know that sRAW is not a true RAW file…

  7. 7) Matias Bravo
    June 29, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I remember reading somewhere that perhaps the sRAW file would probe to be useful on applications with extremely short deadlines (like major sports events), where given the current [wired] transfer speeds that you can achieve with top of the line cameras the one issue with dealing with proper raws are rendering times, not transmission times (which relates to file size). So sRAW been pre-cooked but not as compressed as JPEG would give editors still a fairly fast workflow but with added editing flexibility. What do you think about that possible scenario Nasim?

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Matias, if you use Canon’s DPP or Nikon’s Capture NX, then it might make sense to shoot sRAW. All other converters are applying guesswork, as Iliah pointed out, which means that the final rendered image is going to potentially have problems. If someone needs quick images, shooting RAW + JPEG is probably a better alternative…

      • 7.1.1) Matias Bravo
        June 29, 2014 at 5:53 pm

        That is the approach I take (JPEG+raw), as even /small JPEG are more than enough for online uses and you get to keep the raws for when in need of more demanding use (like big printed promotional material).

        But back to the topic, that is probably the sticking issue with sRAW (the lack for 3rd party support), as I understand that programs like Lightroom (which I use) are better choices for large batch processing than DPP or the NX series. A raw+sRAW could be a nice choice, but I don’t think we would like what would happen to the buffer :P.

        Now, the astronomer in me fails to see why the choice of this kind of file when a simple averaging of 4 neighbouring pixels of the same colour (since hardware binning is likely impossible for this sensors, and has effects on saturation levels you need to account for) while still retaining the RGBG pattern could give you a file retaining all raw properties in 1/4 of resolution (and probably image size?). But I must confess that we don’t work with sensors with CFA, so that approach could lead to similar artifacts that you describe for physical binning.

  8. 8) Jay
    June 29, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I think we will have to have a deeper dive into this issue before we can come to any conclusions. The truth will be in the pudding. Lets see some print comparisons when they come out!

  9. 9) Kurt
    June 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    “Still, sRAW is nothing more than a glorified JPEG image that contains more bits / colors. With a true RAW file, you have a lot of leverage in post-processing – from changing white balance to applying gamma corrections.”

    ‘Glorified JPEG’–really? How is the ‘leverage’ lost precisely, as both the D4s full-size and sRAW open in ACR? To look into this, I have download from Rawdigger and their D4s test pics of both full-size and sRAW. In ACR, it appears to me that sRAW is just as flexible to adjustments as full-size. Obviously, I’m not analyzing things to the level that Rawdigger does, but my eyes aren’t seeing any noticeable differences in gamut, dynamic range, curves, or noise. Ultimately, if I cannot see any real difference in the image or its response to processing, it doesn’t matter to me.

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      Kurt, unless Nikon and Canon provide full details on interpreting sRAW files to Adobe, its rendering will not be complete / without issues.

      sRAW might appear to be flexible, since those sliders still work similarly as on RAW files, however, 11-bit data and 4 times less resolution on Nikon result in very heavy loss of data. You are better off shooting in lossy compressed RAW format, which has file sizes slightly bigger than sRAW, but retains full resolution of the image.

      • 9.1.1) Kurt
        June 29, 2014 at 5:53 pm

        Nasim, I still have not seen any proof that sRAW is not an actual RAW file, or that the gamut or dynamic range is any different between sRAW and full-size RAW. Naturally, comparing sRAW to 14-bit is problematic. I’m talking about 12 bit, since it’s only fair to compare the sRAW between a comparable full-size file. I spent the past 2 hours carefully comparing the curves and values of two files below. After putting both files through many identical adjustments in ACR, I’m just not seeing any discernible difference in levels, color data, gamut, or noise. If anything, the sRAW file has a slightly expanded tonal range.

        _DSC0151.NEF FX (36×24) 4936 3288 12 Uncompressed 25 MB

        _DSC0163.NEF FX (36×24) 2464 1640 12 Small 13 MB

        • Profile photo of Iliah Borg Iliah Borg
          June 30, 2014 at 6:31 am

          > I still have not seen any proof that sRAW is not an actual RAW file

          Raw file is Bayer RGB, sRAW is YCC, and thus it is not raw. We would not be able to display an image from sRAW if we got the decoding wrong. So the article on RawDigger site is the proof that sRAW is not raw.

        • DVDMike
          June 30, 2014 at 7:41 am

          Just because you cannot “see” any differences on these studio type images shot at base ISO on your computer system is not much of an indication that the sRaw is not really a Raw file. Are you even using a 10 bit monitor for these careful examinations for discernible differences? Did you resize the real raw file down to 4 megapixels to make these scientific comparisons?

          Get a D4s .jpeg image from the same scene and see if you can really tell that it is an 8 bit jpeg saved at highest quality in a double blind test. If you cannot, this is no proof that 8 bit jpegs are really Raw files.

          I don’t see any differences between those two samples on my 8 bit monitor either. But those images are fairly flat and at iso 100. I rarely shoot images with their type of histogram. The shadow areas are basically monochromatic even. There is almost no data in the right third of the histogram! These are terrible images to be running a test to disprove the sRaw article findings.

          I understand that in your shooting conditions that there may not be any discernable differences between sRaw and Raw and maybe Jpeg too. But it does not mean that the article is not factual in any way.

          • Kurt
            July 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm

            I wasn’t actually trusting my eyes as much as reading the values, histograms, and curves I’ve indicated above. Of course I can tell a jpg file from a RAW file–the compression artifacts are a dead giveaway. :) The editing software I’m using is Photoshop, which unfortunately cannot tell me is something is Bayer RGB or YCC. All I’m saying is…if I cannot measure the difference in 16-bit mode, how are these differences noticeable when the image is output to an 8-bit jpeg file, an ink-based print, or directly sent to film for offset lithography? All of these color gamuts are smaller.

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      When you have shots made in studio, with daylight-balanced stabilized lights and decent exposure it is one thing. When white balance is difficult, exposure is to the left to protect highlights it is a different story.

  10. 10) Russell MacDonald
    June 29, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    “It reduces pixel dimensions to 9 megapixels, but the sRAW file size is 28 megabytes.”

    My mistake.

    So, sRAW appears to offer a reduction in file size of 6 MB per image. That might be useful when one needs no more than 9 MP resolution – IF the sRAW editing capability approaches that of a regular RAW image.

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Russell, if Nikon pixel binned those pixels in a good way without artifacts, a 9 MP image would certainly be attractive to many! But it is camera down-sampling and too much CPU overhead, so there is no real advantage…

  11. 11) Heywood Jablome
    June 29, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    “On a positive note, if Nikon and Canon introduce a secondary JPEG format based on sRAW compression hardware instead of regular 8-bit JPEG, that would be a welcome change. With the progress of modern wide gamut monitors, 8-bit JPEGs just don’t cut it anymore…”

    This. We are so overdue for the camera industry to settle on a general-purpose output format that isn’t from 1990. A sRAW-based jpg, JPG2000, PNG, whatever.

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Amen! It is time to see those 16-bit JPEGs!

  12. 12) Russell MacDonald
    June 29, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    But, what if you don’t need more than 9 MP? Then, wouldn’t it make sense to save 6 MB per image by using sRAW?

    • 12.1) Russell MacDonald
      June 29, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      I shot at least 20 weddings with my D70, and it only had 6 MP resolution.

    • June 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Russell, please see the above responses – you are better off with shooting lossy compressed RAW files in full resolution, then reducing them in Lightroom / Photoshop when exporting. So instead of letting the camera down-sample, you basically do it in post and you retain a lot more data. Even if you don’t need 36 MP, shoot in full resolution, then reduce megapixels afterwards :)

  13. 13) bobgoerss
    June 29, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Thank you for the article and all of the comments(Nikon sRAW/810 release info).

    In total, it has provided me a crisp understanding of sRAW, which I did not have, before. As I was waiting for an 800 upgrade, and sRAW came up as a result off the 810 announcement, maybe like many I was trying to sort out the “sRaw option”, esp. over the last 3 days shooting with friends.

    With 2 of the Canon guys, I’d ask, and they’s say something “Don’t go there……….Bob. “, at the end of the day, when I was seeking a real working/field understanding of it. They only shoot RAW with the exception Jegs when they need to transmit to base, that day.

    So thanks again, first time every commenting, but been reading and learning, from this POST, columns, articles, and so many great comments and responses. Sy, g.

  14. 14) Plevyadophy
    June 30, 2014 at 3:48 am


    Firstly, nice article; very helpful.

    Secondly, I think you might be asking Canon and Nikon to reinvent the wheel when you say “On a positive note, if Nikon and Canon introduce a secondary JPEG format based on sRAW compression hardware instead of regular 8-bit JPEG, that would be a welcome change. With the progress of modern wide gamut monitors, 8-bit JPEGs just don’t cut it anymore…” because we already have that in a ratified file format called JPEG XR



  15. 15) Plevyadophy
    June 30, 2014 at 4:06 am

    sRAW (and mRAW), further reading and understanding

    I thought the following links might help readers increase their understanding of the issues surrounding sRAW ( they relate to Canon’s implementation but much of the discussion is of benefit to Nikon shooters too):

    Canon sRAW and mRAW ( an independent technical paper )

    sRAW a new alternative for Sports Photography by Ron Martinsen

    Canon sRAW vs. full RAW, when small is a BIG deal.  updated 10/17/13. By Pete Firling

    • Profile photo of Iliah Borg 15.1) Iliah Borg
      June 30, 2014 at 6:37 am

      A very useful article explaining the details on Canon raw formats is

      Shooting correctly exposed and well-lit colour targets is not the best way to exploit the quality of the outcome. A target encompasses only 6 stops of brightness range. One needs to shoot a target with at least 3 stops underexposure to get close to real world scenario.

      • 15.1.1) Plevyadophy
        June 30, 2014 at 7:16 am


        Now, in my reading of what Canon are getting up to it seems that in actual use there is very little noticeable loss in using Canon sRAW if you want small file sizes ( and don’t later-on require extreme colour manipulations ) but mRAW introduces too many quality compromises and doesnt save much in file size so is not worth bothering with.

        And it seems that Nikon haven’t as yet finessed their own sRAW format.

        Would that be your take on it too?

        • Liomar Marques Júlio
          March 4, 2015 at 5:56 pm

          Well, I have found some situations, specially at low apertures, where mRaw is a little more sharp out of the camera than RAW, some sRaw files where on post processing the color is a little different than RAW, and in my hand sRaw seems to have slightly less noise out of the camera.
          But from reading here, the Nikon implementation seemed useless to me. I haven’t tried it, but the file size difference doesn’t justify it.

      • 15.1.2) Liomar Marques Júlio
        March 4, 2015 at 5:58 pm

        Hey, great article. A bit too technical, but good.
        It seems to support the idea I had that it had less interpolation problems on sRaw.

  16. 16) Rafael
    July 8, 2014 at 6:35 am

    This is the best article on sRAW I’ve read. Dense and straight to the point(s). Also I won’t need to worry about upgrading because of a “useless” file format.

    Congrats, Nasim & Iliah!

  17. 17) Dror
    September 16, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Another great article. I will look into this Lossy Compressed format which I never used… Thanks!

  18. 18) Paolo Razzoli
    October 5, 2014 at 1:15 am

    It would be very intersting comparing sraw with dng converted raw with lossy downsampling, have anyone tried to do?

  19. 19) Dror
    November 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    I don’t understand why the sRaw files are so large. If Nikon D4S files are 19.4 MB at Lossless compressed with 16.2 Mega pixel – then why is the Nikon D810 sRaw with only 9 mega pixel at lossless compressed sized 28 MB – how is this possible?
    My D4S file size comes from
    My D810 sRaw size is what I get when shooting sRaw.
    Thanks in advance,

  20. 20) Sreejib
    November 30, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    How does the picture quality effected by 12 bit raw compare with the 14 bit raw file.

  21. 21) Liomar Marques Júlio
    March 4, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Well, the difference in size for the Canon RAW and mRAW is singnificant: on the 60D, raw is around 24,3 MB, mRaw around 18, and sRaw 11,5. Besides, I open sRaw and mRaw files on photoshop, lightroom UFraw and Rawtherapy normally, no need to convert to DNG or anything else.
    There’s an small diffrence in sharpness on very small apertures, with mRaw being more sharp, and and using ufraw to open the image, there’s definitely less noise on sRaw. The detail recover seems the same for me.
    Remember that some of the color information from the sensor is already interpolated, and mRaw seems to has less problems with moiree, and less banding, so it seems that it uses a different method to calculate the value of each pixel, combining the data from the Bayer array without or with less interpolation. I did not test this, it’s just an impression.

    This article seems to emphasize too much Nikon implementation, which really didn’t seem to make sense. But for Canon shooters, it is definitaly worth a try.

  22. 22) Doug Peterson
    May 3, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    “The problem with hardware pixel binning on a full-color Bayer sensors, is that it does not always lead to quality photographic results.”

    Notably one company has solved that problem but they own the patent on it.

    We (the dealer I work for, Digital Transitions) still sell a lot of the backs that implemented this, like the P65+ because many people want 60mp for some of their work, but don’t want 60mp raw files for all the work they do. They could carry/use two camera systems but that implies two sets of cables, batteries, lenses etc. By actually pixel binning at the hardware level you gain two stops of ISO, don’t change the frame of the shot, reduce aliasing (at least using the specific method P1 uses) resulting in detailed but natural rendition, and faster shooting rates (both tethered and untethered).

  23. 23) Gary Minor
    July 16, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Your statement of “the resulting images contained either twice, or four times less megapixels.” is troubling. A lot of your readers are well versed in mathematics, data analysis, and engineering. This statement is a poor description of the relation that you are trying to describe. A proper statement is “the resulting images contained either one half or one fourth as many megapixels.

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