Fine vs Normal Compression


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Jun 17, 2011
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I took two pictures, one in large fine and the other in large normal. At 100% I can't see any difference, change it to 800% and I can see how compression affects the image. However, even thought we know fine is better quality, does it really matter if one can't see it?
I did a search and most people's reaction was memories are cheap just be safe and use fine setting, or even "use raw" which is irrelevant.
The difference in file size between fine and normal is about twice, so I'm tempted to switch. Whats your opinion between these two setting?
My opinion is yes, you should use RAW.

Failing that, storage is so incredibly cheap these days, that there's no reason to use more compression than you have to... you can still store thousands of the highest quality jpgs for just a couple dollars.

Also, how noticeable the compression is will vary based on content... Compressed trees acquire way more artifacts than say, compressed clear blue sky.
Don't you want to get all the IQ you paid for when you bought your camera ?

I'm with analog.universe. Use RAW if you can, or at least the max jpeg file format.
I posted in the beyond basic section to hear more facts than opinions. I have tryed raw and I could notice better colors, but I'm not into processing yet and memroy filled up quick. I want to know more about the difference between fine and normal compression in terms of quality. And like I said asked before, what does it matter if one can't see the difference? or is it just me not seeing?
All jpg compression tosses away some information in favor of a smaller file size. Even at max quality, some data is lost... as you increase the compression strength, you trade more and more detail for file size.

If you want to get a feel for what the JPG algorithm is actually doing to your image, most image editors will have a preview function. (if you don't have an image editor, GIMP is free and pretty good) When you save an image as a JPG, you'll be asked how much compression you want and there is a preview available for the setting you've selected. Mess around with the compression on a bunch of images you know well, so you can see exactly what is happening. If you choose extreme settings, you can get a feel for the type of loss that's happening, even if the amount is exaggerated.

Beyond the original save, quality continues to decrease as edits are made and the file is resaved. If you take a JPG from the camera and make some changes in photoshop, and then resave, you've multiplied whatever artifacts have occurred from the compression. Choosing the highest quality in camera limits this as much as possible. RAW is specifically intended to be processed and edited, and therefore sacrifices no data in camera.
Your original post says you do not want to use RAW...I can understand that. I'd suggest considering moving down to a smaller capture size, but still shooting at Fine JPEG compression. In other words, instead of shooting Large-size, Fine-compression, you might want to see what Medium-sized, Fine compression looks like.

Some cameras have a two-option JPEG compression scheme. One will be Highest Quality option, and the final storage space used will depend on how much fine and medium detail there is in the shot: A picture of an orchard might easily be a 10 megabyte JPEG, from a 12 MP camera. At the same settings, a shot of a brick wall might easily be only 4.8 megabytes. Using the BEST QUALITY mode, storage size varies.

The second mode is designed to equalize the storage size of all files, so they ALL come out very,very close in size, like say 5.4 megabytes per picture, no matter what kind oif subject matter there is. THis allows for huge numbers of images to be stored on one card.

You REALLY need to do your own tests, with YOUR camera, to see what you think is right. "Some" cameras can produce very fine JPEG images, straight off the card. Others, not so much...
It's your camera and your life/time. You can use whatever settings you want.
This is a photography forum, so the prevailing opinion is to opt for highest quality. If you asked the same question on a car forum, or a botany'd likely get very different opinions.

But this does bring up the question....if you're not going to do what you can to get the best quality images, why not use a smaller, cheaper camera?

Here's a good article about Raw.
Why Raw -- Part I
Sounds like you already know what you want to do.
As long as you don't want to make large prints down the road...really no down side...sounds like for you.
If everyone were to follow the instruction of many respondents on this thread, we'd all have Canon 1Ds Mark III with a 1Dx on pre-order and we'd all shoot in RAW format. But for the same $5000+ that a new 1Ds III costs, I bought a new 60D and 4, count 'em, 4 new Canon L lenses (all favorite color!)

Would I like to have a 1Dx on pre-order? Absolutely! But until I hit the lottery, a 1DX is only in my dreams.

As an amateur, I initially started using medium JPG format on my point and shoot boxes, primarily to get as many shots as possible on the then-expensive 128K (not meg!) card. I stayed with medium JPG until 10 months ago when I got my first DSLR (used) and a 32 MB card. I found I couldn't fill it up so I went to large/fine JPG when I got my 60D. I still couldn't fill it up in 3 evenings of shooting. I'm very satisfied with the results and need only very minor Photoshopping before printing or putting into a Powerpoint presentation.

But after reading here and elsewhere all the advantages of RAW, I went to RAW + large/fine JPG about a month ago. I haven't shot enough in one evening to fill the 32mb card, but figure I can get about 700 shots as RAW + JPG on the card. I've also played with Photoshop Lightroom and RAW. The jury is still out on that one, as processing RAW is very time consuming on my (older) computer.

But getting back to Fine or Medium JPGs, with memory as cheap as it is these days, I use Fine for the simple reason there's more 'cropability' and perhaps 10% of my shots are projected onto a 10'x16' screen. Although the Medium JPGs still provided good images on the screen, those starting from Fine were visibly better...and the L glass helped, too, of course!

In short, if you are satisfied with the results of medium JPG, then use it. But if you plan printing anything bigger than 4x6 or perhaps 8x10, you'll need the extra resolution of Fine JPGs.
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I used to shoot JPG many years ago because I had a crappy Laptop that couldn't handle RAW. Finally I was drummed into using RAW and so I did. Oh what a difference!
Angels began to sing and even my rejected images somehow won Pulitzers.

Also, I now have about 10 CF cards ranging from 4GB to 8GB and my backup unit is a 4 bay Drobo unit.
You learn to delete more and shoot more carefully when each file is over 20MB.
Looks like comparing jpegs is not even worth it here. I did a little test today. I'll be needed a larger cf card and to try raw again. Thanks.
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Whats your opinion between these two setting?
My opinion is that it make little sense to discard any more image data than is absolutely necessary, which includes cropping.

Further I think using a lossy, in the camera compression algorithm beyond the least compression available (Fine) is utterly ludicrous, and totally defeats the purpose of having a modern digital single lens reflex camera.

Nikon JPEG - Fine compression is done at a ratio of 4:1, JPEG - Normal is 8:1, and JPEG - Basic is 16:1. JPEG compression artifacts blend fairly well into photos with detailed, non-uniform textures. Like landscape photos that have no clear sky or mirror like water in them.
JPEG compression artifacts do not blend well into low detail, uniform texture photos. Like photos with a lot of clear sky. water, or skin in them.

So like so many issues related to digital images, a lot to do with image content, intended use, such that each photo or group of similar photos has to be approached on it's own merits.

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