Remember the old days when there was Elvis? Further back – FDR. Further back – dinosaurs…whoops, too far…reel forward to Oskar Barnack. Oskar made the first Leica cameras and set the dials on the photographic world so that ever after people could use 35mm film in cameras. They might not have been able to use it well but that’s not the point. They all had a common medium with which to fail. Essentially, any 35mm film went into any 35mm camera, developing tank, and enlarger. Darkroom workers may have occasionally mistaken which side was meant to be up in the gate of the enlarger or printer, but none of them put the film in sideways. At the end of the process people could tell the difference between a postcard print and a water pump, even if it was only by the flavour.
Not. So. Now.
RAW file from camera A is not readable by camera B, or by editing program C or by internet program D. If camera A is new, the buyer may well have to wait for months or years before C takes notice of their plight ( or of the money to be made ) and lets A use their program. D never wants to know. B is not consulted as they are in the same fix as A and are fighting with C as well. All the while there is a background howling from the internet trolls about it. It’s the sort of thing that would give Tolkien nightmares…
I am hoist on the petard at present with 4 cameras that have mutually exclusive RAW files and two editing programs that are just a little too old. As a result I need to calculate what use will be made of the images I am going to take before I select a camera to do the job. Will I need to batch-correct in Lightroom 6? Can I get away with ACR and one at a time in Photoshop Elements 14? Am I going to be using the oldest device in the line because I need the combination of processes? Do I need to sign up for new programs, shuffle libraries, lose files, take on years of new computer tutorials just to get the phenocky system to work? Will the computer last long enough to make it all worth while? Will I?
You can see why I have deliberately chosen the camera system that has the best JPEG images as a basic fallback position. I do set things to take RAW as well, but in many cases only as a form of electronic insurance. And you can understand my relief when I find that a job is done and down in JPEG finals and I can legitimately ditch the RAW files. I sail the deep seas – once I am out there, I cut the bridge back to shore.
But you can also see why I am sometimes tempted to go to a system that takes DNG and have done with it.