The RAW Format

Almost all professional cameras, and most hobby cameras, let you store pictures in the RAW format. RAW files contain unprocessed ("raw") sensor values obtained straight from the camera sensors, and usually also a JPEG preview. To turn the sensor values into an actual picture, you must use a converter, a special program that does the RAW conversion work that the camera would normally do instead. The convertor interpolates the sensor values ("demosaics" them), performs white balancing, and sets the picture's saturation, contrast, brightness, and sharpness.

One advantage of acquiring pictures from RAW is that it lets you "do the camera's work better than the camera." Another is that you are working with a picture that has not yet suffered lossy JPEG compression even once. A third is that RAW files generally contain more than just the 8 bits of color depth that JPEG supports.

However, work with RAW has its downsides as well. First, while it is usually discussed as if it were a single format, each RAW file actually contains one out of many "real" formats—RAW "subformats"—on the inside. These vary not only among manufacturers, but even sometimes among individual camera models. Furthermore, no manufacturer to date has publicly released documentation for "its" RAW format. No documentation means, among other things, no way to write to the format, so RAW is read-only.

Besides the formats of individual camera manufacturers, Zoner Photo Studio also supports DNG (Digital Negative), Adobe's universal RAW format. Meanwhile, Adobe has created a program, named Adobe DNG Converter, to convert between the individual RAW subformats and DNG. This program can be downloaded from their website for free. When you install this converter and set the path to it in Zoner's Preferences, and enable its use, you gain the ability to directly process every RAW file the Converter supports. If the Converter is up to date, this means practically every RAW file. You can then use the RAW module with its numerous settings to develop photos from all RAW files, with the photos being converted to DNG in the background as an intermediate step with no action needed from you. Adobe periodically updates Adobe DNG Converter so that it can support formats from the latest camera models.