Can Raw Files be Compressed Without Losing Information?

Welcome to Camlense. This is Mehmood and today I will be talking about RAW image files. I dont know about you, but I am always shooting in RAW, but problem is that I am fed up with my external hard drives constantly filling up because of the huge file size of the RAW files.

So, can RAW files be compressed without losing information and details? Also, what are RAW files, and can they be compressed without losing information? We will discuss everything about the RAW image files here. So, stay with us till the end.

Can Raw Files be Compressed Without Losing Information?

In short, Yes RAW files can be compressed wisely without losing much information by converting the RAW file to DNG Lossy Format via Adobe DNG Software and then edited like normal photos.

What is a RAW Image File?

A RAW format captures everything that pass the image sensor of the camera. There is no compression, exposure adjustment, or any noise reduction. You will be able to all the changes at the time of editing these photos.

Can RAW Image File be Compressed?

As I stated above that I mostly use RAW format for my photography and because of that my hard drives are filling up due to which I have to buy a new one every year. Thats why I wanted to look for a solution for it and finally, found a solution to present to you guys.

How to Compress a RAW Image File?

The first thing you need is a free adobe software called Adobe DNG which basically converts every raw format file into a DNG file It looks like this.

(Photo)

You have to select a folder, go to preferences, and select Lossy Compression. It compresses the RAW files in a lossy way because by default, the RAW files are already compressed but they are compressed in a lossless way.

This means that they are already compressed by the camera but in a way that there is no information but here you have the option to use lossy compression and if you click this, you have further options where you can tell the software to preserve the pixel count, so the dimensions of the photo will remain the same or you can tell the software to resize the photo.

(Photo)

So, now I am going to preserve pixel count and use lossy compression. So here is the best part. With this, I shrink the RAW file size to roughly 1/3 of the original size.

Quality and Information After Compression of RAW Files

Okay, now comes the Pixel Peeping Part. You may be wondering, if the RAW file is compressed so much, will it have the same image quality? Will it be as good as the original RAW file? Well, here are the test shots. Lets test the following pictures.

(Photo)

On the left side of the image, you can see a RAW file and on the right is the lossy DNG file. On 100% zoom, you cant tell the difference. So, lets move to 400% magnification.

Still, you wont find much difference between both the photos, but Id say that the original one is a bit better and has a bit better dynamic range but is still not worth the big size. The lossy image works best in this case. Now, lets talk about another example.

The next picture I got, is deliberately taken underexposed of Budapest. This shot is taken with a Nikon D850. The photo is deliberately underexposed to show you how many improvements can be made to RAW files.

(Photo)

I have placed both original and lossy formats side by side. So, you cant tell any difference at 100% magnification. Both photos are almost the same.

Bottom Line

So, what was the conclusion? I think should use this lossy compression if you are facing a file-size issue. There are also a few other applications available that do the same thing. I will recommend the Adobe DNG because on one hand Adobe is very popular and on the other hand its free software.

Thats all for today. I hope, your issue is resolved by now. If not, you can still ask us in the comments if you are facing any other issues. Also, if you are having any better solution, Id love to hear it from you in the comments below. Thank You!

Leave a Comment