Here’s another thought that popped to mind this evening as I was playing with my new Canon 7D (oh god, how I love this thing already!), and it relates to 2 questions many colleagues ask:
1) Should I shoot in RAW or JPEG?
Simple answer to a complex question: UNLESS you are taking pictures that you need in RAW because you’re aiming for accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry or a similar organization, I recommend you shoot in JPEG. Why? Well, there are no PMS (practice management software) programs of which I know that can handle RAW files; you need much bigger memory cards if taking a lot of pictures; RAW files do take longer to download; you need a lot more HD memory to store a large number of RAW files. As a comparison:
My work PC has roughly 44,000 pictures of patients that I’ve taken with all my digital cameras going back to 2002 (my first was an Olympus C2500L), and the My Pictures folder is approx. 130GB. My home PC has approximately 20,000 pictures in the My Pictures folder, but because I shoot all my personal stuff in RAW, that folder is about 300GB! So only 1/2 the pictures, but more than double the memory required. And with the new 7D having RAW files of about 24MB each, that will increase fast!
While JPEG files do degrade slightly over time when opened and closed many many many times, with the current resolution of images, the likelihood that such degradation will be visible in your entire lifetime is practically zilch. Ain’t gonna happen. No need to worry about it.
If you ARE aiming for accreditation, why is it therefore important to shoot in RAW? For a very simple reason: the RAW file is equivalent to a digital negative, and it is ALWAYS that equivalent. Even if you edit it, the original is always there and can be recovered, so it’s impossible to “fake” pictures by editing them. That way the examiners can be 100% positive that no-one is trying to sneak something by that was really Photoshopped.
2) OK, so I shoot in JPEG for intraoral/extraoral photography, what level of resolution should I choose?
Since JPEGs can be handled pretty easily by virtually any computer these days, and you can get a lot more pictures onto a card and HD, it makes sense IMO to shoot at the largest resolution (the “L” with the smooth curve next to it, not the steps). Sure, you could shoot much smaller files, but what’s the point? At some time you will probably regret having a lower-quality image that you can’t improve/upsize……but it’s easy and fast to take a bigger-than needed picture and downsize it.