Nikon NEF: Lossless Compression vs. Uncompressed

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Khosrownia
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Posted Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:14PM

Hi.


I am wondering if lossless compression is truly the same quality as uncompressed why is it that the two of them exist? Any of you have experiences with the lossless compression?


 


Thanks
Box5
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Posted Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:24PM

I shoot weddings using lossless compression because it's nice to get those extra images per card. For stock, I dont' use any compression.


I have not done a side by side comparison, so I don't know if you can tell the difference or not. My hunch is that if you're processing your .NEF files using Nikon's software, there would be little or no difference between the uncompressed and the lossless compression. Using ACR, who knows.
NightAndDayImages
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Posted Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:44PM

I was having problems with green and magenta banding on some of my images.  I tried raw processing in both Aperture 2 and Capture NX2 with no real difference in the banding.  I wound up contacting Nikon about it and they advised me to shoot uncompressed with my D3 instead of lossless compressed, which I had been using.  I was testing tonight to see if this change made a difference and naturally I haven't been able replicate the banding issue; all my test shots look the same at the moment.  I'll post later if I learn something useful. 
AlpamayoPhoto
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Posted Sat May 1, 2010 12:33PM

By definition, lossless compression means that you can de-compress (play) the image as it was when in original size with ever single bit back to its original state.


ZIP (BZIP, GZIP, and many more ...) are all examples of lossless compression. JPEG is using loss-compression it means that some of the contain is lost due to compression. TIFF is not.


Example how lossless compression work: assume you have a image of 30 Black pixels, 80 White, 20 Green and so on. Instead of coding each pixes separately B,B,B,B,B....B (30 times), W,W,W,W,....W (80 times),G,G,...G (20-times) we could use short-hand way to represent the same stream: 30B,80W,20G. As you can see, instead of using 130 characters to respresent the color line here we used only 9 (excluding all commas).
GrigoriosMoraitis
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Posted Sat May 1, 2010 2:36PM
Lossless = lossless. There is no diferance at the results at all. Now why nikon keeps both , lossless and no copression in the menu ??? Because some pros don't trust any compression at all , and it doesn't cost any money for nikon to keep both choices in the menu.

(Edited on 2010-05-01 14:40:24 by grgreg)
Khosrownia
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Posted Sun May 2, 2010 9:28AM

I see, thanks for sharing. I am not a pro and I wouldn't trust the lossless compression only because there is an uncompressed option also available. I think Nikon should think about user confidence.


Farzad 
TexPhoto
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Posted Sun May 2, 2010 9:51AM
It seems there are some people in favor of lossless compresion and some people dead set agaianst it.   Now why would Nikon offer both.... why..... hmmmm.
nojustice
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Posted Sun May 2, 2010 10:35AM

I haven't seen a difference when shooting in NEF mode, and reading opinions on the web no one else has identified a problem that I've heard of.  I think you can trust the lossless compression - if you lose a minuscule amount of data from a shot, it probably isn't that critical.


Then again I mostly shoot JPG now that I have a D700.  I needed every bit of 16-bit data I could get because of the limited tonal range of the D200.  I also am mostly shooting track and field right now, and need the card space, processing speed, and no-hassle upload of the images for the track team.  Plus I don't have to use Nikon Capture to properly convert NEFs to TIFF in Photoshop, then save as a JPG.
AlpamayoPhoto
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Posted Sun May 2, 2010 3:14PM

<<<< I think you can trust the lossless compression - if you lose a minuscule amount of data from a shot, it probably isn't that critical.
No, you would not loose any amount of data using lossless compression!! Think if ZIP file randomly start losing a small amount of data - you'd never open those files ...


There is purpose for both modus operandi ... if you are travelling and have no luxury to switch cards easily, you'll need to use this compression.


Why people would not use it all the time? - one of the reason is that this compression is propriatory and therefore you'll need to have Nikon softtware for ever to read these files (pretty much the same for any RAW file). This is the reason for people coming up with swiss-army knife of all RAW files, called DNG.
Khosrownia
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Posted Mon May 3, 2010 5:26AM
Zorani, just for your information I shot in lossless compressed mode once and by accident. I think it was one of those times I reset my camera and forgot to set it back up all the way. Any way, I didn't have any problems opening and working with them in Adobe PS. Unless you mean "to get the full effect you have to use their software and if you use others' then expect some changes?"

(Edited on 2010-05-03 05:27:15 by Khosrownia)
AlpamayoPhoto
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Posted Mon May 3, 2010 5:46AM
Yes, I'm expecting that everything works fine now. My only point is that 10 years from now, you might need to have exact copy of this Nikon software in order to be able to process those files (assume that Nikon dissapears from existance). Nothing more than that
David_Ahn
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Posted Mon May 3, 2010 10:19PM
I used to shoot with lossless compression and tons of rejections due to artifacts.  After I switched to no compression, my acceptance rate went up dramatically. Somehow, artifact related rejections are significantly reduced.  In both cases, all the other settings were identical. Everything was off.  I am not sure whether is is related to the compression issue or not.  Dave
Khosrownia
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Posted Tue May 4, 2010 6:45AM

That sounds interesting. I believe I will communicate with Nikon to figuer this out. And by the way I have no plans on shooting lossless compressed. I will continue with Uncompressed because it is there.


 


Farzad
QShot
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Posted Tue May 4, 2010 7:03AM
Posted By hamiltonian:
I used to shoot with lossless compression and tons of rejections due to artifacts. After I switched to no compression, my acceptance rate went up dramatically. Somehow, artifact related rejections are significantly reduced. In both cases, all the other settings were identical. Everything was off. I am not sure whether is is related to the compression issue or not. Dave


Are you sure it was 'lossless' and not 'lossy' compression you were using?   Lossless compression is exactly that - 'lossless'.  When uncompressed you have exactly the same data you started with, nothing added, nothing taken away.  OTOH lossy compression will add artifacts etc by the very nature of the compression.  


I've never had any problems with lossless compression.
ChristianNasca
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Posted Tue May 4, 2010 8:11AM

I'm not using Nikon gear, so I can't comment on lossless vs. uncompressed regarding quality. Just one thing that comes to my mind as I think about where there could be a difference: maybe speed?


Someone with a Nikon camera may want to try this experiment and post the result here: Shoot for example 10 frames at max. burst speed, once saving lossless compressed and once saving uncompressed files, and stop the time until saving to the memory card is completed.


Compressing needs processing time, saving large amount of data to the memory card needs time for data transfer. Depending on which camera with which data processing unit you are using, and depending on the write speed of your memory card, one file format may allow faster burst speeds or more frames in a row than the other...
Khosrownia
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Posted Tue May 4, 2010 8:48AM
That is a good point and of course a given that it will reduce the speed somewhat. And the question here is about quality. What do you shoot with and does it have an option similar to Nikon's?
ChristianNasca
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Posted Tue May 4, 2010 9:06AM
Posted By Khosrownia:
That is a good point and of course a given that it will reduce the speed somewhat. And the question here is about quality. What do you shoot with and does it have an option similar to Nikon's?


I am using a Canon EOS 30D and it doesn't have a similar option, only RAW and JPG.


I tend to think that there should be no difference in quality, if Nikon calls it a "lossless compression". I am just trying to think of a reason why Nikon is offering both options, assuming that there is no difference in quality. - Speed could be a reason.
TexPhoto
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Posted Tue May 4, 2010 10:50AM

I was a little subtle in my first post.  I think they offer both Lossless compression, and uncompressed RAW to satisfy the customers who want that.  One group does not trust any compression scheme, (and can afford larger CF cards), and another is comfortable with compression called "lossless" and wants the space on CF cards and Hard Drives.  Offer both, make both groups happy.


On my Canon 5DII, the raw files seem to range from 16MB to 42MB, so there must be some compression scheme in there.  
QShot
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Posted Tue May 4, 2010 1:14PM
Posted By ChristianNasca:

Posted By Khosrownia:
That is a good point and of course a given that it will reduce the speed somewhat. And the question here is about quality. What do you shoot with and does it have an option similar to Nikon's?



I am using a Canon EOS 30D and it doesn't have a similar option, only RAW and JPG.


I tend to think that there should be no difference in quality, if Nikon calls it a "lossless compression". I am just trying to think of a reason why Nikon is offering both options, assuming that there is no difference in quality. - Speed could be a reason.


Speed vs Card Size.    As an example, I can't shoot timelapse at 2 second intervals with (lossless) compressed RAW files because the camera can't compress the files fast enough, but it 'can' write the uncompressed files to the CF card that fast.   OTOH when I want max shots per card I can switch to compressed.  It's nice to have both options.
ChristianNasca
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Posted Tue May 4, 2010 10:14PM
Posted By QShot:

Posted By ChristianNasca:


Posted By Khosrownia:
That is a good point and of course a given that it will reduce the speed somewhat. And the question here is about quality. What do you shoot with and does it have an option similar to Nikon's?


I am using a Canon EOS 30D and it doesn't have a similar option, only RAW and JPG.


I tend to think that there should be no difference in quality, if Nikon calls it a "lossless compression". I am just trying to think of a reason why Nikon is offering both options, assuming that there is no difference in quality. - Speed could be a reason.


Speed vs Card Size. As an example, I can't shoot timelapse at 2 second intervals with (lossless) compressed RAW files because the camera can't compress the files fast enough, but it 'can' write the uncompressed files to the CF card that fast. OTOH when I want max shots per card I can switch to compressed. It's nice to have both options.


Thanks Q! I did expect something like that.


Had Nikon chosen to offer only the lossless compressed format (which, needless to mention, has great advantages), they might have had to compromise with speed. In addition the longer image processing time due to compression does also drain a lot more energy from the batteries.


So the conclusion must be:


uncompressed:


+ faster, greater battery autonomy, same quality


- bigger file size


lossless compressed:


+ smaller file size, same quality


- slower, reduced battery autonomy
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