So, you own a Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, and you’ve already fallen in love with its amazing camera. I don’t blame you – it’s pretty friggin sweet. But did you know that you can take even better photos by shooting RAW images with a 3rd-party app than you can with the stock camera app?
Well, you can.
And in this post, I’m going to show you both why RAW images are better, and how you can take them yourself.
Raw vs JPEG: Which is better?
JPEG is the standard file format most smartphone cameras produce. They’re processed directly within the camera, using color temperature and exposure settings based on your camera’s settings.
But the thing about JPEG images that makes them less than ideal is that they’re compressed into a “loss” file format where much of the initial information and detail is discarded and can’t be recovered.
On the other hand, JPEG files are generally “ready to share” images. This means they camera process the images it takes, adding blacks, contrast, brightness, noise reduction, and sharpening, as the camera’s software sees fit.
The Pixel 2 happens to be very good at this.
RAW images are uncompressed images, unlike JPEG files. They’re unprocessed snapshots of all of the detail available to the camera sensor, thus making RAW files much larger in size.
For example, an average JPEG file can be anywhere from 5-10 megabytes – maybe slightly more, in some cases. RAW files, however, are typically 25 megabytes or bigger. They contain a crap-ton more data than JPEG files. But because they’re unprocessed images, RAW shots generally tend to look flat and dark.
Now, why on Earth would we want larger files that aren’t processed and don’t look as good?
The answer to this question is actually the answer to whether you should shoot in JPEG or RAW in the first place, and it’s rather simple. RAW files are lightyears better for editing, thanks to all of that extra data they contain.
If you plan to do post-processing of your images, you 100% should be shooting in RAW.
I could go on for days about the benefits of RAW, but this information has already been covered extensively on the Internet. You can check out this article from SLR Lounge that does a great job of explaining everything in detail.
Why doesn’t the Pixel 2 stock camera shoot RAW images?
So, if RAW images are better, why don’t Google’s flagships geared towards excellent photography take them?
Well, they do, but not by default.
The Pixel 2’s stock camera app is designed to be as minimal as possible – unless we’re talking about AR Core Stickers, of course. But that’s an entirely different story.
The reason the Pixel 2 camera app doesn’t take RAW images is that Google designed the Pixel 2 to be an amazing JPEG shooter. The phone uses advanced AI and machine learning to process the photos it takes, and it does an absolutely fantastic job.
Google even highlighted at the Pixel 2 unveiling event that it wants users of the Pixel 2 to be able to point, shoot, and capture amazing images without having to worry about advanced camera settings or the need for shooting in different modes.
Essentially, El Goog is demanding control over the way you take photos by not offering complete control. And that’s ok because the Pixel 2 camera does an amazing job, like I already said.
But, what if you want more control?
One of the most beautiful things about Android is the freedom to choose. We have ample options when it comes to customization, but we’re not limited to changing our homescreens and icons.
We can do a lot more than that.
RAW support for Android has been around since circa 2014, so it’s certainly not new. In fact, there are several 3rd-party apps which offer the ability to shoot in RAW. All you need to do install one of them on your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, and you’re all set.
Well, you may need to enable .DNG file captures from within the specific app you’re using after you install it, but other than that, you’re all set. (.DNG is the file format for RAW images, by the way.)
Which apps support the capturing of RAW images?
As previously stated, there are tons of apps you can use to enable RAW image captures on your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL – and these apps work for most other modern Android phones, too. Two of which I suggest are Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC (Free) and Camera FV-5 ($3.95).
Check those out below.
One thing to keep in mind, however. You won’t be able to use Portrait Mode with these apps, as that’s a feature tied to the stock Google camera app.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC
What say you, fellow mobile photographers? Are you shooting JPEG or RAW images on your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL (or other smartphone)? Let me know in the comment threads – and don’t forget to get your submissions in for Mobile Photography Mondays, while we’re on the subject.