While there may still be occcasions when jpeg is a good idea (fast auto repeat without filling the buffer, or just to take an enormous number of pictures with limited memory card size), use raw unless you have a good reason not to.
I'll start with one picture taken on my Canon 7D. I reset the jpeg conversion to 'standard' before doing this, so the jpeg version is what the camera does by default. (this could be improved in some respects using a different profile, but usually improving 1 thing makes another worse, so not really much to be gained by doing this). This is a single photo saved to jpeg and raw simultaneously, and both imported into lightroom(lens and aberation correction applied on import).
Here is the jpeg version of the, obviously scaled down a lot, it's just part of my living room, looking through into a darker room, it was fairly overcast and late afternoon, so 3 secs at f5.6 and iso 100 zoomed right out on an ef-s 17-55mm lens.
Let's what's going on in more detail, the bottom right corner is useful as there is a very dark area (with a spiral turned table leg) and a very bright area (some white material) close by.
Loosing the highlights
I've cropped down to the corner and marked the blown areas in the jpeg version. The raw version has just a few flecks - and all in the crumpled plastic sheet, not the white material.
Below, I've used Lightroom to pull back the highlights in both pictures by -14, then I also reduced exposure 2.5 stops in both so the whites are mid grey which makes it easier to see what's going on (especially if your display is crushing whites, which is often the case unless it's been calibrated).
Oh yes, in the raw version I've set vibrance +7 and saturation +10 to get the colours closer as well.
Into the inky depthsTime to see how the darker areas fare. This time the crop is at the top of the wall in the dark room. The wall is dark green, with a mid grey, dark grey, black sequence of stripes.
This time I've used the Shadows adjustment in Lightroom to see what we can get back. In both cases there were only speckles of clipped shadows and the raw file had slightly more indicated than the jpeg. In both cases they were in the areas of black paint.
I've kept these larger to show more detail. I tweaked shadows in Lightroom and tried to get the mid grey bands to approxiumately match. Above is the jpeg with Shadows +55.
- The jpeg is clearly loosing a lot of detail, the paint colour boundaries and especially the mouldings on the door look out of focus.
- There is a lot more noise in the raw version clearly a lot of noise reduction has been dialled into the camera's jpeg conversion.
- The colours are rather damaged in the jpeg, as well as the overall contrast in the dark areas.
Exposure +2 (just for this)
And below the Raw version with:
Exposure +2 (just for this)
Sharpening 25 (default)
Radius 1.0 (default)
But I have uploaded it to flickr and it looks fine there....
and this man had the answer. Google is making my images "better".