I have had my D90 for about 11 months now. Up until this point I haven't really had any use for my cameras RAW setting. After hearing about the Lightroom 3 Beta, and reading a fair amount about why RAW is so amazing and important, I decided it was time to start shooting RAW. Before I went out shooting a bunch of photographs in Nikons NEF format I wanted to do some tests.
I took a few of my new Pitbull Zoe, in some pretty low light situations.
I really liked the outcome of this particular set of pictures. The originals were quite underexposed, and I was shooting at around 1.4 indoors at night, so I thinK they look pretty good given the circumstances. I was able to pull a lot of detail out of the RAW image in Lightroom. I also have to note that the noise reduction in Lightroom is phenomenal. It turns any noise into grain, so it looks like it is just shot on a higher ASA film stock. In these pictures I was shooting at pretty high ISOs, and particularly in the last picture I noticed a quite a bit of noise, so I actually added some film grain to see how it would blend with the already dirty image.
I personally like the first image, especially since it looks so good and the original was pretty dark. The thing I like about RAW is I am able to really play with the image accurately, there are so many more options to tweak your image. its also great when you go out to shoot and you mess up a setting in camera and your pictures are potentially ruined. Like this one:
Here is a prime example of how RAW can save you. I went out to shoot after we had received a beating during the blizzard of 2009, we had about 4 ft of snow so it was a prime opportunity to shoot. I had done some research online that said you should over expose by 2 stops to compensate for your meter miss reading the bright snow and exposing it grey. So I went out and shot like 200 pictures and then realized I had UNDER exposed by 2 stops for each shot! I was so pissed because I captured a lot of really interesting shots. However, as you can see, I was able to pull a lot of that image out even though it was under exposed. The image above is just a quick job, and if i spent more time I could pull more out and make it look great. The point is, that if I had shot jpeg, I don't think I would have had the flexibility I did for this situation and in the process could have lost a lot of great pictures.
In closing I really urge you to take a try at your SLRs RAW mode, it will make all the difference in post processing. The best part is that as long as you have that RAW file you can re-process your photos as newer and more advanced software comes out, so there is really no end to the possibilities of RAW.
Like I said, I am still relitivly new to shooting RAW, however, the few projects I have done since these tests, I have come to appreciate RAW even more.