Today’s Question: I got an email about software from Topaz Labs that claims to convert JPEG images to raw captures. Is that even possible, and if so will it provide all of the benefits of raw?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “JPEG to RAW AI” software from Topaz Labs does not provide the same benefits as a raw capture, and frankly I feel that their marketing around this software is misleading.

More Detail: “JPEG to RAW AI” from Topaz Labs enables you to batch process JPEG images and convert them to a DNG or TIFF image with a 16-bit per channel bit depth. As part of the processing, various enhancements are applied to the image. The claim is that the result will be greater dynamic range, a larger color space, higher bit depth, reduced artifacts, and increased detail.

To begin with, converting a JPEG image to a DNG or TIFF file format with a different color space and higher bit-depth setting does not provide any quality benefit for the image all by itself. The only real benefit from these changes would be the potential for better image quality after applying strong adjustments. The exact same results could be achieved by changing the color space and bit depth for an image in Photoshop, for example, with no visible change in appearance for the photo.

After testing a variety of images with JPEG to RAW AI, I did not find that there was any significant improvement in the level of detail in the photos. Some photos showed evidence of contrast enhancement and sharpening in certain areas, which obviously could also be applied using other software.

While some of the visible artifacts in JPEG images I tested with JPEG to RAW AI were reduced, in areas where artifacts were reduced overall sharpness and detail were also reduced. In some cases detail enhancement in certain areas of an image actually increased the visibility of artifacts in the image.

Overall I was not impressed with the results I achieved with the JPEG images I processed with JPEG to RAW AI. More worrisome to me, however, is that I feel the way the product is being marketed is misleading. While I do feel that some of the software products from Topaz Labs are very good, I would not recommend JPEG to RAW AI.

If you’d like to check out JPEG to RAW AI for yourself, you can get more info on the Topaz Labs website here: