RAW vs. cRAW: Differences Between These Image Files

RAW vs. cRAW featured photo

If you use a Canon camera for shooting professional images, you probably come across the cRAW file format. You are likely contemplating whether to use it over traditional RAW or not. Is there a difference in image quality? Will this new image format save you storage space?

The main difference between RAW and cRAW is the file size. RAW is usually an uncompressed image, while cRAW refers to a compressed RAW file. It reduces file size, allowing you to save storage space.

However, RAW and cRAW have other differences worth noting. This article will thoroughly cover these distinctions. We will also answer related questions about the two image files below.

Is cRAW Better Than RAW, And How Do They Compare?

Most professional photographers have the same question. Can cRAW perform better than RAW? To answer that question, one must first understand what exactly these two image files mean.

Below, we will compare RAW and cRAW in four different aspects—starting with their definitions.

RAW vs. cRAW: Definition

Both RAW and cRAW are image file formats in digital photography. 

RAW image format contains uncompressed and unprocessed data. Its name comes from the word “raw,” which means untouched and unedited information. RAW files retain all image data from the sensor. They have a wide dynamic range or gamut, allowing you to preserve the most image information taken at the exposure time. The RAW format gives you the highest-quality images since you can edit them with complete data in editing programs. 

Adobe developed the first RAW image format in 2004 with the advent of digital cameras. Today, many camera manufacturers can save RAW files in different filenames extensions. These include .ARW, .CR2, .GPR, .NRW, .RAF, and .RW2, among others.

Meanwhile, cRAW, also known as c-RAW or compact RAW, is a compressed RAW image. It is a relatively new file format introduced by Canon in 2018. However, Sony also has its own compressed RAW (cRAW) format. 

This digital image format compresses RAW files using lossy compression technology. cRAW aims to reduce file size while retaining the sharpness and details of an image. 

RAW vs. cRAW: File Size

Uncompressed RAW format preserves all of the data in an image. As mentioned, you can edit all aspects of the photo (brightness, contrast, color, sharpness, etc.) because the format captures the entire information. 

However, RAW digital image format takes up a lot of space in your memory card. A single RAW image is roughly 20 to 40 MB in size. It can go up to 100 MB if you are using a full-frame camera. That means you can quickly fill up the entire memory card with several RAW images.

On the other hand, the cRAW format reduces data in a photo. That results in a smaller file size occupying less storage space. On average, a compressed cRaw file format takes around 10 to 16 MB of memory. It is the smallest RAW image file size.

RAW vs. cRAW: Image Quality

When it comes to image quality, nothing beats RAW image format. It contains all the image data captured by your camera sensor. This gives you the ability to manipulate various settings to achieve the highest-quality pictures.

Now, you may think that cRAW is inferior compared to RAW images. After all, this file format uses compression technology to reduce data in a photo. 

However, cRAW comes close to the RAW format in terms of image quality. There is negligible difference in photos taken at different settings (underexposed, properly exposed, and overexposed). And to the untrained eye, photos taken in RAW and cRAW format will look the same.

RAW vs. cRAW: Processing Speed

RAW files take some time to process and edit because of the image data they contain. Your computer needs to read all that data before letting you manipulate the photo using editing software.

In contrast, cRAW images offer faster processing time than uncompressed RAW formats. That is because the compressed file has less data, resulting in quicker load times. They also put minimal strain on your computer’s memory and processing power due to small file sizes.  

Which Cameras Support cRAW?

Now that you know the benefits of cRAW, you might wonder which cameras use this format.

The c-RAW image format started with the Canon EOS M50. However, other Canon cameras can also save images in the c-RAW format. These include the Canon EOS RP and the Canon EOS R series (R5, R6). 

Sony named its compressed RAW format “cRAW.” The Sony a7R III, Sony a7 IV, and Sony a7C are among the mirrorless cameras that support cRAW.

Nikon also has its own version of the compressed RAW format called “small RAW.” Some Nikon cameras that offer this file include the Nikon D850, Nikon Z6, and Nikon Z7. 

Which Editing Software Can Handle cRAW Files?

Which Editing Software Can Handle cRAW Files

You cannot immediately view RAW and cRAW files on your computer due to their special formats. You must download editing software that supports these file formats.

Your top choices include Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop with an up-to-date Camera Raw plug-in downloaded. You can also use CaptureOne and DxO PhotoLab. Note that these editing programs require a paid subscription. If you want a free RAW file editor, consider Darktable

RAW vs. cRAW: Which One to Choose?

Going back to our previous question: is cRAW better than RAW? And which one should you choose? The answer depends on your needs and preferences.

Use uncompressed RAW format if you want to achieve the highest image quality possible. You can also use this format if you are shooting in low light and want the flexibility to edit the photo later on. 

However, save photos in cRAW format if you have limited storage space. You can also enjoy faster shooting and developing speeds when you use the cRAW format. And considering that it has nearly the same image quality as RAW, there is no risk in choosing a compressed RAW format. We highly recommend this file format if your camera supports it.


Professional photographers often shoot in RAW to preserve image data. However, if you want to save memory space, consider the newer cRAW format.

cRAW differs from RAW because it compresses image data to reduce file size. However, the effect on image quality is negligible; cRAW can still help you achieve highly detailed photos. The smaller file size also means faster processing speeds, ultimately saving time viewing and editing pictures.

Do you have other questions about the compact RAW format? Talk to us via our contact page!