Thanks for the corrections.

I've done very limited RAW picture-taking with my Canon G1X. I haven't seen the benefit yet (I'm not saying there isn't any!), and it does slow things down.

I knew that RAW was a kinda-sorta pre-processed data file, but didn't know the details. Thanks.

Just to amplify what you said:

Steve Dunn , Mar 02, 2011; 02:54 p.m.

I'm coming at this from the Canon side of things, so I can't say with absolute certainty that this applies to all brands, but as far as I know it does.

If you're shooting RAW, your white balance setting doesn't affect the actual image data in the RAW file. It does affect the image displayed on the camera's LCD (which is a JPEG embedded within the RAW file for most Canon models, and probably similar for other brands). Since the embedded JPEG is what's typically used for any histograms and over/under-exposure warnings displayed by the camera, it affects those, too. So if you're using anything displayed on the camera to help you judge whether you got the shot right, then the white balance could be important in helping you make that judgment.

When you bring the RAW image into an image editor/RAW converter on your computer, the white balance you set in the camera should be irrelevant, with the possible exception that the software may use it as a default when it first presents the image (but then you can choose any WB you want, of course).

The same generally applies to other processing parameters that you can set in the camera, such as picture styles, sharpness, noise reduction*, and colour space. Shooting parameters (such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and any settings such as exposure compensation which affect the camera's choice of any of those parameters), of course, affect RAW images because aperture and shutter speed change the amount of light reaching the sensor and ISO affects the gain of the sensor's analog amplifiers.

I shoot RAW almost exclusively, and usually use auto WB in the camera. I also find it's close enough most of the time for the embedded JPEG and all the things the camera does with it, and then I can set whatever WB I want when I'm processing the images on my computer.

*: Many cameras have two completely separate types of noise reduction. I'm talking about the ordinary one that tries to reduce the noise seen in higher-ISO shots, with the unfortunate side-effect of blurring fine detail. Generally, that's not applied to RAW files. I'm not talking about long-exposure noise reduction, or dark frame subtraction, in which after a long exposure is completed, the camera closes the shutter, takes a second exposure of the same length, and then subtracts it from the original exposure, to get rid of things like thermal noise and hot pixels; that one, at least in Canon bodies, does affect the RAW file.

The cheap CC is $10/month here. It's a lot for something that I might use once or twice a year (if that). We use the TV every day. ;-)

But thanks for the reminder. $120/yr is a lot better than $500+ every couple of years or so.

(Who only has intentional exposure to Adobe software these days via its PDF stuff, and that has gotten to be about the most horrible way to fill out a simple form ever invented.)