Samsung Expert RAW has been available for the Galaxy S22 series and some older Samsung phones for quite some time now. In addition to opening the door for RAW adjustments, Samsung claims that its app offers a wider dynamic range than standard camera apps and a full suite of manual shooting controls for more experienced photographers.
Expert RAW seems to be a gateway to the wider world of more powerful photography editing tools and tools, but does it really make that much of a difference to your photos? We’ve collected some snapshots for you to have a look.
Read more: What is RAW and should you shoot in it?
Samsung Expert RAW app explained
If you want to get started with Expert RAW, it can be downloaded from Samsung Galaxy Store for free. It’s not available from Google Play, so you’ll need to sign up for a Samsung account to get it. Moreover, the app currently supports only a small group of Samsung phones, most of which are the latest Galaxy S22 series.
Supports Samsung Galaxy S22, S22 Plus and S22 Ultra Expert RAW. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only older phone on the list at the moment. Support for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will arrive at the end of April, followed by the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Note 20 Ultra, and Z Fold 2 sometime in the first half of 2022. Samsung says the Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, S20, S20 Plus, and Note 20 are not supported because Their telephoto lens does not offer the required 2x optical zoom.
However, if you’re only looking to RAW/DNG copies of your footage, you don’t need Expert RAW. Samsung’s default camera app already has a RAW export toggle under Settings > Image Formats > RAW Copy. The main purpose of the new application is to provide additional control through the wide range of manual settings on offer.
Manual controls include classic ISO, shutter speed, exposure, and white balance sliders to help you dial in the perfect exposure, whether you’re shooting still scenes or action. There are also histogram, scale, and timer buttons located at the top of the viewfinder to provide additional control. The rest of the settings menu is a little scarier, but you’ll find additional options for toggling auto HDR, location tags, and tracking autofocus.
See also: How to use manual mode on your smartphone camera
Expert RAW also offers four lens options that, unlike the default app, force the selected lens to be engaged. You can then digitally zoom in/out using the selected lens if needed. In comparison, Samsung’s default camera app automatically switches lenses while changing zoom levels. However, this does not always call for the longest-distance optical lens, depending on lighting and focusing conditions. For example, a 10x periscope lens is rarely used for telephoto shots, as it struggles to focus compared to 1x or 3x lenses. To help with this change, Samsung includes a manual focus slider, complete with focus peaking so you can easily see what’s in focus. See the picture below:
Robert Treggs / Android Authority
Bottom line: Samsung’s dedicated RAW app is designed for those who want more manual control over their shots and are willing to invest more time. It is not for the faint hearted or those who just love to aim and shoot.
Camera samples and modifications
To showcase the differences RAW can make to your photos, we picked some shots from the Standard app and the Expert RAW app, then did some quick Photoshop adjustments to the latter. All the shots in this article were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. You can see full-res file versions of these snapshots in this Google Drive folder. Let’s dive in.
There’s not much between any of these first photos, but it’s important to note that per se. Using Expert RAW doesn’t miraculously make your photos look better or different than the default app if you don’t move the manual controls away. You may often find that the standard application does a better job of automatic scene balancing and detail sharpening.
Expert RAW doesn’t miraculously make your photos look better.
However, there are some things in this hijacker that we can fix in post-processing. I addressed the warm white balance a bit and boosted the colors a bit, especially in the graffiti, to give the scene a little extra pop. I like to think my version is the best out of the three, but RAW editing can sometimes be a huge effort for very marginal gains.
Case in point, I really don’t like what Samsung’s Expert RAW has done with either of these photos. Both are a little overkill compared to the default, and all the app did was increase the exposure and color a bit. The standard app is the most realistic, but we can have more fun with the palette if we’re shooting with RAW. So let’s dial it in for a guitar shot and add a little soft noise for a more classic look. For food, some warmer colors, light exposure, and less coloration make little difference.
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As the following set of examples highlight, RAW can be used for more extreme edits.
This gallery contains the biggest differences so far. Expert RAW pulls some extra dynamic range up the sky over the default app, but it only does half the job of improving the image. Once again, we have to turn to manual adjustments to fix the situation. I was able to recover a lot of color from the mountain, raise the exposure in the foreground, and wrestle the sky to a more realistic hue. You’ll struggle to make all these changes to a standard JPEG file without causing distortion or cropping.
Samsung’s default camera app does a good job in this shot, but the bush green is a bit saturated for what works for me. Ideally, we want more distinction between the background and our subject. I tried to compensate for that in Expert RAW but I asked for the exposure too high. be cerfull; Manual controls are easy to fiddle with. Fortunately, shooting in RAW makes this an easy fix after the fact. I also decided to tone down the green in the scene and embellish the red petals to give this photo a more sober, realistic tone with some nice extra pop.
RAW allows for much more powerful editing than JPEG.
The above is a really tricky HDR scene that the default camera app suffers from. However, I can’t call for a better exposure balance using manual mode; It’s almost impossible to balance a dark foreground with a bright background, but a low manual ISO helps reduce noise. Clipping seems inevitable, even with Samsung’s cutting edge HDR technology. However, we can restore all the lost highlight details by editing the RAW file, which keeps the very important original image file data. Reducing vignetting adds a lot of extra color to the image while keeping the exposure balanced for the foreground. You simply cannot make edits like this with a standard JPEG file.
Read also: The best smartphone cameras out there
Another advantage of Expert RAW is that it forces the camera to the desired lens rather than relying on Samsung to make the decision for you. Although you will sometimes struggle to focus, manual control produces better results for telephoto shooting.
The 10x zoom shot above clearly shows a very sharp increase from the default camera app. This is because the S22 Ultra believes the 3x telephoto lens provides the best viewing and focus, so it produces a digital upgrade. It’s good, but not the best a camera can do. We can focus the periscope camera completely by manually dialing the desired plane. Expert RAW app image looks a bit flat. Fortunately, we can fix that in Photoshop, adding some extra contrast and sharpness to draw the eye to the raindrops.
This last example once again demonstrates the power of peak focus. The default camera app will constantly pop up and out of focus on the tiny subject, making it impossible to take a 20x macro shot with the periscope camera. However, Expert RAW had no such problems, thanks to the manual focus control. I’ve also increased the ISO and shutter speed to reduce blur, but this comes at the cost of a quite noisy shot. Fortunately, it was easy to apply the noise reduction and sharpening needed to bring out detail, thanks to shooting in RAW format. The result is a great macro shot that you probably wouldn’t believe was taken with a smartphone.
RAW expert verdict: Is it worth it?
Robert Treggs / Android Authority
Samsung’s Expert RAW is a powerful imaging tool, but whether you want to use it boils down to several factors. The biggest is whether you’ll spend the time editing your shots, but it also depends on what you’re shooting. Action shots, for example, benefit greatly from more control over shutter speed, while ISO stabilization helps bring out more detail in low light. Expert RAW definitely helps you capture some better shots with the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
More applications: 15 Best Camera Apps for Android
However, aside from manually focusing on macro shots, many of these photos look very similar between Expert RAW and the standard app. This is a testament to how good Samsung’s standard auto exposure and white balance are. However, this is also due to the fact that photos are still at the mercy of Samsung’s color processing, whichever app you use. By far the most drastic, and dare I say the best results, were obtained by further editing the RAW file in Photoshop later. And remember, you can export to RAW from the standard camera app.
Expert RAW is useful, but it’s missing important features found in the standard app.
With that in mind, Expert RAW is not an app I turn to for my everyday shots. The app lacks the essential photo, night, and selfie features we all depend on – and no one wants to juggle two apps just to find the features they need. Plus, RAW files are huge and waste space when you’re looking to upload a quick selfie.
However, there is still a benefit in one application for JPEG and another for RAW. Avoids messing with switching RAW settings for one person. Pulling up on the app quickly with all the handy bells and whistles for those opportunities when there’s time to frame the perfect shot is a great tool. Is this slap RAW or Pro mode to switch between front and center in the standard application? Either way, if Samsung can develop Expert RAW with some of the most powerful computational imaging techniques, it will have a very powerful software setup on its hands.