When you’re after the very best quality, every bit counts
Images can come out of your camera in two forms: JPEG and RAW. All current Nikon D-SLRs apart from the D3XXX series are capable of shooting 14- and 12-bit RAW files, while the D3XXX series can only shoot 12-bit ones. These different file formats have varying amounts of colour information, called colour depth. There are three colour channels: red, green and blue, so an eight-bit colour depth gives a total of 16.7 million colours (256x256x256), while a 14-bit RAW file gives 4.4 trillion colours (16,384x16,384x16,384).
When you have an image open in a program like Photoshop, you have two choices of colour depth: eight bits or 16 bits; the greater your colour depth, the better the quality of your image. If you shoot in RAW, you’ll keep the higher quality by editing images in 16 bits.