Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
A 'straight process' such as what? My monitor? Your monitor? The photographer's monitor? A print on color photographic paper? A print on B&W photographic paper? An inkjet print? A CRT television screen? The screen on the back of the dslr that took the picture? A digital picture frame? A histogram of pixel value? High an low voltages converted to "1" and "0" and printed out on a piece of paper? A photogram of the memory stick that contains the information?
You have to CONVERT a digital file into either light values or pigments to see it. The 'original' is an abstract entity, you cannot see it.
An end-to-end calibrated process. Photography as a physical process is very quantifiable so with a imaging chain you can know that your outputs match the inputs within a known error margin. Typical modern systems are good to a delta-E of about 2, which is a not perceptible to humans. Claiming that a RAW file is abstract because you can't see it is silly; it's a collection of numbers that have formal meaning. There doesn't need to be a human present and directly absorbing the information for the information to be real.

Do some research on monitor and printer calibration, it's a very well-understood (though rarely by photographers) domain. Suffice to say, we can make extremely accurate visual recordings of reality, and we can quantify exactly how accurate they are.