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imgdata.image is populated in

imgdata.image is populated in
1) raw2image() call (use it for compatibility, if you need to use 4-component image[] in your code)
2) dcraw_process() calls raw2image_ex() call, which do populating and black level extraction in single pass.

raw_alloc is just a pointer to allocation (to be free()-ed at recycle() call)
raw_image, color3_image and color4_image are pointers to pixel buffer (allocated by LibRaw or by RawSpeed). Only one pointer is non-zero for given image and this is the only way to know exact image format (1-component bayer/BW, or 3-component LinearDNG /Canon sRAW extracted by RawSpeed, or 4-component 3/4 color image extracted by LibRaw /LinearDNG, Canon sRAW).

The last piece of code (with imagedata.image set to 0) is a way to handle non-bayer image extracted by LibRaw: LinearDNG, canon sraw and 4-shot sinar unpackers works with imgdata.image[] (the code is from dcraw), so after unpacking we need to assign color4_image pointer (and raw_alloc for correct release in recycle()), and clear imgdata.image pointer

Things are so complicated because so many RAW flavours exists :(

-- Alex Tutubalin @LibRaw LLC