Move Over JPEG

Move over Jpeg, there’s a new kid on the block.

If you’ve been watching some of the new product announcements of late, you may have heard about different operating systems and software touting the support of a new file format, HEIF. The acronym stands for High Efficiency Image Format.

A priest in a Greek church on a remote Aegean island.

This emerging format is most notable in Apple’s new iOS 11 released on December 2, and the new MacOS, High Sierra. Many people incorrectly refer to this format as an Apple file format. In fact, it was announced in 2013 by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).

Like JPEG, HEIF is a lossy format. But what caught the eye of Apple developers is the fact that a HEIF file of equal quality to a JPEG can be half the size. When comparing HEIF and JPEG files of equal size, the HEIF file offers much better quality.

So, is HEIF replacing JPEG? Don’t hold your breath. It certainly won’t make a dent in JPEG in the short term. But JPEG was first announced in 1992 - long before all these incredible new sensors that are generating mammoth files that can strain storage capacity and bandwidth.

Here’s a solution that can effectively cut storage and bandwidth requirements in half. Developers would be foolish to ignore the potential of HEIF. And, Apple is just one of the first to jump on board. But Apple is a huge player and as a result, others will follow suit.

In the latest versions of Adobe Lightroom Mobile, Adobe announced support for HEIF files. The October 2017 Updates to Lightroom CC for mobile included “Support for High Efficiency Image File (HEIF) file import.” But this is more than just support reading the file.

In the new features summary of Adobe Photoshop CC (version 19.0), it states “Photoshop now supports Apple’s High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF). Photoshop can read depth maps in HEIF image files created by iPhone 7 Plus and later devices into a channel. You can them create a depth-of-field effect in the image using Filter > Blur > Lens Blur.”

So, is JPEG really being moved out? Not at all. (But, I got you to read the article.) Much of the current implementation of HEIF is under the covers and not really seen by the average user. iOS 11 will automatically convert a HEIF file to a JPEG file when needed. Even though iPhone cameras may capture and store HEIF files, much of what you will see - especially if you pass an image to other applications - is a JPEG file.

Only time will tell if this is truly a watershed moment or not. But HEIF offers features that are just too good to ignore. And Les Shu of DigitalTrends reminds us that “HEIF is more than just a new file format. …it’s a container for different types of files.” This means that it’s not limited to simply compressing digital still images.

It’s great to be in an industry that is as vibrant as photography. So, sit back and enjoy the ride.