NEW FILE FORMAT TO REPLACE JPEG's?
Hey all you Apple “i” this and that users plus the rest of us. Here is a new format that you will have to contend with....like it or not! Personally, following the belief that quality is more important than space, I do not like it (as it stands currently). I can refer you to history. It used to be that just 1 gig on a memory card in 2004 cost $500! So, although this new format saves space....so what in it's current standing.
Apple announced in June of this year at its WWDC programmer conference that it's endowing its iPhones, iPads and Macs with support for a new photo-storing technology called HEIF, short for High Efficiency Image Format. HEIF needs only half the storage space as a JPEG photo of about the same quality. So surely adopting HEIF is a no-brainer?
It hasn't even made it to the dictionary yet. Everybody at Apple pronounces it "heef," but some people disagree. Heef, hife, hey-f, heff -- we could be looking at another internet culture war like the dispute over hard G vs. soft G when saying "GIF."
Compatibility problems and other factors complicate HEIF's prospects. But Apple has massive clout in the computing industry. If it succeeds in pushing HEIF into the mainstream, we stand to possibly benefit [if quality improves]-- not just from saving storage space, but also from cooler animated photos, more powerful image-editing possibilities and even fulfilled promises of augmented reality.
To help you understand the issues, here's a look at HEIF.
There's a good chance HEIF will barge into your life. Not only does it let you squeeze more photos onto your phone, HEIF also modernizes digital photography in important ways. Its future looks a lot brighter with Apple's backing. It's the world's most profitable tech company, selling one of the world's highest-profile phones and a lot of computers as well. Apple's endorsement carries a lot of weight with app programmers, chip manufacturers and the millions of people who use its products. Best to get a handle on HEIF now.
What is a photo file format again?
It's a standard way for computers to store and view pictures. With one, it doesn't matter if you took a photo with an Android phone and then share it with a college roommate with a Windows PC. JPEG, the king of photo formats, has been around for decades, and every computing device out there understands JPEG files. But HEIF is new, so most devices today have no idea how to handle them. For those devices, encountering an HEIF file is like when you visit a country where you don't speak the language.
The biggest benefit is data compression. The close to original, high-quality version of an image often can be shrunk so you can fit more on your phone and worry less about blowing through your monthly network data cap when you share them. Photos using HEIF take up half the space as a JPEG or alternatively offer possibly crisper, more detailed and colorful images at the same size.
HEIF uses video compression technology called HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) that was designed by some of the best experts in the business -- the Motion Picture Experts Group. If you watched streaming video on your TV, phone or PC in the last day, chances are good it used their video compression technology. HEIF is the technique to compress individual frames that comprise an HEVC video.
HEIF uses some similar methods as JPEG, but goes a step further. JPEG breaks an image up into blocks, each of which is compressed with a clever combination of trigonometry and matrix mathematics whose details needn't worry you. One way HEIF improves on JPEG is by comparing those blocks. If one block is similar to another, HEIF records just the difference, which requires less storage space. In effect, for example, HEIF could tell a computer, "just put some blue sky here like we already did for the upper-left patch of the photo."
HEIF offers a lot more than just smaller photo file sizes, and indeed those other features are a big part of why Apple picked it. HEIF is actually a container that can hold a lot more than just a single image. It's a good way to store an animated image like an Apple live photo, for example, or one of those eerily compelling half-moving, half-still images called a cinemagraph. It also can hold a collection of photos taken in a burst, though Apple isn't using it for that purpose, at least now. It can also hold audio, video and text information, too -- imagine a short video clip with a caption that you might post on Snapchat.
When Apple uses HEIF for its live photos, that'll make it easier for other phone makers or app developers to view them. If other phone makers want use the same feature, iPhone users should be able to see them more easily if they're recorded as HEIF images as well.
HEIF also can bundle multiple photos of the same scene, for example shots taken at different brightness levels that you might later want to combine into a single image through a technology called high-dynamic range (HDR) photography. Apple doesn't take advantage of this particular ability -- iPhones generate HDR images before they're saved into a file -- but HEIF opens the door for several computational photography technologies like HDR. Another use of stacks of photos is to package shots with different focus points that can later be combined for different photographic effects.
Here's another thing HEIF can do: store extra data called a depth map that records how far away each part of a scene is from the camera that took the photo. That's just what an iPhone 7 Plus can do with its dual-camera design, so HEIF offers a straightforward way for app developers to use that distance information once iOS 11 starts shipping. Apple uses the data to blur backgrounds in its portrait mode, but now others can use it for other effects -- generating a selfie of you on the moon or some other exotic location, for example.
"In iOS 11, we're storing the depth map as part of what we capture.We're giving you and your app access to the photo and the depth map so you can load it up and use this to do your own creative effects,” Marineau-Mes told app developers.
SO WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS WITH HEIF FILES? The biggest one is that most devices and programs don't know how to read HEIF files. Adobe Systems' Photoshop, for example, has no support. Nor do any web browsers. And it's tough to get new formats to catch on.Microsoft improved on the JPEG with a format called JPEG XR, but it never got traction. Google's WebP format is now common on the web, but it's not used anywhere else. Even Google's Android phones can't take WebP photos.
Will HEIF kill off JPEG? No way. Even if HEIF turns out to be a smash hit, billions of JPEGs will persist on the internet, phones, PCs, digital cameras and countless digital nooks and crannies. If any formats achieve immortality, it'll be text files and JPEG.
Despite the huge storage savings, image quality left a bit to be desired. Taking a close look at each set of images, we saw that the new high efficiency format loses detail, especially in low-light shots. Compared to JPEG files, detail and color looked smudged and smeared.
Even though the new HEIF format loses some image quality, it's still very impressive for being almost two times smaller in size.
If you aren't viewing images side-by-side and aren't looking for the absolute best quality, then shooting in high efficiency format should be fine for you.
There are also a few issues when importing HEIF files to Mac, including odd file handling quirks like unwanted auto-conversion to JPEG which in itself degredates quality and enlarges the file size.
So here's the big question: should you take photos in the new HEIF format or the older, yet more widely compatible, JPEG format?
First of all, there is only one iOS Settings option for changing photo and video recording formats. And the new 4K 60 frames per second and 1080p 240 frames per second recording modes offered with iPhone 8 and iPhone X require the high efficiency mode to be turned on.
If you want to take higher quality JPEG photos, but also shoot in 4K 60, you'll have to constantly switch back and forth in the Settings menu.
If we're just talking photos, then it depends on the user. If you're the kind of person who takes thousands of photos and doesn't really mind a slight degradation in quality, then definitely use the new HEIF format. If you don't take that many photos, or you have a higher storage iPhone model, then use the old JPEG format to ensure you're getting the highest quality images possible.
Soooo...again, unless image quality is upgraded in the HEIF format, I will not be using it. Yes, as mentioned, there are other benefits, but those benefits can be done in other currently existing technologies. To sum things up...it is good to know about this new format, especially if you are an Apple user.
Article comes from a combination of Appleinsider Staff, Stephen Shankland and Mike Dellerman (for educational purposes only).