Is JPEG Dead?

We’ve had a great run together, and you served us well, but the time has come that we move on. You didn’t do anything wrong, even though others preached that we, photographers, should always use raw instead of you, JPEG. Those who preached only raw and nothing but raw didn’t understand how you, JPEG, were needed and helped digital photography to explode. Yet all good things must come to an end.

Yes, I admit that I’ve been a fan of the JPEG format for a long time. It’s required for most of my editorial work, as speed and convenience is needed to make deadlines. I also shot raw, especially when I know that I don’t need to have an image out to my editor as fast as possible but when speed is necessary, JPEG is excellent. That is until now.

In this video by Tony Northrup, he provides well thought out and supported reasons for moving beyond the now almost 30-year-old JPEG format, which was introduced in 1992. Northup advocates that the JPEG format be replaced with the new High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF and pronounced as HEF). This format is similar to JPEG as its an image compression format, so it isn’t intended to replace raw. You can think of it as a modern version of JPEG that now lets you have images file sizes at almost one half the size of the corresponding JPEG file. For me, that means faster downloads from the memory card, and also quicker uploads to my editor. This improvement in speed cuts down on my time in the photo den after an event, which in turn permits me to get back to the hotel or my flight sooner.  

I haven’t tried the new format yet myself, and my camera lineup doesn’t shoot in HEIF, but when I look for new equipment, it will be one of the considerations I used to pick a new camera body.

What are your thoughts? Is it time for the JPEG format to be retired, or should we keep using something that isn’t broken?

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52 Comments

Deacon Blues's picture

Is JPG dead? Is the DSLR dead? Is the Nifty Fifty dying? etc etc

Rule of thumb: If a headline ends in a question mark, the answer is "no".

Deleted Account's picture

Unless this new format can be down the road supported via firmware upgrade, I'm going to be forced to use the older .JPG format even with a Canon R.

Karim Hosein's picture

It cannot. It is too CPU intensive. However, a firmware update can bring AVIF support to current cameras.

Jerome Brill's picture

Tony trying to get everyone to take up arms against jpeg while simultaneously plugging Squarespace three times in a 15 minute video.

Andrzej Muzaj's picture

Thank you for the executive summary. Now I don't need to watch it anymore. :D

Karim Hosein's picture

Worse, he is trying to get them to back a stillborn proprietary Apple solution.

dred lew's picture

It’s not proprietary and not an Apple solution. It’s an industry standard.

Karim Hosein's picture

Industry standard is a meaningless term. GIF was an industry standard, and it was owned by IBM and Compuserve. OpenEXR is an industry standard and it is owned by Industrial Light and Magic, (ILM). WebP is an industry standard and it is owned by Google.

Apple owns patents in HEIF. That part of the technology belongs to Apple. It IS proprietary, inasmuch as DNG is the proprietary property of Adobe. Stop conflating the issue.

Dennis Johnson's picture

Tony is all about the plug/spam of his book and Squarespace. i will never ever ever ever do business with Squarespace. its spammed to death by every "photographer" on youtube. its like a cold everyone got one but i dont wanne be near it.

Reginald Walton's picture

Sigh! Another Tony video...And at the moment, Capture One doesn't support the HEIF format. I have to use LR for my HEIF files.

Robert Montgomery's picture

This leads to the question that I have been repeating since the 1990's. The question is whether digital photography is truly archival. Advances in technology I get. But the question remains how many images saved to disc, drive, stick, in JPEG will be lost. Formats change. At one time we saved to floppy discs, and ZIP Drives, and the image was saved in a different format, ie: Kodak had it's own encoding. Since the majority of images now, are never actually printed, what good will finding a stash of a thumb drives in an attic be, when there will be no readily available hardware or software to read the stick. Don't believe me try and find a new computer that accepts floppy disc's or software that actually reads Kodak's old format. At least with film, especially if its black and white, if it was properly developed, archived processed, and stored you still have a chance of being able to not only traditionally make a print, you can also make a scan of the negative even if the original negative is over 100 years old or older.

I am not trying to say film is better than digital, this is not about that. It's more on the lines that with more people taking pictures of world around them using all kinds of digital media, whether that record of a time and place that was captured and recorded will be lost to future generations.

Mark Harris's picture

But there is a big difference between willingness to support a Kodak format used by a handful of people to produce low res images in the infancy of digital photography, and the billions of high-quality jpegs there are around. There will be no problem finding software to read jpegs in a hundred years time.

Robert Montgomery's picture

I respectfully disagree . You make an assumption that is unanswerable about the future . Also you fail to realize that "in the beginning " those images were not considered low resolution . The were cutting edge. I lived those times. You are applying todays standards to a past time. What is high resolution today might be primative low resolution tomorrow .

Ivan Lantsov's picture

you can prove?

Logan Cressler's picture

I dont think it matters because in the end, there is just too much data to even sort through or care about. Considering there are over 200,000 photos uploaded to facebook alone every single minute. The images that are important will still get to the future, but no one is going to want to look through a couple of quadrillion images of parking spaces, memes, kittens, and your baby making his first throw up.

I do agree with you that without an actual physical product that can be viewed without any electricity or special equipment that nothing is archived.

Thorsten Merz's picture

I think in the right hands, digital photography is very much archival. In fact, digitisation of priceless artworks is the only way to preserve the memory of such artworks and protect against their loss in the event of war, natural disasters or other events such as accidental or deliberate fires.

In fact, there's an entire army of archivists doing really valuable work to preserve the cultural and artistic history for future generations.

Phase One have an entire division of their company dedicated to this very task; I'm sure there are other vendors out there too that provide similar archiving solutions.

Robert Montgomery's picture

What you are discribing is copywork. Not actual archiving of the phyical original work. More of plan B as you discribe in case of distruction. Once the original is lost, everything is copy . That is like saying tbe reproduction of the lost Amber Room in St. Petersburg, or any of the solen artwork is just the same as the one that was original. Sure there are copies and some repoductions, as records, but still not thw same. The work you discribe is good. I support it. But without constint reformating as formats and hardware change even that effort is vulnerable . And even if successful to access the cooy you wl need a way to do so. Archival to me is to be able to view the original as it was made w/o any relience on backward adaptable hardware or software or process. IE I can go to France stand in line and see the real Mona Lisa if i want. That chance with digital is that, that the original is subject even if it was their at all

Paul Scharff's picture

No, it's not dead. As long as I still have clients calling to ask how to save photos from a web page which most people have done the same way since 1995, I'm not going near any format that is not 100% universal.

My first 160 Gb external drive cost over $500. Now I can get a 1 Tb SSD for $79. I'm not worried about saving a bit of storage space. If storage space were such an issue, no one would shoot RAW.

Logan Cressler's picture

I would say its less about saving storage space long term and more about saving space in camera while shooting.

Paul Scharff's picture

Fair point -- thanks. I assume this is targeted mostly at non-RAW shooters, then, since the space savings of 100 JPEG to HEIF files would be negated out by just a handful of additional RAW files.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I'd love to see HEIF being adopted. Unlike JPEG, it supports 16-bit which plays much better with aRGB than 8-bit

Karim Hosein's picture

Actually, it supports 14-bit. Still, the point is taken. …And still, the Apple supported AVIF also supports 16-bit, has wide support, has no patent issues, has a smaller file size, better reproduction, and requires less computational resources to produce/process.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I did not know that.

I wish that C-1 and Photoshop would output as 14-bit JPEG then. (Ha... I bet I've missed where they do that. I need to do some reading...)

Thanks for the update.

( EDIT: I can only find 12-bit for JPEG, unless we go to a variant of the JPEG family ).

Karim Hosein's picture

[EDIT] To clarify, I was not saying that JPEG supports 14-bit. I was saying that HEIF supports 14-bit. It does not support 16-bit. [/EDIT]

There is JPEG XR, JPEG 2000, JPEG SPIFF, and another one, (besides JPEG JFIF, the one we are used to using). I believe that JPEG XR supports 16-bit integer, possibly floating point. Not sure.

Jon The Baptist's picture

Yeah, sure. JPEG is practically an institution, no way will it be replaced anytime soon. Every image on this website is either a JPEG or PNG.

Robert Montgomery's picture

And Kodak too was thought to be an institution .

Patrick Hall's picture

Hmmmmm, I wonder what file format everyone is delivering to their clients and posting to social media 😂

Karim Hosein's picture

WebP, whenever I can. JPEG if I can't.

Robert Montgomery's picture

Same argument was made about digital cameras being a toy. By Kodak in 1974 when one of their own made the first 16 kilobyte digital image and saved it to VHS tape.

Logan Cressler's picture

.meme is the preferred format to upload to social media.

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm not familiar with .meme or .webp. Lightroom only has 6 file options and half of them are raw formats that can't be printed.

Karim Hosein's picture

Out of genuine curiosity, (as I cannot even install Lightroom on my platform of choice), what are the six options, (and is one of them, OpenEXR)?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Is JPG dead? No.

Is it time for it to be retired? I'm for it.

Simon Patterson's picture

Great tech, but changing from jpg to heic would not suit me. I shoot raw and only convert a few pics to jpg, so any storage savings would be a drop in the ocean. And I use Photoshop cs6 which will never convert to and from a new format anyway. Maybe the change would suit millions, but for selfish reasons I'm not in favour of it!

Karim Hosein's picture

Tony is not asking if JPEG JFIF is dead, he is asking us to kill it. Far worse than that, he is asking us to replace this ubiquitous format with a still-born solution.

HEIF/HEIC is not the solution. It is a proprietary, patient-incumbered option with minimal support. It is an Apple standard, and Apple themself is backing a new solution; AVIF/AV1.

Although AVIF is not yet out, it shows a 30% file size decrease over HEIF, with better detail. It is everything HEIF wants to be, but without patient issues. It has the support of practically every industry leader, including all the browsers, all the chip makers, all the software publishers, (including Adobe), and many camera manufacturers.

Even then, until AVIF/AV1 is out, we still have WebP. It gives 30% reduction over JPEG, it can do lossy or lossless compression, it has alpha transparencies, it does animation, it has no patent issues, and it is supported by all operating systems, and all browsers except for Safari, (the only browser which supports HEIF, and made by Apple). It not only replaces JPEG, but also PNG, where it also shows a huge file size reduction. Indeed, I did a 1080p WebM animation, which beat a 320 GIF in file size by a huge margin.

We should, and can kill JPEG, but HEIF does not deserve our support. It is already dead. We can all go to WebP for now, and to AVIF later, as Apple, no doubtably will.

dred lew's picture

HEIF/HEIC is not a proprietary Apple standard, it’s an industry standard from the MPEG consortium. A simple lookup would help before spouting some Apple nonsense:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Image_File_Format

Apple uses it by default on all mobile devices because it’s the next best standard that saves it tons of iCloud storage space while keeping the quality the same as the JPGs.

The same reason why Google adopted WebM/P to save storage space. WebM/P however is nowhere an industry standard despite Google would like it to be, for obvious reasons.

The issue with HEIC/H265 standards is that they are patented, which means people who developed it actually want to get paid for their hard work. Problematic however trying to use the format on the internet where things like this should be free to allow everyone to participate.

WebM/P on the other hand have questionable underpinnings that infringe on these same patents while the format is offered up for free use.

Hence why AVIF/AV1 was born out of a consortium of various manufacturers to create a license free alternative to these other standards. And yes, it’s still in development.

And no, HEIF is not dead and is technically superior to WebP. And no, let’s not use WebP, it’s a shady solution that Google tries to force on everyone since they bought it out. It’s solely to further their own interests with an inferior solution.

Karim Hosein's picture

It is nice of you to reference the Wikipedia article. It would be better if you read it. Bear in mind the following...

(1) The JPEG is made up of various members who make proposals for standards. When you (Wikipedia) says that the JPEG came up with, they got it from somebody. That somebody is the person with the patents. That person with the patents is APPLE!!! It is from Apple.

(2) When you do get around to reading the Wikipedia article, please read the part about implementation. Particularly the second part. Do you know the difference between Apple's HEIF, and Google's WebP? WebP uses an older H.265 codec, VP8, (created by On1, owned by Google, and unencumbered by patent issues), while Apple's HEIF is based on an Apple patented codec.

The fact that the JPEG controls the standard, does not mean that it is not an Apple product.

(3) Remember to read the part about patent licensing. For more information on that, you can read the article on HEVC here, [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Video_Coding ], and in particular, the paragraph on History. (That will also explain why Canon and Fujifilm are also using it in their new cameras).

Now regarding this part….
«WebM/P …have questionable underpinnings that infringe on these same patents….»
That is only being questioned by the HEIF consortium. It is NOT being questioned by the JPEG, nor the EITF, nor anyone else. That is why every browser is supporting WebP/M (except Safari), and every OS likewise, and many Open Source software publishers. The only people questioning any infringements are the HEIF group spreading FUD.

There was one lawsuit, and it has long been settled in Google's favour. Stop spreading FUD. …And, no, it was NOT the same patents; it was different patents, and the issue was not that their existed patents, nor who owned the patents, but as to who controlled the patents. Get the facts straight. The issue was regarding an alleged deal by On1 to grant a certain patent bundle licensing company the exclusive rights on selling licenses to the patents, and whether Google had the right to grant free licenses.

«Hence why AVIF/AV1 was born…»
If that was why, then Apple would have nothing to do with it. The reasons are the many shortcomings of HEIF including, but not limited to….

(1) The patent issue. We thoroughly flogged that horse.
(2) The extensive CPU resource requirements.
(3) 14-bit integer.
(4) No lossless option.
(5) DCT and loss of detail.

«…is technically superior to WebP.»
Arguably so. I can argue against it. See (2), (4) & (5) above. Besides, the reason why HEIF is dead, as I already stated, which you ignored, is the technical superiority of AVIF, which APPLE, among many others, are backing, including Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Amazon, IBM, AMD, Intel, ARM, nVidia, every browser, the EITF, some camera makers, …here is a list. [ https://aomedia.org/membership/members/ ].

Also, [ https://aomedia.org/about/product-spotlight/ ].

When Google, who is supporting WebP/M, and Apple, who is supporting HEIF, are both supporting AVIF/AV1, along with the known universe, then we know that HEIF and WebP are DEAD!

«…that Google tries to force on everyone….»
Force? FORCE? How so? It does not matter, how so, as it it so widely adoptoed, and it costs you nothing, and it gains Google nothing, why not? …Unless you are an "Anything but Google" fanatic. They do not make any money by promoting it. They promoted it for free because it saves them storage space, as it does you, Quora, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, et al.

If you do not want to use an ubiquitous solution which is already out there, and which everyone already uses, (although it is dying), that is your choice. If Tony wants to use a dying solution which is not ubiquitous, that is his choice. If others want to stick with an outdated solution which is dying, that is their choice. But Google did not force anyone to ditch JPEG, nor adopt WebP, but Tony (and you. it seems), want to "force" (I rather the term, push), HEIF on us, despite its myriad shortcomings.

The Long And Short

WebP is superior to JPEG JFIF.
HEIF is superior to JPEG JFIF.
AVIF is superior to JPEG JFIF.
WebP solves certain issues with JPEG JFIF, with no downsides.
HEIF solves certain issues with JPEG JFIF, with a few downsides.
HEIF does not have high adoption.

AVIF is superior to both WebP and HEIF.

Do what you will with that.

Logan Cressler's picture

I dont really care about in camera file formats other than raw, but it would be nice to change the standard in terms of use for smaller sizes.

Rob Davis's picture

If we want to hear what the Northrup’s have to say we know where to find them.

tyler h's picture

Getty, AP, ESPN, Maxpreps, every major groups wants files delivered in .jpg so no it's not dead. once one of them changes then we can start to talk about.

Timothy Turner's picture

Keep jpeg for those who prefer it, and introduce the new format as an option, for those of us who purchase equipment in the used market need jpeg to store images. Here's another point of view, "I don't like liver and onions, so liver and onions should be abolished.

Christopher Boles's picture

JPG is not going away anytime soon. The format plays well on the internet, most everyone accepts uploads in .jpeg, etc. The move to .dng hasn't moved the needle much and now comes along.HEIF. Until such time as there is a large move by the industry to go this direction, personally I don't see this going anywhere soon. Just look at the different formats to save an image when saving in PSCC. Some of them I never heard of and wonder what programs use any or all of them. I would like to see Adobe allow us to remove some of them just so I can save in RAW, .jpg or .tiff. Everything else could just go away.

Karim Hosein's picture

You should learn what the other options can do for you first. To say, "I always go down this road, so I don't care about the new road," is not helpful nor wise.

Wisdom says, find out about the new roads, then choose.

P.s., DNG is not A JPEG replacement; it is an attempt to standardise raw formats. Some DSC give the option of saving raw in their proprietary standard, or DNG. Other raw formats are based on DNG. Some cameras, their raw format is DNG.

Thomas Schriefer's picture

JPG is dead merely because it is almost 30 years old? Thanks for letting me know. Can you please release a video letting me know how much longer before I have to throw my 1940s and 1950s (Agfa, Mamiya, Voigtlander) folding film cameras on the ash pile of history?

Jeff ABC's picture

Google Chrome is by far the most popular browser out there. And Google has its own solution for this. It's called WebP format which is already adopted by many major websites. I'm afraid the HEIF won't see the light of day if Google doesn't support it. And Google will never stop supporting the JPG format. In fact, Google just improved JPG format by adopting a new algorithm called Guetzli to make JPG as good as HEIF.

Nestor Camacho's picture

The only way that jpg will ever die is when they come up with a format that is web usable. .heif is not compatible with all browsers, neither is jpeg2000 and all other new formats. If you make a webpage using any of the so called newer and better formats, you have to add a script so that if the browser does not recognize the format it will then use the jpg, png or gif version that you have to upload to your webserver. So it won't save space on your computer as you will have the image in the new format and also in the older format so that you can upload them to your webserver. Plus if you design a webpage you will have to add an if script so if the clients browser is not compatible with the new format it will look for the old format. So in conclusion new formats are a big waste of HDD space as you'll have 2 versions of each file, and even bigger waste of time creating scripts for each and every images in a webpage.

Karim Hosein's picture

Except WebP, and likely AVIF, since one has almost universal support, and the other has universal support.

Nestor Camacho's picture

According to Google themselves, the WebP development team, they recommend a fallback image for browsers that does not support WebP . Like I said only jpg has universal web support, and png and gif have almost 100% web support.

https://developers.google.com/speed/webp/faq

Karim Hosein's picture

That page is a decade old. The ONLY BROWSER which does not support WebP IS SAFARI! ALL OTHERS HAVE FULL SUPPORT,† and need no fallback option.

When WebP first came out, and that article was first written, only one browser supported it; Chrome. That has since changed. Even Edge supports it. It is RIGHT THERE in the very article YOU SUPPLIED! Look down at the SECOND HEADING! (The article is updated every so often).

So, yes, for the ONE BROWSER which does not have support for WebP, either an alternate image, or alternate text which says, “Your browser does not support all standards. You are a loser,” or perhaps a text description of the image which they cannot see, as has been the case since HTML version 1.0.

BTW, PNG and GIF do have just about 100% universal support, unless you count ancient browsers, text-only browsers, & Braille browsers, and HEIF has support in precisely ONE browser; SAFARI!

† Firefox on iOS also cannot display WebP, but that is because they use the Safari backend for rendering on that platform.

Evan Richardson's picture

Why does everything on fstoppers have to be a damn video? I'm not giving someone 1 cent from a click. This does not need to be a video. Start posting articles. Literally every "article" I click on here is a damn video. If the content is interesting, then maybe I'll go watch your stupid YouTube channel, like Nino Bautista... But if there isn't text before a video, nope.

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