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HEIF/HEIC - The new kid on the block

Updated: Mar 7, 2020

Forget the “Should I shoot RAW or JPG?” debate.

It seems as though this ill considered and ill informed debate is now moot.

There’s a new file format on the block, it’s called HEIF/HEIC, and whilst you might not want to start using it immediately, it appears that the writing is on the wall for JPG files...

heic-heif  file fomat

HEIF is an acronym for High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF), also known as High Efficiency Image Coding (HEIC).

If you are an iPhone user, you may already be using it, and you just didn’t realise.

Apple has been an early adopter of the format. It is implemented as the default file format for the camera on the iPhone. They have also implemented file converters so that when it’s shared around apps and to other platforms the file is automatically re-saved to JPG. So pretty much, a pointless implementation (for the time being anyway).

Wikipedia says: High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF), also known as High Efficiency Image Coding (HEIC), is a file format for individual images and image sequences. It was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and is defined by MPEG-H Part 12 (ISO/IEC 23008-12). The MPEG group claims that twice as much information can be stored in a HEIF image as in a JPEG image of the same size, resulting in a better quality image. HEIF also supports animation, and is capable of storing more information than an animated GIF at a small fraction of the size.

In short, the format promises less artefacts and compression ratios that make the files around the half the size of the equivalent JPG. Pretty impressive.

Show me some examples Col!

There are some interesting comparison files here:

There’s loads more information out there, and it's worth understanding this stuff at an early stage because as sure as eggs is eggs… It’s coming to a camera near you soon... In fact, if you are a Canon shooter it’s already here. EOS-1DX users can choose to save RAW, JPEG or HEIC. Kudos to Canon for leading the way.

What about my Operating System?

Currently, you can view the files on the following OSes

What about Adobe Support?

Only Lightroom CC supports the format at the moment (Not Photoshop 2020)

There are others that do and they include:

And, what’s the catch?

As I write this, the big catch is… As of October 2019, no browsers support HEIF natively... not even Safari on iOS. You've gotta love Apple... not.

Oh! And by the way. Video Shooters...

If you are shooting video the same story applies. The same technology presents as the H.265 file format, superseding H.264

Why is this important to me?

Well this change could save you £1000s over the next few years. Don't believe me, have a listen to what your your uncle Tony has to say about it...

Caveat Emptor:

Of course, there are other challengers to the JPG crown including Google's WebP and these may well play a major role in the future, but it looks like HEIF/HEIC has tipped the balance... It'll be interesting the see it play out.

What do you think?

I wanted to put a quick and dirty article out there. Is there anything I've missed? Let me know in th comments below...

I always shoot RAW anyway, as do you and most every other sane human being with a grip on reality smile

I hope you find this information useful - Colin

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Article Tags: File format | HEIC | HEIF | JPG: Article Tags


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