What is the difference between HEIC VS JPG?
JPG files are everywhere. If you’ve stumbled upon an image online or offline, you’re probably looking at it. The JPG (or JPEG) format has been around since the 90s, and over the years has continued to strike the right balance between file size, image quality, and compatibility.
HEIC (short for High-Efficiency Image Container) is new to the market. It gained popularity after Apple first applied it in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. HEIC uses the latest advances in compression technology and replaces JPG as the default photo capture format for iPhone.
Despite how widespread JPG is, Apple had good reasons to use the HEIC format instead. Below, we’ll dive in and explore the most common differences between HEIC and JPG and why Apple chose HEIC.
HEIC vs JPG – storage
As the name suggests, HEIC is very efficient at compressing images. It is a variant of HEIF (High-Efficiency Image Format) and uses the HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Container) or H.265 video compression standards to encode images.
At WWDC 2017, Apple’s Craig Federighi revealed that HEIC provides twice the compression of a standard JPEG image. This is not an exaggeration. In our iPhone tests, we found that HEIC consistently compressed images by 40-50% compared to similar images captured in JPEG.
For example, a typical JPEG scene that results in a 2.0MB file would only take up about half of that HEIC image. This allows you to store almost twice as many photos in the same space.
Apple places great emphasis on saving space, so you may not see the same compression levels in HEIC (or HEIF) images captured outside of an iPhone, such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III. But the resulting files should still be much smaller than legacy JPEGs in terms of storage.
HEIC vs JPEG – Quality
HEIC uses a lot of compressions to get smaller files. But here’s the determining factor; it also complies with the JPEG format in terms of visual quality. Put the HEIC image and the JPEG image side by side and you won’t notice the difference.
HEIC is also technically superior to JPG in the following ways:
- Improved highlights, shadow detail, and mid-tones.
- High dynamic range
- 16-bit colors (as opposed to 8-bit JPEG color profile)
- Depth information
- Non-destructive editing
The above functions apply to HEIF in general and not necessarily to HEIC of images captured with the iPhone. For example, Apple smartphone cameras can only capture images in 10-bit color. However, you get amazing looking images at half the file size.
HEIC is also much better at capturing image sequences. For example, with Apple Live Photos, the format can save small differences in frames instead of saving individual images. On the other hand, the JPG version of Live Photo contains a still image and a 3 second MOV video clip, which takes up more storage space.
HEIC vs JPG – compatibility
Any iPhone or Mac running iOS 11 or macOS High Sierra can open HEIC images. Most platforms outside the Apple ecosystem also support this format. But there are many stars involved.
For example, on Windows 10, you need to download the corresponding codecs separately from Microsoft. However, due to licensing issues, the HEVC codec required to decode HEIC images costs $ 0.99.
Ideally, Windows 10 should also run on a 6th generation Intel processor or newer for hardware decoding of HEIC images. Otherwise, software decoding can lead to performance problems.
As far as Android is concerned, only smartphones with Android Pie 9 or later can open HEIC images. This problem; there are many more devices that cannot be upgraded to Android Oreo 8.
Fortunately, Apple has addressed compatibility issues with the iPhone.
If you try to upload or attach a HEIC image to native or third-party apps (like Mail), iOS will automatically convert it to JPG.
Your iPhone must also convert HEIC files to JPG when copying them to a PC (or non-HEIC-compatible Mac) via USB manually. You can find the setting that controls this under Preferences> Photos> Transfer to Mac or PC.
On the other hand, newer versions of photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom, GIMP, and Pixelmator have started to support the HEIC format. This should help it gain momentum over time.
What is the best?
HEIC is an excellent format in almost every way. You get incredibly smaller images with almost, if the not better quality than JPEGs.
You do have compatibility issues. But it is relatively easy to convert HEIC files to JPG as needed. On the iPhone, this should happen automatically when sharing images, even if you don’t notice it.
You can still go back to shooting in JPEG format. For example, on iPhone, go to Settings> Camera> Formats and select Most Compatible to change the camera capture setting from HEIC to JPEG. Similar options must also be present on other devices for capturing photos supported by HEIC (or HEIF).
Unless you have major compatibility issues between your devices, we recommend using HEIC instead of JPG. In addition to saving space, the technical benefits of HEIC imaging may play a role in the future. In other words, HEIC should help you preserve your memories for the future.
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