HEIF vs JPEG: 4 Key Differences and How to Choose

What Is HEIF?

High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) is a relatively new image file format that was introduced by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) in 2015. It was designed to be a more efficient alternative to the traditional JPEG format, offering improved compression and image quality.

HEIF uses the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression algorithm, which is also known as H.265. This advanced compression method allows for a higher level of compression without sacrificing image quality, making HEIF files smaller in size compared to their JPEG counterparts.

One of the key advantages of HEIF over JPEG is its ability to store multiple images within a single file. This feature is particularly useful for storing image sequences, such as burst photos or HDR images, as well as additional data like depth maps and thumbnails. Another notable feature of HEIF is its support for transparency and 16-bit color depth, which can result in richer colors and smoother gradients in your images.

What Is JPEG?

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) is a widely used image file format that was introduced in the early 1990s. It has become the de facto standard for image compression and is supported by almost all devices and software applications.

JPEG uses a lossy compression algorithm, which means that some image data is discarded during the compression process to reduce file size. This can result in a loss of image quality, especially when images are highly compressed.

Despite its lossy nature, JPEG remains popular due to its widespread support and ease of use. It is a versatile format that can be used for a wide range of applications, from web-based images to high-quality prints. JPEG also supports adjustable compression levels, allowing users to strike a balance between image quality and file size according to their needs.

This is part of a series of articles about image formats

In this article:

  • HEIF vs. JPEG: 4 Key Differences
    1. Compression and Image Quality
    2. File Size
    3. Multiple Images and Additional Data
    4. Compatibility

  • HEIF vs. JPEG: How to Choose

    HEIF vs. JPEG: 4 Key Differences

    Now that we have a basic understanding of HEIF and JPEG, let’s dive into the key differences between these two formats.

    1. Compression and Image Quality

    As mentioned earlier, HEIF uses the HEVC compression algorithm, which is more advanced than the compression method used by JPEG. This allows HEIF files to be smaller in size compared to JPEG files of similar quality.

    In terms of image quality, HEIF has the edge over JPEG due to its support for higher bit depth and better compression efficiency. This means that HEIF images can display a wider range of colors and smoother gradients, resulting in images that look more natural and true to life.

    2. File Size

    One of the main advantages of HEIF over JPEG is its smaller file size, which can be up to 50% smaller for the same image quality. This can be a significant benefit for photographers who need to store large numbers of high-resolution images or those who want to conserve storage space on their devices.


    3. Multiple Images and Additional Data

    As mentioned earlier, HEIF has the ability to store multiple images within a single file, as well as additional data such as depth maps and thumbnails. This can be particularly useful for photographers who work with image sequences or require additional data for post-processing.

    JPEG, on the other hand, is limited to storing a single image per file and does not support additional data.

    4. Compatibility

    One of the main drawbacks of HEIF is its limited compatibility compared to JPEG. Although support for HEIF is growing, it is still not as widely supported as JPEG, which is virtually universal.

    This means that you may encounter issues when sharing or displaying HEIF images on certain devices or software applications. However, it is worth noting that major platforms such as iOS, macOS, and Windows 10 now support HEIF, and it is likely that support will continue to expand in the future.

    Learn more in our detailed guides to:

    HEIF vs. JPEG: How to Choose

    When deciding between HEIF and JPEG, there are several factors to consider. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best choice for your needs:

    • Image quality and file size: If you prioritize image quality and smaller file sizes, HEIF is the better choice due to its superior compression efficiency and support for higher bit depth. However, if compatibility is more important to you, JPEG may be the safer option.
    • Multiple images and additional data: If you work with image sequences or require additional data for post-processing, HEIF’s ability to store multiple images and additional data within a single file can be a significant advantage over JPEG.
    • Compatibility: As mentioned earlier, HEIF’s main drawback is its limited compatibility compared to JPEG. If you need to share or display your images on a wide range of devices and software applications, JPEG may be the better choice.
    • Workflow and software support: Before committing to HEIF, it’s essential to ensure that your preferred photography software supports the format. While major platforms like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop now support HEIF, you may need to check compatibility with other tools in your workflow.

      Using HEIF and JPEG with Cloudinary

      With Cloudinary’s platform, you can easily optimize your images for both HEIF and JPEG and deliver the best experience to your users. With Cloudinary’s comprehensive platform, you can take control of your image workflows and customize your visuals to meet your specific needs.

      Cloudinary’s dynamic conversion feature, f_auto, takes the guesswork out of image file formats. By automatically converting images to the optimal format based on the viewer’s browser, device, and network connection, Cloudinary ensures that your users always get the best experience without any additional effort on your part. Whether it’s JPEG for maximum compatibility or HEIF for high-quality and efficient compression, f_auto delivers the perfect format every time.

      But that’s not all. With Cloudinary’s platform, you can take your image optimization to the next level. From automatically resizing and cropping images to applying custom effects and transformations, Cloudinary offers a comprehensive suite of features to streamline your image workflows and enhance your visuals.

      Cloudinary enables you to easily optimize and deliver your images in the HEIF and JPEG formats, thanks to its dynamic conversion feature, f_auto. Whether you’re a developer or a tech enthusiast, Cloudinary has everything you need to optimize your images and enhance your web and mobile applications.

      Say goodbye to hassles and hello to the power and convenience of Cloudinary. Try it out today and elevate your image game like never before.