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HEIF – A Skinny Photo Acronym!

With the introduction of iOS 11, Apple has added to the lexicon of acronyms! The latest is HEIF, or High Efficiency Image Format (can’t forget it’s ADHD cousin, HEV(Video)F), and like many Apple things, it’s ahead of it’s time.


HEIF – When, Where and Why?

PNG, BMP, TIFF, GIF, JPEG, JPG… why another?? Well, simple, compression algorithms are the BOMB right now… and where as a JPG file may weight in at 5MB… this new format will half the weight at just 2.5.. with no noticeable reduction in quality! Well, that last bit is not quite true. In fact, the images are BETTER!


HEIF on the left, JPG on the right. What? Oh! The captions say that… yea…

When examining the image closely, you’ll notice the HEIF image doesn’t present the classic JPG edge artifacts. The transitions between pixels are handled much nicer as well. Because HEIF support wide colour gamut, the colours of photos taken with HEIF should be much more saturated, a good thing for looking at on AMOLED screens!

HEIF includes a bunch of technobabble stuff like non destructive editing, transparency, embedded thumbnails and multi photos for use in Live Photos. All in all, it’s pretty bloody great.

If you have iOS 11, you can begin shooting in HEIF right now, go into:

Settings –> Camera –> Formats –> High Efficiency

The other option you see in here, “Most Compatible” is JPG… but that leads us to another question…

Does HEIF Work With Anything?


Not really.

Ok.. your iPhone.. but that’s about it.


And honestly, Apple is on the whole “on-the-fly” conversion, it’s pretty much seamless! In fact, anytime you share, export or otherwise give out a photo taken in new format, your iPhone running iOS 11, or Mac running MacOS High Sierra will simple convert that puppy into the good old fashioned JPG, pixeley edges and all.

Your iPhone will faithfully store your source HEIF photo in it’s own database and in the Photos library until the world unites under the superior format and we can share wide and free!


All the glitzy stuff aside, the most visible benefit of this new format is simply the fact it takes up half the bloody space… and even though your old photos won’t be converted (the resulting loss in quality would suck), any new photos are going to have far less impact on your storage space. I’m sure in the future Apple will come up with a fancy lossless converter, but until then.. just enjoy the extra space!

If you want to get really technical, you can read the White Paper here.

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Ryszard (Rick) Gold, From Calgary, Alberta, Canada has over 20 years of experience working with Apple products in a technical capacity. Passionate about technology in general, his natural troubleshooting abilities, curiosity and appreciation of good design lead him into working exclusively with Apple Computer products.
Ryszard Gold
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