Four of the most common file formats for compressing or encoding and storing digital images are JPEG, PNG, GIF, and BMP. This article provides a quick comparison of the four, especially by discussing key features and differences in terms of image quality, file size, and usability.
As a backgrounder, JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Expert group while PNG stands for Portable Network Graphic. GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format while BMP is short for bitmap image file or device independent bitmap.
Pros and cons of JPEG
1. Image quality: The JPEG image format is recognized for compressing and encoding high-resolution digital images. It supports 24-bit color with up to 16 million colors. This is the reason why this format is very popular on the Internet, in digital cameras, and desktop publishing.
However, a notable drawback of JPEG is that it is a lossy compression. This format compresses digital images by dropping unneeded color data that are undetectable by the human eye. Furthermore, editing and resaving a JPEG image degrades further its quality.
2. File size: One of the notable advantages of JPEG over the PNG format is that it can achieve a smaller file size than PNG for a relatively similar image quality and resolution. This is ideal for storage and online content consumption.
Another advantage of JPEG is the adjustability of the degree of compression that allows a balance or tradeoff between image quality and file size.
3. Usage: JPEG is ideal for images with smooth variations of colors. However, unlike PNG and GIF, it is not ideal for images with texts or objects with sharp lines and edges between colors. This file format creates artifacts that are noticeable within the sharp edges between two or more different colors.
Because of the smaller file size of JPEG compared to PNG, it is ideal for use in the web as well as for storing professional quality print graphics taken using a digital camera or produced using a graphic design software. However, unlike GIF, it does not support animation.
Pros and cons of PNG
1. Image quality: A considerable advantage of PNG over JPEG is that it is a lossless compression. This means that image data and details are retained after compression. It also supports 24-bit RGB color images.
Another advantage of PNG is that it supports grayscale images and transparency. Note that the JPEG format does not support transparency and instead, renders the supposed transparent area of an image with a solid white color.
2. File size: There is one critical drawback of PNG: It is not good for large or high-resolution images because it generates a large file size. As mentioned above, JPEG generally generates a smaller file size for an image with the same resolution.
3. Usage: Take note that PNG is an image format specifically designed for the web and as a replacement for GIF. However, unlike JPEG, it is not ideal for storing and printing digital image because of its file size and lack of CMYK support.
PNG has other notable advantages as well. It has better transparency than GIF. Compared to JPEG, it is very ideal for images with texts or those with sharp lines and edges between colors. These texts and edges will look crisp and clean. However, it does not support animation.
Pros and cons of GIF
1. Image quality: The main drawback of GIF is that it only supports 8-bit color and a 256 color palette. Hence, when compared to other file formats, GIF images tend to appear pixelated and less vibrant.
GIF is still a lossless type of compression despite its limited color support. It is very ideal for compressing images with a single solid color.
2. File size: The main advantage of GIF over JPEG and PNG is that it compresses digital images to a smaller file size by reducing the number of colors and replacing multiple occurring patterns into one.
Similar to PNG, it supports transparency. Nonetheless, the most notable advantage of GIF is that it supports brief animation by essentially looping different images into a single file and small file size.
3. Usage: GIF was the standard file format for the web. It became a standard format during the era of dial-up connections when the loading speed for generating an image was crucial to overall website performance.
Today, GIF is widely used online for producing and presenting animated images or animated GIFs that quickly load due to their small file size.
Pros and cons of BMP
1. Image quality: BMP supports 8-bit to 24-bit colors. Images rendered under this format are very high in quality. This quality is actually very similar to JPEG and PNG.
However, significant losses are noticeable when resizing a bitmap image to a smaller or larger size. This is because resizing the entire image is akin to resizing the individual pixels. Resized BMPs look fuzzy and jagged.
2. File size: The BMP format is not a compression standard. Images encoded as a bitmap are very large in terms of file size. Hence, the notable disadvantages of BMP over JPEG and PNG include poor scalability.
However, BMP can still be compressed and effectively stored using other file compression standards or archiving formats such as zip and RAR.
3. Usage: BMP is a format native to the Windows operating system that is independent of the display device such as a graphics adapter. However, because of the large file size it generates, it is not suitable for online use.
Conclusion: JPEG vs. PNG vs. GIF vs. BMP
In conclusion, JPEG wins in terms of file size and in consideration of high-resolution images. It is ideal for both web and print. On the other hand, PNG has an advantage with regard to versatility. It is a lossless compression and ideal for images with text or sharp lines and edges between colors.
GIF and BMP are obsolete in modern computing. BMP does not have real advantages over JPEG and PNG because it is an uncompressed format that generates a larger file size. Meanwhile, GIF has made a comeback, especially in social networking sites in which animated GIFs provide an entertainment value to online users.