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JPEG (/ˈdʒeɪpɛɡ/ JAY-peg) is a commonly used method of lossy compression for digital images, particularly for those images produced by digital photography. The degree of compression can be adjusted, allowing a selectable tradeoff between storage size and image quality. JPEG typically achieves 10:1 compression with little perceptible loss in image quality.
JPEG compression is used in a number of image file formats. JPEG/Exif is the most common image format used by digital cameras and other photographic image capture devices; along with JPEG/JFIF, it is the most common format for storing and transmitting photographic images on the World Wide Web. These format variations are often not distinguished, and are simply called JPEG.
The term "JPEG" is an initialism/acronym for the Joint Photographic Experts Group, which created the standard. The MIME media type for JPEG is image/jpeg, except in older Internet Explorer versions, which provides a MIME type of image/pjpeg when uploading JPEG images. JPEG files usually have a filename extension of .jpg or .jpeg.
JPEG/JFIF supports a maximum image size of 65,535×65,535 pixels, hence up to 4 gigapixels for an aspect ratio of 1:1.
"JPEG" stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the name of the committee that created the JPEG standard and also other still picture coding standards. The "Joint" stood for ISO TC97 WG8 and CCITT SGVIII. In 1987 ISO TC 97 became ISO/IEC JTC1 and in 1992 CCITT became ITU-T. Currently on the JTC1 side JPEG is one of two sub-groups of ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1, Subcommittee 29, Working Group 1 (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29/WG 1) – titled as Coding of still pictures. On the ITU-T side ITU-T SG16 is the respective body. The original JPEG Group was organized in 1986, issuing the first JPEG standard in 1992, which was approved in September 1992 as ITU-T Recommendation T.81 and in 1994 as ISO/IEC 10918-1.
The JPEG standard specifies the codec, which defines how an image is compressed into a stream of bytes and decompressed back into an image, but not the file format used to contain that stream. The Exif and JFIF standards define the commonly used file formats for interchange of JPEG-compressed images.
The JPEG compression algorithm is at its best on photographs and paintings of realistic scenes with smooth variations of tone and color. For web usage, where reducing the amount of data used for an image is important for responsive presentation, JPEG's compression benefits make JPEG popular. JPEG/Exif is also the most common format saved by digital cameras.
However, JPEG is not well suited for line drawings and other textual or iconic graphics, where the sharp contrasts between adjacent pixels can cause noticeable artifacts. Such images are better saved in a lossless graphics format such as TIFF, GIF, PNG, or a raw image format. The JPEG standard includes a lossless coding mode, but that mode is not supported in most products.
As the typical use of JPEG is a lossy compression method, which reduces the image fidelity, it is inappropriate for exact reproduction of imaging data (such as some scientific and medical imaging applications and certain technical image processing work).
JPEG is also not well suited to files that will undergo multiple edits, as some image quality is lost each time the image is recompressed, particularly if the image is cropped or shifted, or if encoding parameters are changed – see digital generation loss for details. To prevent image information loss during sequential and repetitive editing, the first edit can be saved in a lossless format, subsequently edited in that format, then finally published as JPEG for distribution.
JPEG uses a lossy form of compression based on the discrete cosine transform (DCT). This mathematical operation converts each frame/field of the video source from the spatial (2D) domain into the frequency domain (a.k.a. transform domain). A perceptual model based loosely on the human psychovisual system discards high-frequency information, i.e. sharp transitions in intensity, and color hue. In the transform domain, the process of reducing information is called quantization. In simpler terms, quantization is a method for optimally reducing a large number scale (with different occurrences of each number) into a smaller one, and the transform-domain is a convenient representation of the image because the high-frequency coefficients, which contribute less to the overall picture than other coefficients, are characteristically small-values with high compressibility. The quantized coefficients are then sequenced and losslessly packed into the output bitstream. Nearly all software implementations of JPEG permit user control over the compression-ratio (as well as other optional parameters), allowing the user to trade off picture-quality for smaller file size. In embedded applications (such as miniDV, which uses a similar DCT-compression scheme), the parameters are pre-selected and fixed for the application.
The compression method is usually lossy, meaning that some original image information is lost and cannot be restored, possibly affecting image quality. There is an optional lossless mode defined in the JPEG standard. However, this mode is not widely supported in products.
There is also an interlaced progressive JPEG format, in which data is compressed in multiple passes of progressively higher detail. This is ideal for large images that will be displayed while downloading over a slow connection, allowing a reasonable preview after receiving only a portion of the data. However, support for progressive JPEGs is not universal. When progressive JPEGs are received by programs that do not support them (such as versions of Internet Explorer before Windows 7) the software displays the image only after it has been completely downloaded.
There are also many medical imaging, traffic and camera applications that create and process 12-bit JPEG images both grayscale and color. 12-bit JPEG format is included in Extended part of the JPEG specification. Libjpeg codec supports 12-bit JPEG and exists high performance version.
The file format known as "JPEG Interchange Format" (JIF) is specified in Annex B of the standard. However, this "pure" file format is rarely used, primarily because of the difficulty of programming encoders and decoders that fully implement all aspects of the standard and because of certain shortcomings of the standard:
Several additional standards have evolved to address these issues. The first of these, released in 1992, was JPEG File Interchange Format (or JFIF), followed in recent years by Exchangeable image file format (Exif) and ICC color profiles. Both of these formats use the actual JIF byte layout, consisting of different markers, but in addition employ one of the JIF standard's extension points, namely the application markers: JFIF uses APP0, while Exif uses APP1. Within these segments of the file, that were left for future use in the JIF standard and aren't read by it, these standards add specific metadata.
Thus, in some ways JFIF is a cutdown version of the JIF standard in that it specifies certain constraints (such as not allowing all the different encoding modes), while in other ways it is an extension of JIF due to the added metadata. The documentation for the original JFIF standard states:
JPEG File Interchange Format is a minimal file format which enables JPEG bitstreams to be exchanged between a wide variety of platforms and applications. This minimal format does not include any of the advanced features found in the TIFF JPEG specification or any application specific file format. Nor should it, for the only purpose of this simplified format is to allow the exchange of JPEG compressed images.
Image files that employ JPEG compression are commonly called "JPEG files", and are stored in variants of the JIF image format. Most image capture devices (such as digital cameras) that output JPEG are actually creating files in the Exif format, the format that the camera industry has standardized on for metadata interchange. On the other hand, since the Exif standard does not allow color profiles, most image editing software stores JPEG in JFIF format, and also include the APP1 segment from the Exif file to include the metadata in an almost-compliant way; the JFIF standard is interpreted somewhat flexibly.
Strictly speaking, the JFIF and Exif standards are incompatible because each specifies that its marker segment (APP0 or APP1, respectively) appear first. In practice, most JPEG files contain a JFIF marker segment that precedes the Exif header. This allows older readers to correctly handle the older format JFIF segment, while newer readers also decode the following Exif segment, being less strict about requiring it to appear first.