I'm looking for an image format to keep my photo archive. Currently I'm keeping compressed DNG + 80% quality JPG. JPG is useful because you can easily convert and manage, is small and is fast to read/resample. I'm still using Picasa as my image catalog, but I know I'll have to change soon. For me the biggest limitation is that JPG is restricted to 8 bit. The next more widely used formats that support 16 bit are PNG and TIF, but they don't compress as well. Also, with advance to compression algorithms, I believe would be easy to achieve JPG like sizes even with HDR, no need to be smaller. JPG2000 could be a solution, but it's still much slower to read than JPG (I use Irfanview as my main image viewer and batch converter), Picasa don't support it, and Windows don't display the thumbnails. I read about openEXR but it seems far less usable than JPG2000. It would also be nice to be able to export from Lightroom (My main editor).

So in sum, what I need is:

  • HDR support (10 bit, 12 bit or 16 bit)
  • Fast encoding/decoding (even if I need to install specific software)
  • Size comparable to JPG.
  • Windows thumbnail (natively or plugin)
  • Lightroom export plugin (optional)
  • Compatible with some image catalog software (As fast and compact as Picasa)

So anyone have any ideas? The answer could be based on JPG2000 or openEXR.

  • \$\begingroup\$ As a side note, I use the free google photos for reference and the raw files in backblaze B2 (with cyberduck). For non-critical stuff, I can use the jpg directly from gphotos (which destroys the photo), otherwise I get the filename from that and get the raw/full jpg from B2. 500Gb is costing me less than 3$/month. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 23:12
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ so you use lightroom, but do cataloguing in picasa?? you can make your life a lot easier if you do everything in LR, and forget about anything but DNGs until you actually need exports for your target publication. \$\endgroup\$
    – ths
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 0:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ths That's actually a good idea. The compressed DNG are comparable in size with the JPG's I export. So I could just keep then instead of the JPGs. And although Picasa is much faster than Lightroom, I could keep separate catalogs for archiving and editing. Windows support thumbnails of DGN (although much slowly than JPG), and irfanview support then as well (although only the 1024px preview is usefull, the full preview is slow to load and don't bring the edits). I'll look into it, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – ariel
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 19:43

4 Answers 4


No single file format currently fits your requirements. Your current solution is the most practical for now. JPG for viewing and export. TIF/PNG/RAW for preservation and editing.

  • Most image catalog software support JPG, PNG, TIF, and some other common formats. They usually do not support JPEG2000, JPEG-XR, EXR, HEIF, AVIF. Even formats commonly supported by web browsers, like WEBP, aren't supported by many programs.

    Picasa is a discontinued product, so if it's important to you, you're pretty much stuck with JPG.

  • HDR support is not just about color depth, but also color representation. Most programs represent colors as sets of integers. For HDR, colors need to be represented in floating point to accommodate the vast difference between the brightest and darkest colors (dynamic range).

  • Any format that compresses better than standard JPG is likely to take much longer to process.

Regarding some specific formats:

  • JPEG2000 - Window of opportunity for mass adoption has passed. No tools to add and edit metadata.

  • JPEG-XR - Not even Microsoft supports it anymore. (MS was the original developer.)

  • JPEG XL - Currently in development. The standardization process has begun. IF it becomes widely adopted, it is a good candidate for your needs.

  • HEIF - No tools to use high bit-depth colors. No tools to add and edit metadata. Support for format isn't great outside of Apple.

  • AVIF - Still in development.

  • EXR - Poor support in applications. Issues with linear vs logarithmic representation (colors may shift each time the file is opened and saved). Metadata?

  • WEBP - Viewing is well supported by web browsers, but not image viewers. No tools to add and edit metadata.

  • DNG - Not a general-purpose image format. Requires raw processing to produce an image for viewing and sharing.

You could roll your own image format, like BPG or FLIF. Then it would support whatever you want it to.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think webp and avif both have a Mac resolution that but be restrictive. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter
    Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 8:21

One option is to use HEIF, the High Efficiency Image File Format. According to this discussion on dpreview.com, the format supports it, but you need to make sure your exporter can write in 10-bit format. The Wikipedia link above says that Lightroom supports the format, though it doesn't indicate whether it supports export of 10-bit images.

  • \$\begingroup\$ HEIF is not a viable option. There's a big difference between the format "supporting" a feature, and any program being able to provide it. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 1:55

According to Canon, HEIF (10bits) is the replacement of jpeg (8bits) for compressed images (1DX III is using it as new standard). The downsides are:

  1. lossy compression
  2. no 12bits

Adoption is growing in mobile CPUs, with open source libraries, and with standard softwares (eg., Windows 10 image viewer): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Image_File_Format

If you want 10-12bits and have control over compression quality (lossy/lossless) DPX and OpenEXR are interesting and standard options, FLIF is also interesting.


As an update to this question, I still haven't found the answer, but I'm since converting all my NEF raws to lossy compressed DNG using Lightroom.

The size is about the same of a high res JPG. They have support for thumbnail in Windows, and you can view the preview in IrfanView (my image visualization app). Though do not have support in Picasa and other apps like Chrome.

You can also convert uncompressed DNG and 16 bit TIFF to this format. The "lossy" part of it is basically imperceptible as per my observations.


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