The original JPEG format was updated in 2000 to provide a variety of features including less artifacts, better compression and lossless compression. Why haven't cameras updated to use this new format?

  • See also: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/10181/…
    – mattdm
    May 5, 2011 at 17:25
  • 19
    I hope we won't iterate all alternative file-formats in the coming next hours ;)
    – Leonidas
    May 5, 2011 at 17:30
  • @Leonidas I'm on the verge of asking about FITS. It can do floating-point pixel values and everything!
    – coneslayer
    May 5, 2011 at 17:45

5 Answers 5


JPEG 2000 has not garnered wide acceptance due to a few factors.

  • Lacking backwards compatibility to JPEG
  • Lack of wide browser support
  • Questionable legal status
  • (Only) 20% higher performance, while considering how inexpensive storage is
  • Additional processing power/time needed to create
  • JPEG already considered quite good
  • Amount of rework to the code in cameras and desktop software is high
  • 5
    From a more personal point of view, I don't think it is necessary. I'm pretty happy with standard 1992 JPEG, along with RAW formats and DNG. When we see a format come around that offers substantially(5-10x) smaller files and better quality, then I will have my ears to the ground.
    – dpollitt
    May 5, 2011 at 17:36
  • What originally impressed me about JPG2000 was the lossless compression. Once I read the Wiki article about JPG92 I discovered that even that version has the option for lossless compression. May 6, 2011 at 13:03

Because people who really care a lot about quality generally just use raw files. JPEG 2000 is quite a bit of extra work to implement, for what is apparently perceived as a fairly minimal benefit in quality.

  • 6
    Yes, but you don't upload RAW files to flickr or portfolio sites. You also don't send them to the printer generally. RAW is not the final format.
    – dpollitt
    May 5, 2011 at 17:40
  • 3
    @dpollitt: True, but the people who'd care about the quality improvement of JPEG 2000 vs. the original JPEG are also the ones who are most likely to want control over what happens between raw and JPEG. May 5, 2011 at 18:21
  • 1
    @dpollitt has it spot on. There is presently no high-quality image format coming out of cameras other than TIFF on extremely few models. We need a high bit-depth format to get the camera's output precision without the hassles of having to convert RAW data into an image.
    – Itai
    May 5, 2011 at 18:24
  • 3
    @Itai: The question remains what percentage of the market would buy one camera over another on the basis of supporting JPEG 2000. Clearly the manufacturers currently believe that's about 0. Whether you or I like it or not, I think in this respect they're pretty close to right. May 5, 2011 at 18:42
  • @Jerry - I agree, JPEG 2000 is not the answer due to the politics behind it. One company asked a company I was working for one million USD to license use their codec! Too many people tried to profit from JPEG2000 and it was easily forgotten. Instead TIFF with good lossless compression would be nice, as PNG 16-bit-per-channel or a number of other formats.
    – Itai
    May 5, 2011 at 19:30

With any improved image format, there's a chicken and egg problem. A format isn't useful unless people can see it, and if there's not widespread display medium support, it's hard to get started. If you look at Wikipedia's list of applications with JPEG 2000 support, you'll notice that major web browser support is weak at best.

Same goes for digital picture frames, smart phones, and even printers with native support. So, if you have a JPEG 2000 image, it's hard to do anything with it.This means that no one has much incentive to make devices which produce JPEG 2000 files.

Or maybe it's the other way around. Chicken and egg and all that.

That means that in order for something to really catch on, it has to have a big, clear benefit, either to end users who demand it, or as a secret-sauce competitive advantage for a manufacturer, or else some sort of overall industry agreement to move forward (which is like herding those chickens). If there's no advantage, or if there's even possible drawbacks (JPEG 2000 isn't perfect in avoiding artifacts, is comparatively computationally expensive, and it went through a long period of patent licensing uncertainty), there's not going to be a place to start from, and so nowhere to go.

All that seems unlikely for any progress at all, but I think eventually as consumer technology gets better at broader gamut displays, the current JPEG standard is going to really see its age, and maybe we'll eventually see something like JPEG XR start to gain traction. But maybe not — maybe the rapidly expanding data storage universe, which is growing to hold more and more video content, will make the storage and data-transfer needs for lossly-compressed images seem humorously small anyway. And then we'll all go back to 1986's TIFF format.

  • 1
    In essence there hasn't been a new format that offers enough additional benefit to make it worth the trouble of switching. Clearly size isn't a significant benefit. Color gamut seems the be the latest candidate but it seems to be having trouble getting traction as a serious issue. May 6, 2011 at 13:06

I wager it never really was adopted as a better JPG-standard due to its licensing issues.

  • 1
    Note that the submarine patent theory is applicable to every single standard ever written. There have in fact already been a number of such patents turned up against the original jpeg. So while it might be one small facet of why jpeg2000 never got any traction, I doubt it's the entire reason, or even a large part.
    – cabbey
    May 6, 2011 at 6:01
  • @cabbey: That one was only one example. The german Wikipedia states that all add-ons like colour profiles and metadata-formats equally are not verbalized as licence-free.
    – Leonidas
    May 6, 2011 at 11:32
  • 1
    In 2000, the fiasco with GIF and the Unisys patents was still fresh in everyone's mind. Fairly or not, I think this did have a significant impact on uptake.
    – mattdm
    Jan 16, 2012 at 22:54

JPEG 2000 has 2 primary uses that I've been able to decipher.

  1. People with huge images, in the hundreds of gigapixels, who want to allow the image to be seen, but not requiring the image to be downloaded. Several NASA missions, including HiRISE, use such images. JPEG 2000 has some nice features which allow for a Google Earth like approach to image management, but many placed simply have photos of varying resolutions to manage different images. (See the JPIP protocol for sending JPEG 2000 images)
  2. People who much have images with absolutely lossless compression, but send them out. Pretty much this is restricted to Doctors, who much send out X-rays with 0 chance of compression artifacts.

Given that there are really only these 2 groups of users who really get a lot out of such a complex process, and there are several complications, it seems unlikely that JPEG 2000 is going to come to popular use anytime soon. Maybe some day it will, however. But I don't really see that happening...

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