What is JPEG 2000?

The JPEG file is named after its creators, the "Joint Photographic Experts Group", which designed the most popular format for sharing images on the web. After the success of JPEG, the group decided to start working on a better version, which they dubbed JPEG 2000. Below, we've outlined why JPEG 2000 differs from other formats, why it's a clear improvement over JPEG, and why it never really caught on.  

What is JPEG 2000?

With more advanced encoding methods, JPEG 200 images are not as affected by file compression, so they retain a higher level of visual quality. The smarter code behind JPEG 2000 also results in less system errors, which can be a blessing if you forget to save a backup. Serious photographers also have the option to save their JPEG 2000 files in a lossless format, so that you keep the same quality as a raw image, while also using a more convenient file extension. All in all, JPEG 2000 is better than its predecessor in almost every way.   

What are some of the technical benefits? 

Besides using superior compression, the JPEG 2000 format breaks down each image into multiple resolutions, which is known as a pyramid representation. The highly efficient code also takes advantage of a feature called "progressive decoding", which allows users to see a low-quality version of the image that improves as the file is loading. In addition, lossless and lossy compression are combined into one JPEG 2000 file, so that you can switch between the two at any time, without losing any data. 

Why is the format so unpopular?

Even though JPEG 2000 was released more than 15 years ago, it has never crossed into the mainstream, and most photographers don't even bother using it. So why didn't it catch on like JPEG? First, JPEG 2000's cutting-edge code made it impossible for users to save their original JPEG files in the new format. When JPEG 2000 was released, it was too ahead of its time, and many computers did not contain enough memory to handle the files smoothly. 

People only want to use a format that they can share with friends and family, and photo companies will only support a format that people want, so JPEG 2000 faded into obscurity. One day, a newer and better format will definitely replace JPEG, but it will need widespread support before it can lay claim to that title. 

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