Forgotten Format: JPEG 2000


Forgotten Format: JPEG 2000

When considering popular and widely used image formats, JPEG, PNG, WebP and GIF makes on top of the list. However, JPEG 2000 is not mentioned. Especially if we consider the overall web usage. In this brief article, we will be discussing the reasons behind that, evaluating JPEG 2000 and comparing it with its predecessor JPEG.

Brief Explanation of JPEG 2000

Just like JPEG, JPEG 2000 is an encoding and compression methodology developed by Joint Photographic Experts Group. The main intention behind the JPEG 2000 is improving the capabilities of the existing JPEG format.  Those improvements include but not limited to,

·       Multi-layered Resolution Representation: This is a feature called ‘Pyramid’ in image processing. It is basically creating image versions with lower resolutions according to a pre-determined ratio. Generation of those layers are based on blurring and subsampling the previous reference layer.

·         Robustness Against Errors:  JPEG 2000 utilizes small encoding blocks instead of larger ones. As a result, it decreases the rate of errors.

·        Color Space Support: It supports images with any color space.

·        Transparency Support: It support alpha channel, so does the transparency.

·        Lossless Compression: JPEG 2000 supports lossless compression as well as the lossy compression. User can make the choice between the two without making additional changes.

From the above we could say that JPEG 2000 brings image quality, high dynamic range and advanced compression in one image format. To see the improvements even further, let’s go over through an example. In our previous JPEG article, we stated that the original JPEG format won’t be able to handle texts properly. If we compare it with the JPEG 2000, we could that JPEG 2000 improved compression technique while preserving image quality significantly.

On the example above, it could be seen that JPEG 2000 is better than its predecessor JPEG which has more artifacts. Obviously, from the by looking this image making direct comparisons is not feasible and accurate thing to do. Because there are many detailed factors needed to be included which is not possible to over them in a single blog post. However, it should give the general idea. Also, an important thing to mention here is compatibility. We don’t have any problems processing and viewing JPEG and PNG images on a machine that runs Windows 10. But when we try to convert image to JPEG 2000, image editor that we use don’t support it. Also, the windows photos app won’t display it. So proprietary software must be required if someone wants work with a JPEG 2000 format.

Nevertheless, as from the common sense, it is clear that JPEG 2000 is more superior format when compared to JPEG. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is ‘better’. To expand it even further, we need to compare few different factors such as,

1.       Compatibility

2.       Encoding resource consumption

3.       Sectoral Usage


Compatibility is a crucial factor to consider when deciding use an image format. Especially from web development perspective images should be compatible with as many browsers as they can and this is the weakness of JPEG 2000. It is currently only supported by Safari.

On the other hand, formats like PNG and JPEG is supported on almost every browser. This issue is mainly caused by the effort of development. JPEG 2000 is not backwards compatible, meaning that it is not a simple modification to existing JPEG code. It is fundamentally different and based on different standard, therefore implementing it is not as easy as it seems.

2. Encoding Resource Consumption

When JPEG 2000 is introduced, for the time, it has high hardware requirements. Hence, companies and manufacturers become hesitant to support it. As a result, this hindered the spread of the format.

3. Sectoral Usage

When the mainstream and widely used image formats analyzed, we see a clear pattern. Which is the use of web platforms. Take a look at examples such as JPEG, PNG, GIF and WebP. They all are consistently used in web. This has the benefit of client-side usage. It doesn’t necessarily focus on an extremely niche topic which has low userbase. As a result, if an image format is used frequently on web platforms it significantly increases its user base and spread ratio.

However, again this is not the factor if an image format is successful or not. It is just a different metric to consider. For instance, although JPEG 2000 is not heavily used in web, it could be said that it is used commonly on digital imaging like on scanners, cameras and photocopy machines up to medical imaging systems. The high customizability enables JPEG 2000 to become a versatile image format to use in those areas.

To conclude it all, JPEG 2000 is highly capable format with “different” kind of use. Even though we currently not see it commonly on daily basis, it is still frequently used format in various areas. Currently the future of JPEG 2000 is bit hazy since Joint Photographic Experts Group continuously comes up with advanced image formats such as JPEG XR and so on, as the industry move towards the next-gen image formats.