Table: Common Image File Formats

Name and Current Version

TIFF 6.0 (Tagged Image File Format)

GIF 89a (Graphics Interchange Format)

JPEG (Joint Photographic Expert Group)/JFIF (JPEG File Interchange Format)

JPEG 2000

Flashpix  1.0.2

ImagePac, Photo CD

PNG 1.2 (Portable Network Graphics) 

PDF 1.4  (Portable Document Format)


.tif, .tiff


.jpeg, jpg, .jif, .jfif

.jp2, .jpx, .j2k, .j2c






1-bit bitonal; 4- or 8-bit grayscale or palette color; up to 64-bit color[1]

1-8 bit bitonal, grayscale, or color

8-bit grayscale; 24-bit color

supports up to 214 channels, each with 1-38 bits; gray or color

8-bit grayscale; 24 bit color

24-bit color

1-48-bit; 1/2/4/8-bit palette color or grayscale, 16-bit grayscale, 24/48-bit truecolor

4-bit grayscale; 8-bit color; up to 64-bit color support


Uncompressed Lossless: ITU-T.6, LZW, etc.

Lossy: JPEG

Lossless: LZW[2]

Lossy: JPEG



Lossless/Lossy: Wavelet


Lossy: JPEG

Lossy: “Visually lossless” Kodak proprietary format[4]

Lossless: Deflate, an LZ77 derivative

Uncompressed Lossless: ITU-T.6, LZW. JBIG

Lossy: JPEG

Standard/ Proprietary

De facto standard

De facto standard

JPEG: ISO 10918-1/2

JFIF: de facto standard[5]

ISO/IEC 15444 parts 1-6, 8-11

Publicly available specification


ISO 15948 (anticipated)[6]

De facto standard[7]

Color Mgmt.

RGB, Palette, YCbCr,[8] CMYK, CIE L*a*b*



Palette, YCbCr, RGB, sRGB, some ICC[9]

PhotoYCC and NIF RGB,[10] ICC (optional)


Palette, sRGB, ICC


Web Support

Plug-in or external application

Native since Microsoft® Internet Explorer 3, Netscape Navigator® 2

Native since Microsoft® Internet Explorer 2, Netscape Navigator® 2



Java™ applet or external application

Native since Microsoft® Internet Explorer 4, Netscape® Navigator 4.04, (but still incomplete)

Plug-in or external application

Metadata Support

Basic set of labeled tags

Free-text comment field

Free-text comment field

Basic set of labeled tags[11]

Extensive set of labeled tags

Through external databases; no inherent metadata

Basic set of labeled tags plus user-defined tags.

Basic set of labeled tags


Supports multiple images/file[12]

May be replaced by PNG;

interlacing and transparency support by most Web browsers

Progressive JPEG widely supported by Web browsers[13]

Multiple resolutions, progressive display, tiling, region of interest coding and many other advanced features

Provides multiple resolutions of each image; wide industry support, but limited current applications

Provides 5 or 6 different resolutions of each image; unclear future

May replace GIF, though market penetration has been spotty

Preferred for printing and viewing multipage documents; strong government use

Home Page

Unofficial TIFF home page

GIF specification

JPEG home page

JPEG 2000 home page

FlashPix home page

Photo CD home page

PNG home page

PDF home page specs


[1] Though the TIFF 6.0 specification provides for 64-bit color, many TIFF readers support a maximum of 24-bit color.

[2] LZW is patented and its use in software development may require licensing and royalty payments: Unisys, “License Information on GIF and Other LZW-based Technologies,” LZW Patent and Software Information.

[3] The original JPEG specification included a lossless mode, but most JPEG applications never supported it. Some files referred to as lossless JPEGs are really non-JPEG compressed files in a JFIF wrapper. There is a new specification for lossless JPEG (JPEG-LS)  but it has not been finalized. ISO SC29/WG1, “JPEG - Information Links.”

[4] Visually lossless refers to compression techniques that are themselves lossy, but that take advantage of characteristics of human sight to create an image that is virtually indistinguishable from its uncompressed form.

[5] JFIF was released into the public domain by C-Cube Microsystems. The “official” file format for JPEG files is SPIFF (Still Picture Interchange File Format), but by the time it was released, JFIF had already achieved wide acceptance.  SPIFF, which has the ISO designation 10918-3, offers more versatile compression, color management, and metadata capacity than JPEG/JFIF, but it has little support. It may be superseded by JPEG 2000/DIG 2000: ISO SC29/WG1, JPEG - Information Links. Digital Imaging Group, “JPEG 2000 and the DIG: The Picture of Compatibility.”

[6] Approved by W3C to replace GIF for Web use.

[7] Adobe has released enough information to allow developers to write applications that read and modify PDF files. However, pdf files are most commonly created and accessed using Adobe's own Acrobat software.

[8] Similar to CIE Lab, YCbCr is composed of three channels: one for luminance (Y) and two for chrominance (CC).

[9] Others are supported in the file format extensions defined in ISO/IEC 15444-2 (JPX file format).

[10] NIF RGB is defined identically to sRGB in the Flashpix 1.0.2 specification. The next revision of the Flashpix specification may move to sRGB.

[11] The JP2 file format also specifies a flexible means to add substantial metadata, either as binary data or in XML. However, this data is considered optional, and baseline JP2 readers are not required to read it.

[12] The TIFF 6.0 specification calls for the ability to store multiple TIFF images in a single file, but not all TIFF readers support this feature.

[13] Some early versions of Internet Explorer may not display progressive JPEGs properly.


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