What You Need to Know About HEIF in macOS High Sierra and iOS 11

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    With the official release of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, Apple introduced support for a new image format called HEIF. Apple sees HEIF as a worthy successor to the JPEG format. So what makes it so good that it can replace an industry standard that's been in use for almost 25 years?


    What is HEIF?

    HEIF stands for High Efficiency Image Format and can be considered the still-image version of the HEVC video codec that Apple's ecosystem now officially supports. (You can learn more about HEVC here.) The HEIF standard wasn't made by Apple - it was developed in 2015 by the MPEG group, which also invented the AAC audio format used in iTunes.

    Benefits of HEIF Over JPEG

    As the name implies, HEIF is a more streamlined method of storing image data and offers better quality than the traditional JPEG format. For example, HEIF supports image transparency and can capture a more extended color range than JPEG (16-bit versus 8-bit), which should increase the accuracy of photos taken on Apple's latest iPhones. At the same time, a HEIF-encoded image should be around half the file size of an equivalent-quality JPEG, so users will be able to keep twice the number of shots on their Apple devices (or in iCloud) before they max out their storage capacity.

    In addition, HEIF files include a 320x240 embedded thumbnail that's four times the resolution but only twice the file size of a standard JPEG thumbnail. HEIF images can also be rotated and cropped without altering the image or re-saving them, all of which makes working with HEIF files that much faster than JPEG on both Mac and iOS devices.


    HEIF also brings other benefits that JPEG doesn't offer because it's unlike your typical image format. That's because it's also capable of acting as a container for multiple files. This should be a boon for anyone who takes bursts of photos or lots of Live Photos - which can be edited in multiple new ways in iOS 11 - but it also means HEIF could become a wholesale replacement for GIF.

    HEIF Compatibility and Image Sharing

    Currently, Apple only supports HEIF image encoding on iOS devices with a minimum A10 Fusion processor, so that includes the 2017 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and of course Apple's new 2017 range of iPhones. Owners of these devices can check their camera is encoding photos in HEIF by going to Settings -> Camera -> Formats, and ensuring the "High Efficiency" option is selected. The "Most Compatible" option means photos will be encoded in JPEG format.


    HEIF is supported on all Macs capable of running macOS High Sierra, and many macOS applications work natively with HEIF, including Photos, Preview, and Quick Look. This means macOS users might consider converting their JPEG image files to HEIF for greater storage or network benefits.

    The transition to HEIF within the Apple ecosystem should be mostly transparent, but if users need to move HEIF content outside of that ecosystem, it's worth looking into transcoding options (JPEG, for example) to provide the best backwards compatibility for other users. Happily, iOS 11 will auto-convert HEIF images to JPEG when they are shared to devices running earlier versions of iOS, non-Apple devices, and popular social media sites, or when they are passed over to apps that don't yet support the standard.

    Article Link: What You Need to Know About HEIF in macOS High Sierra and iOS 11
  2. farewelwilliams macrumors 68000

    Jun 18, 2014
    "What you need to know"

    I need to know how this works when my parents are using iCloud Photos + Windows. They aren't "sharing", but they download photos from iCloud to their computer all the time.
  3. macTW Suspended

    Oct 17, 2016
    Really does sound like the future of image storage.

    Maybe I should buy the 64 GB phone instead...
  4. garirry macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2013
    Canada is my city
    Wait, only on A10 devices and up? That's BS. Considering that so many iOS devices out there are 32 GB and 64 GB, support for encoding HEIF and HEVC is really important if you don't want all your storage to be filled within days.
  5. ajspear macrumors newbie

    Nov 20, 2013
    Are older pictures automatically converted in the HEIF format?
  6. katanna macrumors 6502


    May 6, 2004
    Is there an option inside of Photos to batch-convert your entire library to HEIF?
  7. izyreal macrumors regular

    Sep 26, 2012
    Does this upgrade the camera on my 7 Plus? The article says my photos will be “better quality.” What does that mean?
  8. badbrain macrumors newbie

    Sep 21, 2017
    Literally ½ the file size for same or better quality photos. Same with HEVC for video (excellent for 4K)

    Only works on newly taken videos/photos AFIK.

    Google photos also supports both, which I find to be an excellent free cloud option. Any windows users can use that on a desktop to view uploaded photos/photos on PC.
  9. abbstrack macrumors regular

    Nov 21, 2008
    This is my question too.

    Also - can you do other non-destructive editing (aside from cropping/resizing) on them similar to RAW.
  10. rishiomedia macrumors member

    Mar 10, 2015
    I’m also interested in knowing if it’s possible to convert an existing library of jpeg and Raws into HEIF on the Mac.
  11. killawat macrumors 65816

    Sep 11, 2014
    Half size is enticing. I plan on using GraphicConverter v10.5 to move some of my files over to HEIF, then do a batch convert once I'm convinced.
  12. Iconoclysm macrumors 68020


    May 13, 2010
    Washington, DC
    Perhaps it requires more processing power to encode them? Perhaps the A10 includes a hardware encoder?
  13. zorinlynx macrumors 603


    May 31, 2007
    Florida, USA
    Does this mean that JPG -> HEIF conversion is completely lossless? Because if it's not, NO, macOS users shouldn't convert their images.
  14. Michaelgtrusa macrumors 604

    Oct 13, 2008
  15. SamVilde macrumors regular


    Oct 18, 2008
    New York City
    Still don’t understand.

    It sounds better, but does this mean I’ll have to ask everyone I want to share photos with what kind of device(s) they’ll be viewing it on?
  16. Peel macrumors 6502a


    Aug 30, 2004
    The iCloud Photos viewer that is part of iCloud for Windows does not convert the images. I open the Downloads folder and see all of my images as a combination of IMG_xxxx.HEIC and IMG_xxxx.MOV files. One pair for each image that I took (I have Live Photo turned on, so I'm guessing that's why there's an MOV file).
  17. reallynotnick macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    It's not, and unless you like losing picture quality I wouldn't suggest doing it. You can't convert lossy -> lossy without quality loss. I'll use it going forward but I'm keeping all my old images as JPGs.
  18. Nozuka macrumors 68020

    Jul 3, 2012
    i wonder if all web browsers support HEIF already
  19. Music Ambulance macrumors member

    Music Ambulance

    Oct 31, 2008
    If this truly is a lossy format I’d suggest macrumors revise their article, that converting old files will damage them
    --- Post Merged, Sep 25, 2017 ---
    I’d assume that could take ten years.
  20. gabrieljsmith1 macrumors newbie

    Sep 25, 2017

    Thinking the same thing anyone - Is there an option inside of Photos to batch-convert your entire library to HEIF? If not would be great for apple to add this asap :)
  21. revfife macrumors regular


    Jan 12, 2006
    In a far country
    There seems to be no way to convert your JPEGs into HEIF. Looks to be a bad start to this MacOS.
  22. rishiomedia macrumors member

    Mar 10, 2015
    What about RAWS -> HEIF? Surely Photos does this or whats the point of HEIF succeeding as a file format?
  23. gabrieljsmith1 macrumors newbie

    Sep 25, 2017
    Have a feeling there will be a solution soon - HEIF looks awesome!
  24. Cosmosent macrumors 6502a

    Apr 20, 2016
    La Jolla, CA
    HEVC-encoded images (& image sequences) in a HEIF container provide two benefits:

    1.) ~33% (real world) reduction in file sizes & streaming requirements, &

    2.) support for 10-bit extended color spaces !

    #2 is actually a bigger benefit than #1, but ALMOST ALL who have written about HEIF & HEVC today have missed it, BIG TIME !


    Also, for those who have an interest:

    "Deeper Pixels" = 3 Apple mobile devices (A11 ONLY) ... for those of you who don't know, this refers to camera "capture" in 10-bit extended color spaces, and NOT just Apple's Display P3.

    HEVC Encoding = 7 Apple mobile devices (A10, A11, A10X).

    Wide Color = 8 Apple mobile devices (A10, A11, 9.7" iPad Pro, A10X).
  25. IGI2 macrumors 6502


    May 6, 2015
    They still made the change fairly early.

    Older iPhones doesn't have energy-efficient-enough chips to encode in HEVC. Battery is already a burning problem, I'm sure people wouldn't like to degrade it even further.
    --- Post Merged, Sep 25, 2017 ---
    It can be lossy and it can be lossless. However, it is most likely to a 2 MB JPEG would result in 15 MB HEIC if you wanted to do it lossless.

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