When Apple announces its new iOS11 operating system for iPhones and iPads this week, one of the changes is the abandonment of the JPEG file format in favour of a new image file format, HEIF (High Efficiency File Format).
To a large degree, this has taken the industry unawares, with software and printer companies which have previously worked with Apple devices working through a period of uncertainty.
We approached Epson, the leading supplier of consumer, profressional wide format and retail printers what they understood regarding HEIF files as they relate to Epson printers.
PhotoCounter: Are there any implications for consumers using Epson inkjet printers – will they be able to print from these HEIF files directly? If not, will there be a loss of image quality in conversion to JPEG?
Epson: Most customers will not notice a difference if they are opening HEIF files using a non-Epson application which supports them as that application will provide the necessary data to the printer driver for printing (just as they currently do for any other image format). Converting an HEIF to JPEG may involve some image quality change depending on the JPEG quality level chosen and depending on whether the HEIF contains a lossless format image in the container and whether the HEIF is set to lossless or lossy compression format (it can do both), but generally that won’t be required because the application that supports viewing the HEIF will likely be able to print via the print driver.
PC: What about retailers with D700s and D3000s or Epson wide format – if customers come in with HEIF files, will Epson-supporting retailers be able to print them? At top quality?
Epson: For most such retailers and other print service providers, they will have software or applications that are used to print to the Epson products and, as with consumer level applications, if these can open HEIF files then they will be able to print via the driver.
Note that overall, a maximum quality JPEG and a lossless HEIF file will not print differently to the extent that anyone could actually tell the difference. This really only becomes an issue if someone is using a medium or low quality JPEG (and that is unusual as a default setting).
PC: Will Epson be supporting HEIF?
Epson: There is no timeline for this at the moment but it is on the table for discussion.
– These responses are quite revealing. It would appear that some kind of automatic conversion is supposed to take place, rendering HEIF files into JPEGs of some sort. Having read fairly extensively on HEIFs to research this story, there is only really passing mention of file conversion in the Apple literature, and no reference at all to how output to hard copy might work in reality.
We are grateful to Epson for its response – it could have simply ducked for cover, but has instead shared what it currently understands about how HEIF might work. There are many qualified statements. You will note the responses are littered with ‘if/thens’, ‘mays’ and ‘dependings’: Epson is trying to be as informative as possible without being misleading.
An indication that Apple has simply sprung this disruptive change on the rest of the imaging industry – esepcially that part of it concerned with output – is underscored by Epson’s response to whether it will actually support HEIF. If Apple had been playing nicely with its colleagues, Epson would have been able to deliver a more equivocal response on nthe eve of the launch or iOS11 – which it has to be remembered is back-compatible with an extensive range of iPhones and iPads.
It looks like this story has a ways to go. Once again, you read it here first, folks!
NOTE: Nokia is also heading towards adoption of the HEIF file structure. It is far more forthcoming on the technicalities. For all you wanted to know about HEIF but were afraid to ask, click here.