"Optimal quality" JPEG Compression: Worthwhile?

Started Oct 24, 2008 | Discussions thread
Marianne Oelund Veteran Member • Posts: 7,749
There are six JPEG compression options

Sylvain C. wrote:

As I am only an enthusiastic amateur, I've only used JPEG on my D700
(as opposed to RAW). However, I have always been on "Optimal
Quality" JPEG compression and, I'll tell you, some files are huge.

Is that level of compression (as compared to "Size priority") really
worth it?

The three main levels are Fine, Normal and Basic. For each of these, you can select Optimal Quality or Size Priority. In order of resulting file size, from largest to smallest, the combinations are:
Fine/Optimal Quality
Fine/Size Priority
Normal/Optimal Quality
Normal/Size Priority
Basic/Optimal Quality
Basic/Size Priority

Assessing JPEG image quality isn't very straightforward, as there are many aspects and you need to know about the various types of JPEG compression/decompression artifacts. The compression level that you need in order to avoid noticeable problems will depend on the nature of your subject, as well as your final output medium.

JPEG compression works very well for natural subjects, but is challenged by artificial ones such as text and graphics, architecture, etc. For my subjects, I find no need at all to use Fine JPEG, and Normal/Size Priority usually does very well.

Common types of JPEG artifacts are mosquito noise, staircase noise, posterizing and checkerboarding; you can Google these in relation to JPEG to learn more.

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