The use of image formats is changing, there’s no question about it. The dominant position of JPEG, one of the oldest image file types, is under attack for a couple of years by the so-called next-gen image formats. This new wave of formats is bringing to the table a wide range of advantages over traditional image files.
In a previous post we’ve covered WebP, one of the modern image formats developed by Google. In this article we are going to take a close look at another next-gen image file that is threatening to take over the online environment: AVIF. Keep on reading to find out all the features, advantages and inevitably disadvantages of this new format.
What Is the AVIF Image Format
AVIF, which stands for AV1 Image File Format, is a format created by the Alliance for Open Media to store both still and animated pictures. The main feature of AVIF is the fact that it uses the highly efficient AV1 compression algorithm in the HEIF container format, which generates smaller sizes for picture files without sacrificing quality. AVIF is an open-source, royalty-free format, which means you can use it without worrying about licensing issues.
The History of the Format
As mentioned in the beginning, AVIF is a rather new format.
The AV1 codec, the video codec on which the image format is based, was officially launched in March 2018. Early drafts of AVIF were presented to the public six months later, in September 2018, while version 1 was released on February 2019. The format received numerous improvements and refinements over the years and it was standardized in June 2021.
The Main Features of AVIF
AVIF is an image file type designed for web use. Its strong point resides in the advanced compression algorithm, which makes it possible to generate small-sized, high-quality photographs. Basically, by choosing this format you ensure image optimization and, at the same time, an impeccable visual experience for internet users.
AVIF provides a superior compression in comparison to other formats (you can read more about that later in the article), but this isn’t its only advantage. This modern format comes with a series of useful features that turn it into an optimal choice for various use cases. Here is what AVIF can support:
- Both lossless and lossy compression
- Wide color gamut and ICC profiles like Adobe RGB
- HDR (high dynamic range) images
- Monochrome images
- Film grain
- Alpha channels for transparency
- Multi-layer images
- Live photos and animations
The Disadvantages of AVIF
No image format is perfect. Using AVIF does come with its share of benefits, but there are certain limitations as well.
First of all, because it’s a rather new format, there are still compatibility issues. Things are moving in the right direction, in the sense that the AVIF adoption has sped up in the last years, but there are still browsers which don’t provide support for this file type. Microsoft Edge is currently not supporting AVIF, while on Apple devices you need to run Safari 16 to view the pictures. Internet Explorer is also not compatible with the format.
When it comes to image editors, the compatibility problems persist. Many photo editing software do not natively support AVIF, including Adobe Photoshop. You’ll need to install a plugin to import and export such files.
Other drawbacks include the lack of support for progressive image decoding and the fact that creating and encoding AVIF files requires more time in comparison to other photo formats.
AVIF vs WebP
AVIF and WebP are regarded as two of the most important representatives of the next generation of image formats. They are designed to serve the same purpose: to significantly reduce file size while maintaining a high image quality and hence to provide a pleasant browsing experience for online users.
When comparing the two formats, AVIF seems to have the edge over its rival. Here’s why:
- The AV1 video codec used by AVIF is much more efficient than the VP8 video codec used by WebP. This means that, at equivalent quality, AVIF images are considerably smaller.
- AVIF offers support for 8, 10 and 12-bit images, while WebP is limited to 8-bit images.
- AVIF images are superior in terms of quality thanks to the better compression algorithms and higher color depth support.
One section where WebP is the winner at the moment is the wider browser support.
AVIF vs JPG
Dating back from 1992, JPEG is one of the oldest and most popular image formats. We’ve all been using it to take photos, to store them on our computers, to upload them to our websites and blogs or share them on social networks.
JPG enjoys universal support, allowing users to view such images on any browser, device, platform or image editor. And this is practically its main advantage over AVIF, which currently has limited support. But if we take into account image quality, file size and features, it’s unquestionable that AVIF is the better alternative:
- The quality of AVIF images is substantially better than of JPG’s.
- AVIF supports both lossless and lossy compression, while JPG only lossy
- In terms of file size, AVIF clearly outperforms JPG. AVIF images can be up to 50% smaller than JPG’s at equivalent image quality.
- Unlike JPG, AVIF supports animated sequences, alpha transparency and up to 12-bit color depth
How to Convert AVIF Images
AVIF is an excellent alternative for showcasing images online thanks to its efficiency and high quality.
However, challenges may arise when attempting to view the photos outside a supported web browser or when trying to edit them on a computer. As mentioned before, not many photo editing software are compatible with the format at the moment. In this case, converting AVIF files to a widely used format like JPG or PNG becomes necessary. Streamlining this process can be achieved effortlessly using a batch image converter like BatchPhoto.
BatchPhoto is a Windows and Mac app that can read and save to more 200 image formats. The process is quite straightforward and based on three, easy-to-follow steps. All you have to do is add your pictures in Step 1, edit them if necessary in Step 2 (you can do anything from resizing and watermarking to adjusting the brightness and colors) and choose the preferred output format in Step 3. Next just click on the Process button and allow the tool to automatically convert all your pictures.