JPEG & TIFF | Why we opt for JPEG!

We would have so much to say on the topic of JPEG vs. TIFF. Sadly enough it's very technical and scientific, even nerdy, thus not easy to explain BUT super easy to bore you.

We'll keep it reduced to the most helpful information for photographers and explain why you're not missing out when using our services.

The myths are that TIFF scans are always better than JPEG, the colours would be superior, bigger files are better, etc etc.

The truth is: this is all generalised bull****. In the very specific case of Lab scans, it all depends on the settings in the machines, the level of compression which has been applied, the limitations of the scanners themselves and the usage of photos.

Thoughts on the output

Everything done right, you won't be able to tell the difference from JPEG to TIFF and the files will also behave the same in post processing. You don't have to take our word for it.

See / try for yourself:

JPEG vs TIFF for scanning

To truly compare the photos, these two can be downloaded from the Optik Oldschool Dropbox. The files inside the ZIP archive are straight out of the scanner / no edits done, nothing.

Download the Optik Oldschool JPEG & TIFF archive

You'll find these comparison photos are not pixel perfect matches. The film was scanned twice per photo to save both formats JPEG and TIFF. Slight displacements of the film cannot be avoided when re-scanning rolls.

Photos made by @jnoz35
Shot on Kodak Gold 200 / 645 medium format.
Scanned on a Noritsu HS-1800

Thoughts on scanner settings / limitations

A Fuji Frontier (SP500 or SP3000) generates awesome scans, but it cannot save photos in 16bit. No matter the settings, any JPEG or TIFF generated by a Fuji Frontier will be 8bit only. The scanners do allow to change the level of compression, so for best possible output in JPEG, we're going for best quality.

A Noritsu scanner could produce 16bit TIFF scans, BUT this needs to be specifically set up. The standard JPEG/TIFF settings on the Noritsu will produce 8bit files, too. Again, the Noritsu will allow for different compression levels and we went for best quality.

The choice which has a bigger impact on the quality of your scans is the scan size (pixel resolution). Higher resolution = more details.

Thus we at Optik Oldschool offer only one size: XL.

Fuji Frontier - XL

  • 35mm = 5444x3649px
  • 645 = 4842x3649px
  • 6x6 = 3637x3637px
  • 6x7 = 4547x3649px

Noritsu HS1800 - XL

  • 35mm = 6774x4492px
  • 645 = 4824x3533px
  • 6x6 = 4670x4832px
  • 6x7 = 5902x4815px

The highest resolutions both scanners can produce. With these resolutions you're sure no information the Fuji Frontier or Noritsu have captured are lost and you retain full flexibility to edit in post.

Thoughts on usage

Ultimately it all boils down to what you're going to do with your scans/photos. Rest assured though, the cases where 16bit TIFF files are needed are very limited.

As soon as the internet is involved, everything will be 8bit only. Showing photos in social media or in your portfolio, there is no support for 16bit.

Having your photos printed: Even here HQ JPEG files are mostly prefered. Why? Simply because even the highest quality print machines cannot reproduce all information a true TIFF contains. Your files will need to be converted to match the output capabilities of the machines.

High quality JPEGs are perfectly fine for high quality prints. Your prints will look as good as those from a TIFF. JPEG is such an awesome format, rightly so it became so successful and is the de-facto standard for digital imaging and photography.

It's worth mentioning that even today's modern digital cameras do not support 16bit. The best sensors on the market can resolve up to 14bit per channel and these will only be available in RAW format. Guess what, the other option digital cameras have is: JPEG 😊🤯

But but... the colours (usage #2)

Colours are not determined by the file format but the colour space these images are saved in. Unless the Noritsu has specifically been set up for 16bit, both the Fuji Frontier and Noritsu will output in the same colour space.

When post editing in Lightroom or Capture One, these software packages have you covered and there's little you'd have to keep in mind other than applying your style to your photos.

LR and C1 are both non-destructive, so all edits you perform are not saved in the source file. Once you export your photos, the edits are applied to the target output file.

Working in Photoshop is different though. We strongly recommend to do editing work in 16bit mode only and if you want to keep your work for later re-editing, use layers and save the intermediate result as PSD or TIFF file (with layer support).

Last but not least

Using JPEG saves disk space. We all save HDD/SSD space, reducing the need to purchase more hardware frequently. We save network bandwidth and thus energy + you get your scans faster!

Do you really need X times more file size for no difference in quality? JPEG is to photography what MP3 is to music. The file format doesn't make things better or worst, but it can make things more compact.

One more thing: The human eye cannot resolve the amount of colours true TIFFs can save. So even if some magical space would exist where everything would be 16bit (scans, monitors and prints), you wouln't be able to see it...


For those interested in how JPEG compression works, we recommend Christopher G. Jennings article on the subject:

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