Microsoft Corp. has formally announced HD Photo, a new file format for end-to-end
digital photography that offers higher image quality, greater preservation of
data, and advanced features for today's digital-imaging applications.
This new, next-generation digital image format is said to offer the best solution
for digital image editing and storage and unlocks the potential for digital
photography on devices, applications and services. Microsoft also announced
that it intends to standardize the technology and will be submitting HD Photo
to an appropriate standards organization shortly.
HD Photo offers compression with up to twice the efficiency of JPEG, with fewer
damaging artifacts, resulting in higher-quality images that are one-half the
file size. In addition, HD Photo offers increased image fidelity, preserving
the entire original image content and enabling higher-quality exposure and color
adjustments in the image. This new format offers the ability to decode only
the information needed for any resolution or region, or the option to manipulate
the image as compressed data.
In addition, HD Photo offers both lossless and lossy image compression, and
can retain the full dynamic range and color gamut data from a camera's
sensor. Also, because making adjustments to common color balance and exposure
settings won't discard or truncate data as other common bitmap formats
typically do, it's easier to "undo" those changes at a later
time. As a result, significantly smaller files can be created while still retaining
optimum picture quality.
Microsoft also announced the beta release of a set of HD Photo plug-ins for
Adobe Photoshop software, developed with the help of Adobe Systems Inc. These
plug-ins enable users to both read and write HD Photo files from within Adobe
Photoshop software, and include support for high dynamic range pixel formats.
The plug-ins support both the CS3 and CS2 versions of Adobe Photoshop software,
and will be available for Windows Vista and Windows XP, as well as Mac OS X
(Universal Binary). A beta version of the Windows plug-in is available today
for download at the Microsoft Download Center at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads.
Microsoft expects to release finished plug-ins, which will be free of charge,
in approximately 60 days.
The HD Photo Device Porting Kit is also available for download at the Microsoft
Download Center, allowing manufacturers to add HD Photo support in devices and
to other platforms.
HD Photo is natively supported in Windows Vista by a Windows Imaging Component
(WIC) codec, and can be similarly supported in Windows XP and Windows Server
2003 through a free WIC download. HD Photo is also included in Microsoft .NET
Framework 3.0. With support on popular platforms such as Windows XP, Windows
Vista and Mac OS X, HD Photo will allow consumers to easily view, edit and share
images without conversion or special applications. The format also allows for
flexible metadata handling and supports industry-standard metadata formats.