Lossless vs. Lossy formats, what is the best ?

Lossless vs. Lossy formats

We call RAW a “lossless” format because it preserves all of the file’s original data, while we call JPEG a “lossy” format because some data is lost when we convert an image to JPEG. However, these aren’t the only formats that are lossy and lossless.

Images: RAW, BMP, and PNG are all lossless image formats. JPEG and GIF are lossy image formats.

Audio: WAV, FLAC, and ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec, used by iTunes) are all lossless audio formats. MP3, MP4, WMV, and OGG are lossy audio formats.

Video: Few lossless video formats are in common consumer use (Lagarith, Huffyuv, Alparysoft, CorePNG), as they would result in video files taking up a huge amount of space. Common formats like H.264, MKV, and WMV are all lossy. H.264 can provide smaller files with higher qualities than previous generations of video codecs because it has a “smarter” algorithm that’s better at choosing the data to throw out.

Some of these lossless formats also provide compression.

For example, a WAV file is a completely uncompressed audio file, and takes up quite a bit of space. FLAC and ALAC are both lossless types of audio files that contain the same data as a WAV file, but they use a form of compression to create smaller files.

Formats like FLAC and ALAC don’t throw any data away – they keep all the data and compress it intelligently, like ZIP files do.

However, they are still significantly larger in size than MP3 files, which throw much data away.