Trim Your Photos for the Net

LOS ANGELES (04/06/2000) - Ever since you bought that digital camera, you've loaded countless image files onto your hard drive that you'd love to share with friends online. But doesn't compressing your shots mean you'll lose all the quality?

LizardTech doesn't think so. On Wednesday the company posted MrSID Photo Edition, a free encoder and viewer application that offers "visually lossless" compression of digital TIFF, JPEG, or bitmapped photos. MrSID files can be reduced to 3 percent of the original image file size without the image degradation of other formats, the company claims.

The Bigger They Are, the Harder They DownloadDigital cameras keep adding pixels for higher resolution. But with pixels comes size.

A 3.3 megapixel photo typically translates to a 9MB image file, says Mark Gutkowski, LizardTech's product marketing marketing manager. To reduce the image below 250KB, most people use JPEG, but you get a lot of artifacts with that, he adds. Artifacts include lost lines and edges, as well as blurriness and pixelation.

MrSID Photo Edition promises visually lossless compression. "We get rid of what your eye doesn't notice," Gutkowski says. "MrSID Photo edition is the only free product that can compress a 3.3 megapixel image and keep the original quality," he declares. (LizardTech does charge commercial users $49 for the product.)Viewers NeededUsing the MrSID encoder is easy. Just select the image you want to compress, then choose an encoding level for the file reduction size you want. (The ratio slider ranges from 2 to 50, but a 20:1 ratio is best for most photos, Gutkowski says.) After the photo is encoded as a compressed MrSID file, you can save it or share it on the Web.

JPEGS can be viewed on any browser or with any photo editor. But MrSID files can only be viewed by the MrSID Online viewer, a plug-in for versions 4 and higher of Netscape and Internet Explorer. So sharing your photos means sending your friends to LizardTech to download the viewer. When you open a MrSID file, your photo appears in a browser window, where you can zoom in or rotate it.

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