JPEG may be the tried-and-true photo format for the Web, but with its tendency to add blocky artifacts to compressed images, it still doesn’t get any respect. Several companies have released Adobe Photoshop plug-ins that compress images without introducing those unsightly distortions. Joining Altamira Group’s Genuine Fractals (
Reviews, March 1999) and LizardTech’s MrSID (
Reviews, December 1999) are LuraTech’s LuraWave and BitJazz’s PhotoJazz 2.
PhotoJazz, intended largely for use with prepress applications, is based on a lossless compression scheme but offers relatively limited compression ratiosan average of 2.5:1, compared with 10:1 or more for lossy compression schemes, such as JPEG. However, PhotoJazz gives you smaller files than Photoshop’s TIFF LZW option.
The $29 entry-level version produces RGB output only, the $79 version provides CMYK output as well, and the $99 version supports output of 16-bit multichannel files. All three include PhotoJazz XT for importing PhotoJazz images into QuarkXPress, and PhotoJazz QT, which lets you open and save PhotoJazz images using QuickTime programs. BitJazz offers a free version that lets you open PhotoJazz images in Photoshop and most QuickTime-savvy programs.
LuraWave competes not so much with PhotoJazz as with MrSID. Both are based on
, a lossy compression scheme that yields fewer distortions at any given compression ratio than JPEG. LuraWave’s compression scheme appears to be just as effective as MrSID’s. Images compressed at 10:1 had no perceptible artifacts; images compressed at 20:1 had only minor artifacts. LuraWave also includes a lossless option, but its compression ratios appear to be no better than LZW’s.
LuraWave’s best feature is its price: just $79, compared with MrSID’s $495. Unfortunately, LuraTech does not offer a free Photoshop plug-in for opening the files.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
LuraWave offers compression features similar to MrSID’s and costs much less. PhotoJazz is a tougher sell, offering marginally better lossless compression than Photoshop’s TIFF LZW option but little else.