Shrink photos and clear up some hard drive space with JPEGmini

JPEGmini can help you shrink popular JPEG images to almost a fifth of their original size, potentially clearing up to 80 percent of hard drive space.

Today's cameras are capable of capturing some pretty amazing shots, whether you're using a DSLR, a point-and-shoot camera, or even your cell phone. The average resolution of a contemporary camera can range anywhere from six to 20 megapixels--three to four times the quality of cameras of less than three years ago. However this clarity comes at a cost. As images get clearer, file sizes get bigger. JPEGmini helps you retake control over the enormous photo collection you have laying around by reducing the amount of space these files take up on your hard drive.

(Credit: JPEGmini)

Originally developed for the Mac, JPEGmini recently debuted its Windows version, which we were able to take for a spin. Does it hold up to its Mac counterpart?

The interface is clean and streamlined. After the speedy installation simply launch JPEGmini and you can begin dragging and dropping files. We found that conversion rate depends more on the number of files you're feeding the software rather than file sizes. 300 images seem to take about a couple minutes, while 1,000 files took less than 10.

The size reduction is truly impressive. JPEGmini took 400MB worth of vacation photos from a Canon T3i (18MP) and spit them back out at less than 100MB. We then fed it our entire iPhone 4S's content, and almost 900MB of images turned into just over 300. Dropping in a 4.8GB folder churns out 1.32GB of compressed files.

(Credit: Screenshot by Tuong Nguyen/CNET)

With this high level of compression, you would expect to see a glaring reduction in quality. This is not so. At first glance, it would be difficult to discern any difference between an uncompressed image with the JPEGminimized one. Upon closer inspection, you can certainly spot the compression effect.

At 300% Zoom

(Credit: Screenshot by Tuong Nguyen/CNET)

The pixelation can be seen at higher zoom and is more noticeable in parts with fine details such as words and letters. The shrinking process also seems to darken the image by a bit, a potential downside if you're working with darker photos, i.e. night photography. For regular pictures these minor faults did not detract all that much from the overall image.

Click for unnecessary hi-res zoom.

(Credit: Screenshot by Tuong Nguyen/CNET)

There is one minor flaw that we did run into during testing. JPEGmini will automatically overwrite the source file--unless you manually made a copy of it beforehand. This can be a problem if you accidentally overwrite an entire album but want to keep a few as originals. An option to preserve the original afterward would quickly fix this.

Overall JPEGmini does a good job at shrinking your photo collections and the price tag is much less than buying an extra hard drive. That is to say we can see this as being very useful in archiving photos that don't need to be kept at hi-resolution, or shrinking larger collections to be uploaded online to Facebook or Flickr (smaller is faster). The professionals and purists, however, will be harder to convince, especially those shooting in camera RAW and not working in JPEG. To some, there is no compromise over image quality. This is certainly true if you're a working photographer and need to squeeze the most out of your cameras. But your average user with thousands of pictures of food close-ups and playful cats can see the utility of being able to condense their photos into a smaller package. In the future, however, we would like to see it go beyond only compressing JPEGs and branching out to camera RAWs, PNGs, or even GIF files. The ability to handle multiple formats would better justify the $19.99 price tag. That said, JPEGmini may focus on only one thing, but thankfully it does it well.

Editor's note added on June 03: Added Zoom percentage of third screenshot at 300% for scale.


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