Microsoft has announced a new file format for digital photography, HD Photo, taking on the industry-stalwart JPEG format.

The new format was announced at the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) 2007 trade show.

HD Photo is described as offering high image quality, greater preservation of data, and advanced features for digital-imaging applications.

Microsoft also announced that it intends standardising the technology and will be submitting HD Photo to an "appropriate standards organisation shortly".

The cross-platform format claims compression with up to twice the efficiency of JPEG — higher-quality images that are one-half the file size (of JPEG). It also offers the capacity to preserve the entire original image content and higher-quality exposure and colour adjustment (than JPEG).

"With HD Photo, we're taking a new approach to creating and editing photos that simply isn't available to photographers with today's formats," said Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of the consumer media technology group at Microsoft. "HD Photo fully preserves the original image fidelity with high dynamic range while still allowing for significant improvement in compression size."

HD Photo offers both lossless and lossy image compression. Microsoft claims the application of adjustments to colour balance and exposure settings won't discard or truncate data.

Microsoft also announced the beta release of a set of HD Photo plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop, developed with the help of Adobe. These plug-ins enable users to both read and write HD Photo files from within Photoshop CS3 and CS2.

This plug-in will be available for Windows Vista, Windows XP and Mac OS X, though only the Windows beta is available now. Microsoft expects to release finished plug-ins, which will be free of charge, in approximately 60 days.