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The ABC of Photography – Bit

The ABC of Photography – Bit


The basic unit from which any digital piece of data is made. Each bit has a value of either 0 or 1. The sizes of digital files are usually counted in bytes, which are each made up of eight bits. In digital photography, 0 is assigned to black and 1 to white.

Bit depth

Bit depth

The number of bits used to record the colour of a single pixel. Digital cameras usually use at least eight bits for each of the red, green, and blue channels, providing a 24-bit depth, and possible 16,700,000 colours. Many D-SLRs offer higher bit depths when setting to record in raw mode.

Robot juggler

The examples below demonstrate the relationship between bit depth and image quality. We’ve taken a small detail of our favorite robot juggler illustration and exported it out at various color depths. The changes will be most obvious in the color gradations of the hat.

24-bit color: 224 = 16,777,216 colors, 45 KB

24-bit example

8-bit color: 28 = 256 colors, 17 KB

256 colors

7-bit color: 27 = 128 colors, 13 KB

128 colors

6-bit color: 26 = 64 colors, 10 KB


5-bit color: 25 = 32 colors, 8 KB

32 colors

4-bit color: 24 = 16 colors, 6 KB

16 colors

3-bit color: 23 = 8 colors, 5 KB

8 colors

2-bit color: 22 = 4 colors, 4 KB

4 colors

1-bit color: 21 = 2 colors, 3 KB

2 colors

Sample graphic from FCIT’s collection of robot illustrations on the TIM website.

Sources:  Pixabay, Wikipedia, Susan Wingfield Lamar High School


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