These are photos which use 8 bits of data for each of the red, green and blue colour channels. This is enough to give over 16 million colours – more than enough for photographic images. The JPEG photos taken by digital cameras are 8-bit images.
Bits and bit depth
These are photos with 16 bits of data for each of the red, green and blue colour channels. These aren’t created directly by the camera, but you can generate 16-bit images from RAW files and they withstand heavy image manipulation better than regular 8-bit images. The file sizes are much larger, though, which puts more pressure on your computer’s storage capacity and slows down file transfer speeds, and not all software can edit 16-bit images.
The ‘bit depth’ of RAW files is a factor in the picture quality they can produce, so this is a selling point for advanced digital cameras. Some cheaper models can only shoot 12-bit RAW files, but while this sounds like a small difference, the extra bit depth potentially offers 4x the image data so 14-bit RAW files are a worthwhile benefit, especially if you want to process photos heavily later.