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Pixel Formats

What are Pixel Formats?

A Camera's video pipeline operates in a specific pixel format which specifies how the pixels are laid out in a memory buffer.

If you are simply recording videos (video={true}), the most efficient pixel format (native) will be automatically chosen for you, and buffer compression will be enabled if available.

If you are using Frame Processors, it is important to understand what pixel format you are using.

The most commonly known pixel format is RGB, which lays out pixels in 3 channels (R, G and B), and each channel has a value ranging from 0 to 255 (8-byte), making it a total of 24-bytes per pixel:


Cameras however don't operate in RGB, they use YUV instead. Instead of storing a color value for each channel, it stores the brightness ("luma") in it's first channel (Y), and the colors ("chroma") in the U and V channels. This is much closer to what a Camera hardware actually sees, as it is essentially a light sensor. Also, it is more memory efficient, since the UV channels are usually half the size of the Y channel:


In VisionCamera, pixel formats are abstracted under a simple PixelFormat API with three possible values:

  • yuv: The YUV (often 4:2:0, 8-bit per channel) pixel format.
  • native: Whatever native format is most efficient, likely the same as YUV on iOS, but some PRIVATE format on Android.
  • rgb: An RGB (often BGRA, 8-bit per channel) pixel format.

A CameraFormat specifies which pixel formats it can use for this specific configuration. For example, let's inspect the 4k Video format on an iPhone:

// ...
"pixelFormats": [

This Format supports both YUV and RGB streaming, so we can configure the Camera to stream in RGB if we want:

function App() {
// ...
const format = ...
const pixelFormat = format.pixelFormats.includes("rgb") ? "rgb" : "native"

return (

However this is not recommended, as YUV is much more efficient.

On Android, only YUV and NATIVE (PRIVATE) are supported, as RGB requires explicit conversion.

As a general tip, try to always use YUV, and stay away from RGB. If you have some specific models (e.g. Face Detectors), try converting them to YUV (4:2:0) instead of trying to run your Camera in RGB, as the conversion beforehand will be worth the effort.


When HDR is enabled, a different pixel format (10-bit instead of 8-bit) will be chosen. Make sure your Frame Processor can handle these formats, or disable HDR. See "Understanding YpCbCr Image Formats" for more information.

Instead of kCVPixelFormatType_420YpCbCr8BiPlanarVideoRange, it uses kCVPixelFormatType_420YpCbCr10BiPlanarVideoRange, same for full-range.

Buffer Compression

Buffer Compression is automatically enabled if you are not using a Frame Processor. If you are using a Frame Processor, buffer compression will be turned off, as it essentially uses a different format than YUV. See "Understanding YpCbCr Image Formats" for more information.

Instead of kCVPixelFormatType_420YpCbCr8BiPlanarVideoRange, it uses kCVPixelFormatType_Lossy_420YpCbCr8BiPlanarVideoRange, same for full-range.