Pixel naming in Cairo

I find it always confusing to say CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB32 and mean a 8-bit per channel thing. At a first glace I seriously expect it to be a IEEE float format, which it is not. Most users will expect to multiply by the channels count to get the pixel size not to divide the pixel size by the channel count.

If you consider, most of the imaging world has changed its pixel naming to a per channel base, it would be nice to see Cairo following this too. It is pretty common to say 16-bit image processing, which means per channel. Or 8-bit monitor displaying, which is again per channel. The monitor LUT’s are sometimes 10/12 or even 14-bit, again per channel. The pixel numbers dont say anything about the colour resolution.

Why bit per channel instead of bit per pixel?
For instance a 16-bit Gray X-Ray image, properly displayed, can be superior compared to a 32-bit/pixel CMYK representation. In this case the numbers are non relevant to the lightness distinction. The example makes clear, what counts are the shades of gray.

Tricks like dithering dont count. Otherwise all people would still use indexed gif’s for photos. But I dont know any camera or scanner doing so.

On the other side a 32 bit chunck with 3*10 bit RGB inside would be harder to describe. Is such thing still in use for hardware and must be supported? At least it is not present in cairo_format_t. Out of scope?

Possibly someone can point me to a document describing the necessity of Cairos per pixel naming as is. Is it something to do with tradition? Nethertheless the non selfexplanatory behaviour today makes it feel much like a pitfal.

To exemplify (a F stands for floating point):

colour    bit/channel    bit/pixel        cairo_format_t sheme
---------------------------------------------------------------
RGB                 8           24        CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB24
RGBA                8           32        CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB32
Gray                8            8
GrayA               8           16
Alpha               8            8        CAIRO_FORMAT_A8
CMYKA               8           40
RGB                16           48        CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB48
RGBA               16           64        CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB64
Gray               16           16
GrayA              16           32
CMYKA              16           80
RGB[A]... 16-bit float/channel use the same pixel size as the 16-bit per channel integers.
RGB      IEEE Half 16           48        CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB48F
RGBA     IEEE Half 16           64        CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB64F
...
IEEE floats and 32-bit integers:
RGB          FLOAT 32           96        CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB96F
RGBA         FLOAT 32          128        CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB128F
...
IEEE doubles:
RGB         DOUBLE 64          192        CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB192F
RGBA        DOUBLE 64          256        CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB256F

The later can easily be confused with a 256 shades of Gray per channel naming.
Do you really expect a user to always divide the pixel values by the channels count to get an idea about the colour resolution?

To remember the marketing inflation of having 16 million colours and so on is long gone away. Today it is in, to say a software supports 16-bit, which is much more meaningful.
As a side step, manufacturers suggesting theire consumer camera to deliver the full range of 16-bit is still a joke. Such anouncements are demystified regularily.

Windows and osX have long inherited pixel naming conventions.
Cairo as a young project does not. Cairo could express pixels much closer to our current language in cairo_format_t.

Lets end here and come to a suggestion for a new sheme:

CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB32 -> CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB_8
CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB24  -> CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB_8
CAIRO_FORMAT_A8     -> CAIRO_FORMAT_A_8
CAIRO_FORMAT_A1     -> CAIRO_FORMAT_A_1

#define CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB32 CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB_8

could ashure compatibility.

Later Cairo could add

CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB_16
CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB_16
CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB_HALF
CAIRO_FORMAT_RGB_FLOAT

… and so on.