The Lenna Story -

Imaging Experts Meet Lenna in Person

Yes, it's true! Lenna attended the 50th Anniversary IS&T conference in Boston held in May 1997.

Check out the media coverage from Playboy, Wired, and more from Playboy.

Click here for more info and pictures from the conference.



The Lenna (or Lena) picture is one of the most widely used standard test images used for compression algorithms. The comp.compression FAQ says the following:

    For the curious: 'lena' or 'lenna' is a digitized Playboy centerfold, from November 1972. (Lenna is the spelling in Playboy, Lena is the Swedish spelling of the name.) Lena Soderberg (ne Sjööblom) was last reported living in her native Sweden, happily married with three kids and a job with the state liquor monopoly. In 1988, she was interviewed by some Swedish computer related publication, and she was pleasantly amused by what had happened to her picture. That was the first she knew of the use of that picture in the computer business.

For the full details on the history of this image check out this excellent May 2001 article in the Newsletter of the IEEE Professional Communication Society by Jamie Hutchinson. Here's an excerpt:

    Alexander Sawchuk estimates that it was in June or July of 1973 when he, then an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the USC Signal and Image Processing Institute (SIPI), along with a graduate student and the SIPI lab manager, was hurriedly searching the lab for a good image to scan for a colleague's conference paper. They had tired of their stock of usual test images, dull stuff dating back to television standards work in the early 1960s. They wanted something glossy to ensure good output dynamic range, and they wanted a human face. Just then, somebody happened to walk in with a recent issue of Playboy.

    The engineers tore away the top third of the centerfold so they could wrap it around the drum of their Muirhead wirephoto scanner, which they had outfitted with analog-to-digital converters (one each for the red, green, and blue channels) and a Hewlett Packard 2100 minicomputer. The Muirhead had a fixed resolution of 100 lines per inch and the engineers wanted a 512 x 512 image, so they limited the scan to the top 5.12 inches of the picture, effectively cropping it at the subject's shoulders.

The original image is still available as part of the USC SIPI Image Database in their "miscellaneous" collection.

Over the years there has been quite a bit of controversy over the use of this image. Some people proposed banning the use of this image because of its source. Also, Playboy threatened to prosecute the unauthorized use of the image. Check out an editorial by the editor of SPIE journal Optical Engineering. Check out a note by the former editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Image Processing. According to Wired Magazine, Playboy has eased up in its pursuit of the copyright violators of this image.

Another interesting piece of trivia is that Lenna's issue (November 1972) was Playboy's best selling issue ever and sold 7,161,561 copies.

Don't forget to check out Lenna's birthday page (3/31) and playmate directory page at Playboy. (Warning: contains nudity.)

There's even a sonnet dedicated to Lenna also found here.

[Standard Lena Image]

Click above for the original as a TIFF image.


The Rest of the Story

Very few people have seen the complete original picture. A number of years ago when I was working on compression algorithms, a colleague of mine obtained a copy of the original Playboy Magazine. I scanned it in and here's a glimpse:

[Original Lena Image]

For the full picture click here. WARNING this picture contains nudity.


[November 1972 Cover]


Compression Research

The pictures on this page are not meant to be used for compression research purposes, they all have already been JPEG compressed.

For a source of a copy of the standard version of Lenna, please refer to the comp.compression FAQ or the USC SIPI Image Database.

I have also made available here an uncompressed TIFF format version (768K) of the original.

For a very small sample of research which has used the Lenna image click here.

Click here for my Dr. Ruth Page


First Edition 10/01/96 -- Last Update: 11/03/01

Hits since 7/1/98