Apple just had its ‘Far Out’ event, which revealed the next generation of products for Apple Watch, AirPods Pro, and iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro. Those who care about mobile iPhone photography should be impressed with the iPhone 14 Pro because it brings the biggest update to the camera since Apple started using 12-megapixels with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
iPhone 14 Pro goes to 48 megapixels with larger sensors
As I stated earlier, Apple went from 8-megapixels to 12-megapixels from the 6 to the 6S series. This was a big jump at the time, and up to the regular iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus, we still have 12-megapixels. However, the iPhone 14 Pro is seeing the biggest leap in megapixel count, going from 12 to a whopping 48 megapixels.
Generally, megapixel count doesn’t mean a lot, which could be why Apple remained at 12MP for a very long time. However, it does matter if you plan on printing or even cropping photos because you don’t want to lose the overall sharpness. With 48MP, your photos will have 4x the resolution of the previous iteration, even when compared to the standard iPhone 14 lineup. When you combine this with Apple’s ProRAW format, you will retain more detail in the image, including any crops, since the sensors will leverage every individual pixel in the photo. With the machine learning capabilities of iOS 16, your photos should be sharper, have less noise, and more detail — all of which you have full control over when editing in ProRAW.
The sensors are also 65% larger than the iPhone 13 Pro (hence why the camera bump is bigger). The quad-pixel sensor on the 48MP Main camera will now adapt to what you’re shooting in order to make the most of all of the megapixels. The quad-pixel sensor means it groups together four pixels into a singular quad-pixel, which means 4x more light is captured. This should equate to optimal photos in well-lit situations, but also low-light environments should turn out great as well.
Improved Telephoto optical zoom range
A new addition to the iPhone 14 Pro camera is the 2x Telephoto optical zoom range. Previously, on the iPhone 13 Pro, one of the biggest flaws with the Telephoto lens was that it only had a 3x zoom for things like Portrait mode. However, it appears that the iPhone 14 Pro range is bringing back the 2x optical zoom to the Telephoto lens, which gives you more options when it comes to zooming and framing your images, including Portraits.
Once again, this is the quad-pixel sensor at work. So with iPhone 14 Pro, you now have 0.5x (Ultra Wide), 1x (Main), 2x (Telephoto), and 3x (Telephoto) zoom range. Apple says that the new Telephoto lens will use the middle 12MP of the quad-pixel sensor to get full resolution images and 4K video, all without the need for inferior digital zoom.
Better low light capture across all lenses thanks to Photonic Engine
Ever since the iPhone 11 series introduced Night mode for low light photo capture, Apple has been improving the camera system for low light photography. The iPhone 14 Pro is no different, and this time will see a big improvement across all of the cameras, not just the main. According to Apple’s spec sheet, we can expect 3x better low-light images with the Ultra Wide lens, 2x better on the Main camera, and 2x better with the Telephoto lens. Previously, improvements to low light capture and Night mode were mainly on the Main camera, so Apple is taking it up a notch with the new iPhone 14 Pro.
The biggest reason for these improvements is the overall larger sensors. With a larger sensor and aperture, more light is captured, and it’s significant this time around. Apple has added the Photonic Engine in the iOS 16 software, which is a brand new image pipeline process. The Photonic Engine lets Deep Fusion, first introduced with the iPhone 11, happen earlier in the processing step on uncompressed images. Deep Fusion is when the lens and sensors capture multiple exposures of a scene and merge the best pixels from them into one photo. The new and improved process in the Photonic Engine means more data is preserved, even with less light.
Even the flash got an upgrade with the iPhone 14 Pro. It is now an Adaptive True Tone flash, which means the pattern and intensity of the nine LEDs automatically adjust based on the focal length of the photo you’re taking. This results in the most optimal light for your subject. Apple says the new Adaptive True Tone flash is 2x bright on Telephoto images, and there is 3x better uniformity with Ultra Wide photos.
Video recording is vastly improved, as well as selfies
Cinematic mode was introduced with the iPhone 13 series. It's a mode of shooting video with a shallow depth of field and the focus point can automatically adjust itself based on the subjects in the frame. However, a limitation with the iPhone 13 was that Cinematic mode video topped out at 1080p at 30 fps resolution.
This changes with the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro. Cinematic mode can now be shot in 4K HDR at 24 fps, which is the film industry standard. So if you were planning on shooting an actual movie with your iPhone 14 Pro, you can now do that. This also applies to editing other professional 4K footage at 24 or 30 fps, and yes, this includes editing the depth effect after capture.
The iPhone 14 Pro also has Action mode, which lets you capture smooth video without requiring a gimbal.
And lastly, though it’s not exclusive to just the Pro models, both the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro have a better TrueDepth front-facing selfie camera. It has a larger aperture for 2x better low-light photos, and we finally have autofocus on the selfie camera for the first time ever.
Apple is upping its photography game
While some may argue that the iPhone will never be as good as a great DSLR, you know what they say — the best camera is the one that’s with you. And for a lot of us, the iPhone is our main camera, as it’s always on us and allows us to capture every spontaneous moment in our lives. And for most of us, that’s what matters.
Apple has been improving the iPhone camera every year, but the iPhone 14 Pro is probably the biggest leap yet. I personally upgrade my iPhone every year mainly for camera improvements, so I’m eager to get my hands on the iPhone 14 Pro and put the camera to the test.
Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.
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