iPhone 14 Pro comes with a 48 megapixel wide angle rear lens for the first time on an iPhone. It’s the first megapixel upgrade since the iPhone 6s in 2015, which came with a 12-megapixel rear camera. However, the only way to take a 48MP photo with the iPhone 14 Pro is to use ProRAW or third-party apps, but I’d like to be able to take 48MP compressed photos with Apple’s Camera app.
How the iPhone 14 Pro uses its 48MP camera
You may be wondering: if the iPhone doesn’t take 48MP photos by default, how does it use the new lens?
Simply put, Apple uses a process known as “pixel binning,” which combines data from four pixels into one. This is because using the 48MP requires a lot more light, which can be a drawback for photos in low-light scenarios. With pixel binning, iPhone uses the 48MP sensor to take a 12MP photo with better quality and less noise.
The company also introduced a new 2x zoom in the iPhone 14 Pro camera app that crops the original 48MP image to result in an enlarged 12MP photo. This allows users to digitally zoom without losing definition and without having to switch to the 3x telephoto zoom.
Since 48MP resolution image files are much larger than 12MP resolution, Apple has limited how users can take pictures with the new sensor. If you really want to take a 48MP photo, you need to enable Apple ProRAW in the Camera app.
RAW vs. non-RAW
For those unfamiliar, a RAW photo is basically the original image captured by the sensor, with little or no post-processing. It contains all the data about things like brightness, shadows, and colors that can be edited later in image editing software like Adobe Lightroom. Because of this, a RAW image file can be 15 times larger than a compressed image.
When you don’t have RAW enabled, the camera takes the photo and then deletes some of this data to create a smaller file that takes up less space.
Many iPhone models can take RAW photos with the help of third-party apps. Since the introduction of the iPhone 12 Pro, Apple has implemented this feature natively in the iOS Camera app with Apple ProRAW. Now, with the iPhone 14 Pro, Apple has decided to marry 48MP resolution photos with ProRAW.
The problem, as you can imagine, is that these photos take up a lot of space on the iPhone’s internal storage. Apple says that each 48 MP RAW file can be about 75 MB. Of course, only real “pro” users end up enabling this option, but everyone should be able to take advantage of the iPhone 14 Pro’s full 48-megapixel camera.
48MP compressed photos
I really wish I could take 48MP photos without bloating my iPhone’s storage because the only way to do that easily is by enabling ProRAW. But why is it important? Well, I did some experiments to show you how photos taken at 48 megapixel resolution are noticeably better, even when compressed.
You can see some of the results below. The images have been cropped so you can see the details better:
Here’s another example showing the level of detail in a 48 MP photo, even after compression:
For that I used a Shortcut created by developer Gabriele Trabucco (via vadim yuryev) that quickly converts 48 MP ProRAW photos to the compressed HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format) format. HEIF is an officially endorsed codec by Apple that is capable of preserving good quality images in much smaller files.
While each 48 MP RAW file in these examples is approximately 60 MB, the HEIF compressed version is only 3.2 MB, less than the 3.3 MB for the 12 MP JPEG image.
For videos, iPhone users can choose to record in 720p, 1080p, or 4K. So why not offer the same option for taking photos? I am sure that many users would choose to take pictures in 48MP resolution despite the compression.
Also: I want to get rid of Smart HDR
Since I’m talking about the iPhone’s camera, here’s another thing that bothers me a lot: Smart HDR. This is a feature introduced in 2018 with the iPhone XS that uses AI to enhance photos through a series of post-processing adjustments. remember the iPhone XS “Beautygate”? That was Smart HDR’s fault.
But back then, Smart HDR was not as aggressive as it is today and users could still disable it. Since iPhone 12, users can no longer disable Smart HDR. While Smart HDR tries to improve photos, it ends up ruining some of them by making them extremely unnatural.
Recently I have seen many people complain about the photos taken with the iPhone, and even I don’t like some of the photos I take anymore.
youtuber maximum technology has made an excellent video showing how the iPhone 14’s Smart HDR lags behind the post-processing of the recently released Google Pixel 7 Pro.
I understand that post-processing is important to compensate for hardware limitations (in this case, small camera lenses and sensors), but it’s gotten to a point where some of this post-processing is too much.
If someone from Apple is reading this, please bring back the option to disable Smart HDR. I don’t want to have to take RAW photos just to take advantage of the 48-megapixel resolution or to avoid this excessive post-processing.
But what about you? Do you think Apple needs to bring more options to the native iPhone camera app? Let me know below in the comments.
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