I received my new iPhone 14 Pro Max two days ago (right on release day) and I can say The camera system is pretty darn good. I upgraded from the 12 Pro Max and from a photographer’s perspective, it’s a worthy upgrade. If you’re not serious about your iPhone photography, I don’t recommend upgrading from a 12 Pro or 13 Pro model.
So, there was a lot of rumours prior to the announcement of the iPhone 14 Pro that it will have a 48MP sensor and Apple didn’t disappoint. The sensor does a few things, like provide for better optical image stabilization and better low light performance, but the full resolution images are what make it shine. Since getting the phone, I’ve been testing it by taking photos of things I’ve shot many times before. On day one of having it, I did some comparing with the 12 Pro Max, but honestly, a lot of the side by side shots were very close in image quality and aren’t really worth blogging about. But the full resolution stuff, now there’s a post.
The images above are screenshots from my iPhone. They’re for illustration only, but what they show is a whole image shot with the Main Camera at 48MP, and the close up of the white building is a crop from that image. As you can see, there is a sign on the front of the building and geese on the lawn that appear to be non-existent when looking at the image without zooming. That, to me, is absolutely incredible. Kudos to Apple for giving us a camera with a sensor that can provide a file worthy of a very large print without the use of any upscaling software.
The featured image for this post is a photo I took earlier today at a place I’ve photographed many times before. I’ll likely go back when the leaves have turned to their autumn colour but this was more of a test than anything. As you can tell, I was standing on a bridge and I had my iPhone on a tripod. I could have just taken the shot without any further thought, but the photographer in me wanted to make it more than a snapshot.
With the camera ready to go, I placed a Reeflex 16 stop Neutral Density filter over the cameras and opened the Apple Camera app. I would have preferred to use Reeflex Pro Camera for this shot but so far, the only camera app that can do the full resolution ProRAW is Apple’s own. Once I tapped on the waterfall to achieve focus and exposure, I slid my finger down on the screen to decrease the exposure so I was sure not to overexpose the brightest parts of the water. Everything looked very dark, if not black, around the edges and throughout the shadow areas of the image.
One of the wonders of iPhone photography is that we have the ability to recover most data that appears to be lost in these dark areas. The highlights are not as easy to recover, so always expose for the highlights. I tried processing this image in a couple of different apps and the one that rendered it to the best of my liking was Darkroom. The first thing I did was dial down the Local Tone Mapping quite a bit because a ProRAW file has a lot of Apple’s imaging pipeline applied to it. I wanted to have more control of the way the image was rendered.
Other adjustments included a large increase in exposure and minor tweaks in brightness, contrast, clarity, highlights and shadows. I also bumped the saturation and vibrance just a little and viola, the resulting image is very much the way it looked to me when I was there on this cloudy day.
Now you’re probably wondering why I used a Neutral Density filter, right? It’s to allow for a slower shutter speed for slightly more water movement. A long exposure cannot be done at full resolution not the 14 Pros… yet. I hope Apple allows third party developers to tap into that sensor and include the ability to shoot RAW long exposures. Reeflex has an app called ReeXpose and there’s Even Longer, too, by Mario Tomiak. Those two apps are the kings of RAW long exposure on iPhone. In fact, I think they’re the only ones capable of doing it.
I tried a shot without the ND filter and the shutter speed was 1/1412 sec. whereas the shot with the filter was 1/109 sec. That’s a significant difference in shutter speed, one that make just as big of a difference in how the shot looks. Click on the image above to open it in a new tab on your computer then click on the opened image. Hopefully you can see the same detail I do when viewing it in Photos on my iMac.
One day I will take a landscape photo worthy of enlarging to at least 4′ x 5′. And who knows, maybe it will be a macro shot.