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iOS 14.3 turns iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max into even better cameras

iOS 14.3 turns iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max into even better cameras

If you have an iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max and think you’re like a photographer, the latest iOS update will help you get the most out of your phone’s camera. This is because it includes the new ProRAW feature that Apple first announced at the October event. ProRAW is the first to combine the flexibility of RAW editing with Apple’s computational photo tricks such as Smart HDR and Deep Fusion. You no longer have to choose between JPEG and HEIC files, which have the flexibility of standard RAW files and all of Apple’s computational magic, but with limited post-processing possibilities. This is because ProRAW offers both.

Taking RAW photos on your iPhone is nothing new. For some time, apps like Halide and Adobe Lightroom can capture all the data that your iPhone’s sensor can collect. And all the usual benefits of RAW are in ProRAW — significantly improved control of white balance is always the biggest factor for me — but adjusting exposure, sharpness, dynamic range, etc. gives me more room. You can. You can better adjust the facial tones of your portraits and nail the exposure of your landscape photos.

However, standard RAW images can look very grainy to the iPhone. This is because these are still small smartphone camera sensors and have not been optimized for computational photography. You should now notice the same details as before, but with less noise. This is because ProRAW images perform the same multi-frame image processing as regular iPhone shots. Still, the dynamic range available in the editing software is about 14 stops. This video from Josh Stunell on YouTube It explains the difference between RAW and Pro RAW well.

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ProRAW is available on all iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max rear cameras. It doesn’t suddenly turn ultra-wide into a magic lens, but anything helps. It also works in night mode. If you have control over the editing app, you can also access the depth mapping information captured by the sensor to make post-portrait mode style adjustments.

You can take Pro RAW images with all three cameras, iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max.
Photo courtesy of Becca Farsace / The Verge

How to use ProRAW

To use ProRAW, you must first enable ProRAW in the Camera Options in the Settings menu. After that, you will see a “RAW” button in the upper right corner of the camera viewfinder. This allows you to quickly turn ProRAW on and off.

It’s easy to turn this on, but it’s important to emphasize that you don’t always want to use ProRAW. The average file size is about 25MB, which is dramatically larger than everyday iPhone images. This is a great feature for highly intentional photos of people you care about or in important places. ProRAW images are displayed on the camera roll as usual, but when I try to share them on an app such as Instagram, I get an error message. Therefore, it is recommended that you first export as a small JPEG or HEIC file before sending it to social media.

Another great thing about ProRAW is that it uses the DNG file format, which is widely supported by Adobe, so there are already many apps that can open and edit files without updates. However, apps that use Apple’s proprietary RAW converters have access to tone-to-distance mappings, giving them even more control. Halide has already released updates to get the most out of ProRAW, and I think other products like Pixelmator, Darkroom, and Affinity Photo will follow suit.

Apps with their own RAW converters, Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Capture One, can now edit DNG files, but they don’t have all the same features that use Apple’s RAW converters. Adobe and other companies may update their conversion tools in the future to improve their behavior with ProRAW. Of course, you can also edit the images in the Apple Photos app.

Sample Pro RAW image edited in Darkroom.

If you want to share ProRAW images, you can share them in different ways, depending on what you are trying to do.

  • If you want to transfer Apple Pro RAW to your computer: Make sure your photos haven’t been edited before AirDrop or connect your device to USB and use Image Capture or the Windows Photo app.
  • If you want to share your edited ProRAW photo: Edit your photo in the Photos app and then send it via AirDrop, email, or message. The edited JPG will be shared.
  • If you want to email ProRAW DNG to someone: First open the Photos app and use the share button to share by email.
  • If you edit ProRAW and want both the original DNG file and the edited JPG, use Image Capture or the Windows Photo app.
  • If ProRAW has been edited and you want to transfer the DNG: Duplicate the photo and then undo the edits (make it an unedited file). Then you can make DNG something like AirDropped.
  • If you’re using a third-party app that can get RAW + JPG and you need both: use image capture to get each file individually

I’ve been experimenting with ProRAW on the iPhone 12 Pro Max for the last few days and already understand the difference it makes. If you’re editing after the fact, it’s easier to get the most out of your photos, such as getting highlights, boosting shadows, and correcting white balance.