Love taking pics with your iPhone?  You have several options which produce varying degrees of image quality.

  • By default, your phone takes Jpeg photos.  These are great for amateur shooters (also sport small file sizes/about 2-3 MBs).
  • For serious photographers there are better options that take RAW images.  RAW images have a wider dynamic range (for capturing sunsets, sunrises & difficult lighting) and more adjustability to modify/edit the image in post-processing programs (Lightroom being my favorite). The only downside is they produce much larger files. Therefore, they’re good only for important shots you really want to keep!
    • Apple’s new ProRaw format (30 MBs iPhone 13 Pro/70MB iPhone 14 Pro*)
    • Third-party apps that also take raw images (10/20 MBs iPhone Pro13/14) with your iPhone (Pro Camera being one of the best)?

How do these RAW apps compare? Let’s find out by taking some photos in difficult light (wide dynamic range, the room is quite dark whereas the exterior views through the windows are very bright) with three options:

  • Apple ProRaw image
  • Third Party Raw image using the Pro Camera Ap.
  • Three bracketed shots were taken in Pro Camera (2 stops apart) & processed using Lightroom’s HDR software.

Below left is the single Third Party Raw Image and right is the HDR merged version.  Both look quite similar.  The HDR processing hasn’t improved the image much.

Below left is the Apple ProRaw image and on the right the HDR finished product from Pro Camera.  They look also pretty similar when you’re zoomed out.

But zoomed in at 300% tells another story! The HDR ProCamera image (below) has tons of noise!  See all the colored dots inside the green column?

The Apple ProRaw version below is much sharper and practically noiseless.  Much better!

Likewise, in the dark areas of the photo, the Pro Camera isn’t very sharp and has lots of noisy artifacts in the dark areas. Check out the chairs.

Not so with Apple ProRaw.

Some thoughts on optimal work flow:

  • As mentioned before, using Apple ProRaw produces large files.  Use Apple ProRaw only for IMP images you may want to keep.
    • IMP note:  The new Apple 14 Pro has a whopping 48MP sensor which produces amazing resolution compared to the 12MB that’s on the IPhone 12Pro & 13Pro, plus superior color rendition.  The Apple ProRaw images from this phone will be approx 70MB.  Can eat up memory quickly if you don’t delete your “duds”.
  • The Apple ProRaw file is hybrid Raw file.  If the the scene being photographed has a great deal of dynamic range, the IPhone will automatically take multiple bracketed shots and combine into one HDR image.
  • How to turn on Apple ProRaw on your IPhone 12, 13 or 14.  Earlier versions don’t allow.  Click link for instructions.
  • For Lightroom users, when you process the Apple ProRaw file into Lightroom remember to select the Apple ProRaw color option in the Basic menu section.  Your image will look much much better.

Final thought.  How does the Apple IPhone 14 Pro stack up against the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or Pixel 7 Pro?  Below is a great overview.  Bottom line.  If you’re a muggle and don’t shoot in Raw model the S22 is a great camera.  On the other hand, for serious photographers, the Apple product using ProRaw software is clearly the winner.  Personally, I’ve used both Android and Apple devices and prefer the latter.

Update April 2024: Samsung with it’s new Galaxy 22 Android smart phone has introduced it’s own version of Apple ProRaw called Expert Raw.  It’s only available to work on the 21 and 22 version of the phones and is still a little tougher to operate than Apple’s version. I suspect it will soon be fulled “baked” and Apple’s equivalent.

Ergo, if you love Android you’ll be able to enjoy the better camera processing features as well.


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