Over the last few years, Apple has made the iPhone camera not only one of the key ways to differentiate between models, but also one of the major marketing points to entice people to upgrade.
Indeed, the iPhone camera has gotten so good that most people (outside of professionals) don’t even bother keeping a standalone camera in their home – they simply don’t need it.
The same is true this year, as the iPhone 12 Pro Max camera is objectively the best in an iPhone to date. Not only that, but it may very well be the best camera available in any smartphone on the market today.
A big part of this comes down to Apple’s ProRAW photo capabilities – a move that again makes people re-think what it’s possible to accomplish with a smartphone camera in the modern era.
Breaking Things Down
To get a better understanding of why Apple ProRAW is such a big deal, you need to first understand a little more about the format itself.
When you purchase a high-end camera like a DSLR, it typically lets you choose between two different formats to shoot in: JPG and RAW. When you choose the former, you still end up with great looking photos – it’s just that the camera itself will apply certain automatic adjustments in an attempt to reduce file size while preserving as much quality as possible.
With JPG, your camera will analyze the type of shot you’ve just captured and apply some adjustments to help it line up with most people’s preferred style. If a person is the main subject, for example, adjustments will be made that intend to really bring out that person’s skin tone.
The issue here is that if you’re really serious about your photography, those automatic adjustments may not line up with what you had in mind. This is where the RAW format comes into play – it’s essentially a completely authentic, unprocessed version of the same photo. It’s not intended for immediate viewing – instead, it’s intended for editing so that you can make any changes you want before saving.
Apple’s ProRAW is the company’s own version of this idea, offering you a 12-bit RAW DNG file with 14 full stops of dynamic range. It includes all of the computational photography features that the iPhone has become known for (like Deep Fusion and Smart HDR), but also offers the massive amount of raw data that the format gives you for as much depth and flexibility when editing as possible.
Of course, this comes at the expense of file size. A JPG photo can be between 1 and 2 MB in size, whereas most Apple ProRAW files are between 20 and 25 MB.
But still, if you’re the type of iPhone photographer who wants to get in there and make all sorts of adjustments to your photos before you show them to people, Apple ProRAW is a game-changer that really is worth getting excited about.