How the iPhone 14 Pro’s huge 48MP camera will change your phone photography

This story is part Focal Point iPhone 2022CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice on Apple’s most popular product.

Apple’s iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus phones get better main and selfie cameras, but serious smartphone photographers will be more interested in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max announced on Wednesday. These high-end phones come with a 48-megapixel main camera designed to capture more detail and, in effect, add an all-new telephoto lens.

The $999 iPhone 14 Pro and $1,099 iPhone 14 Pro Max start with a better hardware base. Their main camera‘s image sensor is 65% larger than last year’s, a boost that doubles its low-light performance, said Victor Silva, iPhone product manager. Low-light performance, a critical shortcoming of smartphone cameras, triples on the ultra-wide-angle camera and triples on the telephoto lens.

But it’s the 48-megapixel sensor that deserves the most attention. It can be used in two ways. First, the central 12 megapixels of the image can act as a 2X zoom telephoto lens by cropping the outer part of the image. Second, when shooting in Apple’s more advanced ProRaw format, you can take 48-megapixel images. It’s good for taking large landscape photos with lots of detail or giving you more flexibility to crop a shot without losing too much resolution.

Cameras are one of the most noticeable changes in smartphone models from year to year, especially as engineers adopted thicker, protruding lenses as a signature design element. Customers who might not notice a faster processor do notice the arrival of new camera modules, like the ultra-wide-angle and telephoto options that are now common on high-end phones.

Apple unveiled the new camera technology at its fall product launch event, a major moment in the annual tech calendar. The iPhone itself is a huge undertaking, but it’s also the foundation of a massive tech ecosystem that’s deeply embedded in the lives of millions, including services like iCloud and Apple Arcade and accessories like the new second generation. AirPods Pro and Apple Watch Series 8.

Pixel binning comes to the iPhone

Apple has stuck with 12-megapixel primary cameras since they were first used in the iPhone 6S in 2015. The approach offered a reasonable balance of detail and low-light performance without breaking the bank or overburdening the phone’s processors that handle image data. But rivals, including Samsung, have added 48-megapixel and even 108-megapixel image sensors.

More pixels are not necessarily better. Increasing the number of megapixels means decreasing the size of each pixel, which can hurt image quality unless there is a lot of light.

But by joining groups of 2×2 or 3×3 pixels into a single virtual pixel, an approach called pixel binning, camera makers get more flexibility. When the light is plentiful, the camera can take a 48-megapixel image that allows you to better dive into the details of the photo. But if it’s dark, the camera will use the virtual pixels to take a 12-megapixel photo that suffers less from image noise and other issues.

When taking ordinary photos with the iPhone 14 Pro models, Apple will take 12-megapixel photos, whether with the ultra-wide camera, the main wide-angle camera, the 3X telephoto lens or the new telephoto option. 2X which uses the middle of the main camera. sensor. To get the full 48 megapixels, you’ll need to use Apple’s ProRaw mode, which offers more detail and editing flexibility, but requires manual work to convert to an easily shareable JPEG or HEIC image.

“Now you can shoot ProRaw at 48-megapixel resolution, taking advantage of every pixel in the main camera,” Silva said. “It’s amazing how much we can zoom in.”

The 2X telephoto option uses the relatively small 12 million pixels in the center of the main 48-megapixel sensor. This will mean worse image quality than shooting with the full 48 megapixels. But Apple, which has significantly increased the size of this sensor from last year, says even those pixels are still bigger than what’s on most 2X telephoto lenses.

Other iPhone 14 Camera Changes

Other changes coming with the new phones include:

  • The main camera on the iPhone 14 Pro models now has a 24mm equivalent focal length, a bit wider than the 26mm lens that Apple has been using for years. This will be better suited to group shots and indoor scenes, where photographers are more likely to benefit from the main camera’s better low-light performance, but it does mean you’ll need to get closer to portrait subjects if you want to fill the frame. .
  • The ultra-wide camera is sharper, improving close-up macro photos, Silva said.
  • Apple has updated its camera flash with a 9-LED system that controls the pattern and intensity of light to match different camera fields of view. It is twice as bright under certain conditions.

Learn about Apple’s Photonics Engine

Much of the improvement in smartphone photography relies on less noticeable changes. Faster processors, including graphics processing units, image processors and artificial intelligence accelerators, are essential to the new computational photography software that is at the heart of the smartphone photography revolution. In Apple’s new iPhone 14 models, it calls its latest processing system the Photonics Engine.

This technology is a step up from Apple’s previous Deep Fusion technology to merge multiple images into a single shot, preserving detail and texture in modest or low lighting. With the Photonics Engine, Deep Fusion starts earlier in the image processing pipeline, working on raw image data to better preserve detail and color, said Caron Thor, Senior Director of Image Quality of the camera at Apple.

Video enhancements

All iPhone 14 models get a new Action mode that can be activated for better stabilization when running with your camera. It’s not yet clear if the feature crops the image more tightly, a common consequence when collecting frames only from the central part of the video, which remains visible more consistently.

The iPhone 14 Pro cameras also add 4K support to the The cinematic mode that Apple launched with the iPhone 13. This mode artificially blurs the background parts of the video to focus on the main subject. If a new person enters the frame, the mode can switch focus accordingly.

The iPhone 14 Pro cameras also include improved image stabilization which should improve both photos and videos.

iPhone 14 and 14 Plus Camera Upgrades

Apple’s low-end iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus get a new main camera that gathers 49% more light, with a larger sensor and wider f1.5 aperture so its lens can let get in more light, Thor said.

The Photonic Engine technology, however, improves low-light photography on all cameras in the new phones. Low-light performance doubles on the front selfie camera and rear ultra-wide-angle camera, and it improves by a factor of 2.5 with the main camera, she said.

The new selfie camera in the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus has an f1.9 aperture that increases light gathering by 38% over the iPhone 13. And for the first time, it also features autofocus automatic to avoid blurred faces.

Comments are closed.