2023 Author: Gordon Kinson | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-06-01 01:17
Traditionally, photographer Austin Mann is one of the first to receive Apple's flagship smartphone and acquaints readers of his blog with the capabilities of the new iPhone camera. So, let's get acquainted with the opinion of a professional on the account of the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max cameras.
At the same time, the photographer compares with last year's photos, evaluating the capabilities of the software and Night mode. This time, Mann went to Glacier National Park, Montana. The new smartphone took pictures in different conditions, from bright and sunny, to dark and snowy.
In one of the tests, the iPhone 12 Pro managed to take a beautiful photo, while its predecessor showed only a black frame with noise in similar conditions.
In the impressive presentation of the new smartphones, considerable attention was paid to their cameras. Naturally, the question arises - how much will the updates affect the quality of photos and videos? And if algorithms play an important role in the iPhone 12, then in the iPhone 12 Pro, in addition to them, the hardware itself has also seriously improved. Austin Mann, having got his hands on the iPhone 12 Pro, paid special attention to the work of Night mode on an ultra-wide-angle camera, autofocus using LiDAR and studied new possibilities of the software.
IPhone 12 Pro Wide-Angle Camera Update
For the first time in generations, an upgraded 26mm wide-angle lens (now f / 1.6 instead of f / 1.8) is available this year. This means the camera will perform slightly better in low light, and Apple claims the 7-element lens provides better edge-to-edge sharpness.
Last year, a leap in camera quality when shooting in low light conditions was associated with the advent of Night mode (a software feature). And in 2020, the iPhone 12 Pro improves performance with an improved and more light-optimized wide-angle lens. This is already a hardware improvement.
Below is a 30-second exposure on a tripod, taken with the Halide third-party camera app with almost no visible light. Mann says he couldn't see blue or green with the naked eye. So the shot is a great demonstration of Night Mode and the new wide-angle lens working together. Notice the movement of the clouds at a 30 second exposure.
Shot with wide-angle iPhone 12 Pro in night mode (tripod)
Here are a couple more Night Mode shots with the new f / 1.6 (26mm) wide-angle lens:
Aside from low-light performance, Mann was also interested in the edge-to-edge sharpness of the new 7-element lens, so he ran several tests with lots of detail in the corners of the frame. It turned out that the sharpness roughly matches the capabilities of the iPhone 11 Pro.
Night mode for ultra wide-angle camera
Austin Mann loves working with ultra-wide-angle cameras, which is why when it appeared in the iPhone 11 last year, he was delighted. Despite the emerging prospects, the quality of the module in the new smartphone did not meet the usual standards in medium and low light conditions. Therefore, Mann used super-width only in bright daylight.
Now that Night Mode is available for the ultra wide-angle lens, low-light photography has improved dramatically. Mann was caught in a blizzard shortly before sunrise and jumped out to take a couple of shots using the iPhone 12's wide-angle module in Night mode.
Both photos were handheld with the iPhone 12 Pro's ultra-wide angle lens in Night mode (auto-color applied in Photos).
As in the past year, when comparing pictures taken in Night mode and without it, the difference was stunning. What the software does is really the difference between day and night. One test found that the ultra-wide-angle camera with Night mode on the iPhone 12 Pro produced a beautiful image, while the ultra-wide-angle camera without Night mode on the iPhone 11 Pro displayed a mostly black frame full of noise.
Comparison of photos taken with an ultra-wide-angle camera in low light conditions on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro
Shot with iPhone 12 Pro ultra wide angle lens in night mode (tripod). Applied Noir filter in Photos app.
Another place where an ultra wide angle lens is often useful is in cramped indoor spaces. But it was difficult to use the previous ultra wide-angle lens in such scenarios because the lighting is often poor in these areas. In Night mode, you can now use ultrawide indoors at night and still get sharp footage. Here is a shot of Austin Mann's workstation just in ultra wide angle night mode. The frame, although not as high-quality as when shooting with a conventional wide-angle 26mm camera, is nevertheless clear from edge to edge and certainly usable.
Smart HDR 3 in the iPhone 12 Pro camera
This year's Smart HDR update has brought some nice improvements. There are many possibilities involved with Smart HDR, but at the end of the day, the goal of this technology is to help the iPhone's camera capture what the eye sees.
In the image below, notice the detail captured in the dark shadows of the rock, as well as the preservation of detail in the bright snow-capped peaks in the distance.
Previously, Mann noted that Smart HDR is really good at capturing shadow detail, but silhouettes are difficult to capture. Now the function is clearly better, and when you drag the exposure slider down to underexpose the subject, it becomes much darker, as expected.
Here's a shot from a wide-angle camera. Notice how the pitfalls in the foreground are correctly exposed, but still does not lose detail in the sunlit snowy peaks in the distance.
Shot hand-held with iPhone 12 Pro ultra wide-angle lens (auto color applied in Photos app).
Taking a portrait on iPhone 12 Pro in very low light with Night mode
Austin Mann tests cameras in extreme conditions. And if many people check the Night mode in the city under some lighting, the photographer decided to really test the possibilities of portrait photography in the dark. This shot was taken 45 minutes after sunset and in cloudy weather. There was so little light that they had to take a flashlight to build the road. The portrait was taken in Night mode with a 3-second exposure on the iPhone 12 Pro in the right hand. At the same time, the iPhone 11 Pro is in the left hand, and the light from the screen acted as filling for the woman's face.
Obviously there was some camera shake and movement in such an unstable environment. But thanks to a little computational magic in Night Mode, better OIS, faster ISO, and of course LiDAR, colors are sharp and surprisingly accurate.
The LiDAR did a great job here - the sensor was a great help in focusing, which was just riveted to the woman's face all the time.
Also, creating an accurate depth map around the furry hood seems like a really daunting task, but the iPhone 12 Pro has done a great job.
The blur and noise reduction turned out to be a little unrealistic and dreamy. But where it matters, everything is sharp enough. Overall, the photo was excellent.
The iPhone 12 Pro introduces several new camera settings for photographers. Some of the options will be available to all iOS 14 users. Each of these controls has its own benefits, but overall it's nice to see the iPhone camera software team really listen to the professional community and continue to find ways to provide more control and customization.
Exposure setting really locked
Mann is thrilled with this new (and hardly discussed) feature. The smartphone now has a true exposure control that doesn't go back to automatic mode every time a photo is taken. This setting is retained even when switching between 5x, 1x and 2x lenses or when switching modes. Even if you lock your iPhone and come back to it later, it will still remember your exposure settings. It's more like working with a traditional handheld camera and the pros love it.
An example of the ideal use of such a mechanism is shooting in the snow. Most cameras set automatic exposure based on the average light in the scene. This means that if you have a lot of bright light in the frame (from snow, for example), the meter will average this and make the highlights grayer by default. To compensate for this, most photographers will adjust their exposure 1-2 stops to get closer to true white in the frame.
Austin Mann went out in the snow with his wife Esther and his puppy Mac, set the exposure to 1.3 stops and shot with these settings for an hour. The photographer liked the opportunity to set the exposure once and forget about it for a while. Typically, in a scene like this, the iPhone would have to be readjusted in almost every shot to compensate.
Note: This is different from touch-and-hold AE / AF lock that has been used over the years. This only applies to exposure control and does not lock focus.
To toggle this setting, go to Settings → Camera → Save Settings → Exposure Control (Mann recommends leaving this option enabled).
Once you enable this feature, you will notice a new exposure adjustment meter in the upper left corner of the default Camera app on iPhone. You can touch this meter to adjust the exposure.
Disable "Capture photo out of frame"
One of the great camera features added last year was the Capture Out of Frame option. It was mainly about shooting with the iPhone's wide-angle (26mm) lens, but it also captures the perspective of the ultra-wide-angle (13mm) lens. Users could later make adjustments to crop and geometry. This is a really cool feature that highlights the strengths of the iPhone lens kit, but in practice there were problems with in-camera previews.
Sometimes the view outside the frame can be distracting. When composing the image, I had problems finding the perfect visual balance, because there are elements outside the frame before my eyes. It is now possible to turn off this preview.
To toggle this option, go to Settings → Camera → Out-of-frame View. (Mann recommends leaving this option disabled.)
Volume up button for burst shooting
As a reminder, since the release of iOS 13, you can use the volume up button to launch burst mode in the camera app. If enabled, press and hold the volume up button to activate burst mode, or the volume down button to record video.
Austin Mann often uses burst mode, as the exact capture time is one of the most important variables when creating a photograph. Sometimes even capturing the right moment is more important than the perfect exposure or composition.
To toggle this option, go to Settings → Camera → Series volume up button. (Mann recommends leaving this option disabled.)
Prioritize fast shooting
Have you ever tried to take multiple shots in a few seconds and missed the moment due to the camera not responding quickly enough? We're not talking about burst mode, but about pressing the shutter button as quickly as possible. The iPhone camera does many (possibly billions) exposure calculations every time you take a photo. Sometimes shooting by pressing the shutter button quickly can be confusing.
As for Mann himself, he would gladly sacrifice a little image quality in order to get the perfect moment.
To toggle this option, go to Settings → Camera → Faster Shutter. (Mann recommends leaving this option enabled.)
Time-lapse with night mode
This feature will be tested in detail, but it is interesting to see how well Night mode works in slow motion. This time-lapse was created after sunset, and Night mode was turned on when it became necessary. Notice the smooth transition from day to night - no flicker, just a smooth exposure that fades into darkness.
Not everyone likes wireless charging. Mostly people are annoyed by the lower speeds and the difficulty in placing the device correctly on the charger, but it looks like MagSafe can solve both of these problems.
It's nice to dream of an ecosystem of MagSafe products, especially accessories for photographers. This can be a beautiful LED flash, an external battery, quick release tripod mounts and more. I can't wait to see what the third-party community does with the new MagSafe interface.
5G speeds and the creative process
Many don't realize it yet, but the potential for 5G speeds for the ever-changing creative media professional is enormous. Until recently, it took a lot of effort to get customers to download photos or make important Zoom calls at the right speed. 4G speeds already allow you to quickly download the data you want, but it's time to rethink your creative process and backup solutions - 5G speeds are just around the corner.
Another place where 5G can help a photographer is when retrieving images from the iCloud Photo Library. For many, the entire library is stored in the cloud and sometimes, if necessary, editing a photo takes some time to get it. A little waiting negatively affects the entire creative process. At higher speeds, the photos will appear to be on local storage.
IPhone 12 Pro Camera Specifications
The Halide team continues to develop a best-in-class third-party camera app, and they've had Smart RAW for quite some time now (very similar in theory to ProRAW). One of the features built into Halide is the Technical Readout, which gives you an overview of the hardware inside the iPhone's camera.
Here's the tech info for the iPhone 12 Pro's three lenses:
The biggest discovery here is a dramatic increase in the maximum ISO on the wide-angle camera, which is now 5808 (almost double the maximum ISO 3072 for the iPhone 11 Pro). This means that the sensor in the iPhone 12 Pro is significantly more sensitive to light (although image grain increases at higher ISO levels).
Here's a shot with the main lighting of a car's taillights. This is where the new features of the higher ISO are used (shot at ISO 5000).
Improved physical protection
Every photographer cares about their equipment, but the camera is often used in extreme conditions - it must be suitable for the task at hand. The iPhone screen rarely breaks, but sometimes it gets scratched while shooting. The ability to get a harder, tougher ceramic front glass in iPhone 12 Pro is good news.
In addition, shooting is often carried out in high humidity conditions (there is a lot of rain and snow in these photos), so it is important to know about the IP68 rating of the iPhone 12 Pro (30 minutes at a depth of 6 meters, which is 50% better than the iPhone 11 Pro).
Best EXIF data
I would like to better understand what is happening in the exposure, especially in the pictures in Night mode. This will help the photographer to identify the limits of his gear, as well as recreate similar shots.
Option for LiDAR "distance to object" in the camera
It would be great to see the ability to measure distance to an object inside the Camera app. This would be useful for creating a sequential group of portraits or product shots (for example, always shoot them at a distance of 1.5 meters).
Quick reset to adjust exposure
The new exposure adjustment feature will appeal to many, but would like to be able to quickly reset it to default values. This could be a simple double tap on the indicator in the upper left corner of the user interface.
A few tips for shooting on iPhone
- Use a wide-angle (1x) lens when shooting in extremely low light conditions. Super-wide is certainly good, but wide-angle is definitely better.
- Use burst mode to capture the perfect moment.
- Spend some time navigating Settings → Camera to familiarize yourself with the many settings and controls now available to you.
Thoughts on ProRAW
It looks like ProRAW will provide the granular control that creative professionals demand, but without sacrificing the iPhone's greatest strengths, including its smart camera. It's an exciting prospect and everyone is eager to see what can be done in practice with files. That being said, it's interesting to see if ProRAW will change the way professional photographers use the iPhone camera in their workflow.
Traditionally, RAW files themselves cannot be edited. After making adjustments, they are saved in a new file instead of destructively modifying the original image file. With this in mind, many publications require photographers to submit RAW files.
This allows you to check whether the original data is still intact and helps protect its legitimacy as a news source. If the ProRAW format does indeed work this way, then it marks an important step forward in validating the iPhone camera as a tool photographers can rely on to complete client work. This is especially important in the editorial field.
The iPhone 12 Pro has a robust camera, thanks in part to a host of new digital technologies. In the course of practical use, it turned out that it became slightly better than the already excellent module in the iPhone 11 Pro.
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