The next version of Apple iOS 14 will be iOS 14.3 (unless there’s an unexpected upset that requires something sooner). It’s in public beta testing already so it may not be far off and it includes a very cool update for the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max: ProRAW support.
Since the cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro and, especially, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, are the best yet on an Apple phone, this is big news. Apple had revealed it was coming before the end of the year, but it may arrive sooner than was expected.
So, why does it matter?
Ask any keen photographer and they’ll tell you that shooting in RAW is best. RAW is a file format that captures all image data recorded by a camera sensor, as opposed to JPEG which loses some data in compression and then more every time you open, adjust and save them. RAW also works well in workflows like Lightroom and Aperture. That’s not to say RAW is always better – the files are way bigger, for a start, and can take longer to record all that data. So if you’re filming in burst mode, it can slow things down, for instance. For casual snaps, RAW can be overkill.
But, right now, though it’s absolutely possible to shoot in RAW on the iPhone, you can’t do it in the native camera app. You need to turn to VSCO, Halide, ProCam or other apps to be able to do that.
That’s all very well, but supposing you like the features the iPhone camera app offers, like Portrait Mode, Night Mode, DeepFusion and so on? Though some apps have their own versions, the simplicity and seamlessness of the Apple camera apps is persuasive.
Apple ProRAW is designed to be the best of both worlds, as it’s built into the native camera app. In iOS 14.3, you’ll be able to enable it in Settings, which will mean there’s a button to toggle ProRAW on and off.
Apple says that the flexibility and control of RAW are combined with the benefits of what it calls “computational photography”, that is, all the features that are manifested by the powerful processor with its neural engine and machine learning capabilities.
Shoot in ProRAW and a new deep image file is created, with all those Apple specialties like Smart HDR and other multiple frame image processing, are introduced at the time of image capture, on all four of the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max cameras, including the front-facing camera.
Images can be edited as usual in the Apple Photos app.
For some users this will be overkill, but offers an introduction to a more advanced photography which will appeal to enthusiasts and, who knows, may tempt others to try it out.