iPhone 14 Pro needs an option to take non-RAW 48MP photos

iPhone 14 Pro comes with a 48-megapixel wide-angle rear lens for the first time on an iPhone. It is the first megapixel upgrade from the iPhone 6s in 2015, featuring a 12-megapixel rear camera. However, the only way to take a 48MP photo with iPhone 14 Pro is to use ProRAW or third party apps, but I wish I could take 48MP compressed photos using Apple’s Camera app.

Like the iPhone 14 Pro it uses its 48MP camera

You may be wondering: If the iPhone doesn’t take 48MP photos by default, how does it use the new lens?

To put it simply, Apple uses a process known as “pixel binning,” which combines data from four pixels into one. This is because using all 48 MP requires a lot more light, which can be a disadvantage for photos in low-light scenarios. With pixel binning, iPhone uses the 48MP sensor to take a 12MP image with better quality and less noise.

The company also introduced a new 2x zoom in the iPhone 14 Pro’s Camera app that crops the original 48MP image to get a 12MP zoomed photo. This allows users to digitally zoom in without losing definition and without having to switch to 3x telephoto zoom.

Since image files with a resolution of 48MP are much larger than those with a resolution of 12MP, Apple has limited how users can take pictures with the new sensor. If you really want to take a 48MP photo, you need to enable Apple ProRAW in the Camera app.

RAW and not RAW

For those unfamiliar with it, a RAW photo is basically the original image captured by the sensor, with little or no post-processing. It contains all the data on things like brightness, shadows and colors that can be changed later in image editing software like Adobe Lightroom. For this reason, a RAW image file can be 15 times larger than a compressed image.

When you don’t have RAW enabled, the camera takes the photo and then removes some of this data to get a smaller file that takes up less space.

Many iPhone models can take RAW photos with the help of third party apps. Since the introduction of the iPhone 12 Pro, Apple has implemented this feature natively in the iOS Camera app with Apple ProRAW. Now with iPhone 14 Pro, Apple has decided to tie 48MP resolution photos to ProRAW.

The problem, as you can imagine, is that these photos take up a lot of space on the iPhone’s internal memory. Apple claims that each 48MP RAW file can be around 75MB. Of course, only true “pro” users end up enabling this option, but everyone should be able to take advantage of the full 48 megapixel camera of the iPhone 14 Pro.

48MP compressed photos

I really wish I could take 48MP photos without bloating my iPhone memory because the only way to do it easily is to enable ProRAW. But why does it matter? Well, I’ve done some experiments to show you how photos taken at 48 megapixels are noticeably better, even when compressed.

You can see some of the results below. The images have been cropped so you can see the details better:

Feature Request: iPhone 14 Pro needs an option to take 48MP non-RAW photos (without Smart HDR)

Here’s another example showing the level of detail in a 48MP photo, even after compression:

Feature Request: iPhone 14 Pro needs an option to take 48MP non-RAW photos (without Smart HDR)

For this, I used a link created by developer Gabriele Trabucco (via Vadim Yuryev) which quickly converts 48MP ProRAW photos to HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format) compressed format. HEIF is an officially supported codec from Apple capable of preserving good image quality in much smaller files.

While each 48MP RAW file in these examples is around 60MB, the HEIF compressed version is only 3.2MB, less than the 3.3MB of the 12MP JPEG image.

For video, iPhone users can choose from 720p, 1080p, or 4K footage. So why not offer the same option for taking pictures? I’m sure many users would choose to take 48MP resolution photos despite the compression.

Also: I want to get rid of Smart HDR

Since I’m talking about the iPhone camera, here’s another thing that bothers me a lot: Smart HDR. This is a feature introduced in 2018 with the iPhone XS that uses artificial intelligence to enhance photos by making a number of post-processing adjustments. Remember the “Beautygate” of the iPhone XS? It was Smart HDR’s fault.

But back then, Smart HDR wasn’t as aggressive as it is today, and users could still turn it off. From iPhone 12, Smart HDR can no longer be turned off by users. While Smart HDR tries to improve photos, it ends up ruining some of them making them extremely unnatural.

I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about photos taken with iPhones recently, and I also don’t like some of the photos I take anymore.

YouTuber Max Tech made a great video showing how the iPhone 14’s Smart HDR lags behind the post-processing of the recently released Google Pixel 7 Pro.

I understand that post-processing is important to compensate for hardware limitations (in this case, the small camera lenses and sensors), but it has reached a point where some of this post-processing is just too much.

If anyone from Apple is reading this, reset the option to turn off Smart HDR. I don’t want to have to take RAW photos just to take advantage of the 48 megapixel resolution or to avoid this excessive post-processing.

But you? Do you think Apple should bring more options to the native iPhone camera app? Let me know in the comments below.

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