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Why the camera of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is so exciting for professional photographers



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As a professional photographer, I have been blown away by how iPhone 11 Pro has been able to replace my DSLR on the photoshoot. But Apple has since introduced iPhone 12 lineup that includes iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the camera technology is even better this time. The iPhone 12 Pro Max camera updates in particular, both in hardware and software, have made me buzz about shooting with this thing. Here’s why I’m so excited.

More zoom with 2.5x telephoto lens

I love the telephoto zoom lens on the iPhone 11 Pro, but only 2x does not always give the zoom level I want. I often zoom in further digitally to get the exact composition I want. The iPhone 12 Pro Max takes it further, to 2.5 times, which may not seem like a big upgrade, but I think will be noticeable for many photos.

Did I like 5x or 10x? Sure, I love the larger zoom on phones like Galaxy S20 Ultra (and the new The Galaxy S21 Ultra even has a massive 100x zoom), but since they are so big, I do not use them as often as 2x on iPhone. Maybe 3x would be a good compromise, but I still think the 12 Pro Max upgrade will make a big difference to many of my photos.

Read more: The best phone to buy for 2021

Larger image sensor

Apple is already able to squeeze incredible image quality out of small phone camera sensors, and the great software allows for the amazing night mode images we’ve already seen. But a 47% larger sensor captures more light, resulting in brighter images with less noise and better dynamic range. That’s why my professional camera (a Canon 5D Mark IV) uses a much larger full-frame sensor.

I am very interested to see what a difference this larger sensor can make not only for my night photos, but for capturing fine details in the landscape, or up close when taking macro photos of flowers. A larger sensor paired with Apple’s image processing software is likely to be a strong combination.

Apple iPhone12 Pro rear cameras

The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max have three rear cameras.

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Improved, faster lens for better night mode

It is not only the sensor that can capture more light – the lens itself can let in more light than before thanks to the wider aperture f / 1.6. This number basically means that the hole through which the light passes is larger than before, so that more light can pass through at the same time. Together with the larger sensor, Apple estimates that the 12 Pro Max has seen an improvement of 87% in low-light images from the iPhone 11, which in itself was already one of the best in low-light images.

The redesigned lens is not just about letting in more light. Apple also explained in the launch presentation that it improved the optical clarity of the lens, and reduced the amount of image distortion, especially at the edges of the image on the widest lens. All this means better, more professional photos. Lovely stuff.

Apple ProRaw

Many of my best photos I have taken with the iPhone are taken in raw, using third-party apps. Raw images do not store data such as color information or sharpening, which gives greater control when editing in mobile apps such as Adobe Lightroom Mobile. However, the downside of shooting raw in third-party apps is that you do not get to take advantage of the image processing Apple uses in its own camera app. Deep Fusion processing for stunning HDR, for example, is just something you get when shooting with the iPhone’s native camera.

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To appeal more to professionals, Apple has introduced the Apple ProRaw in the camera app, which utilizes many of the image processing capabilities but does not bake data as white balance permanently, so you can still make these changes in post-production. Apple says it’s the best of both worlds, and on paper I’m tempted to agree, but I have to reserve my final verdict until I can not only shoot photos in this new format, but also edit the photos as well.

It is worth noting that Google has already done much the same with its Pixel phone “calculation raw” function, which CNET senior editor Stephen Shankland calls “huge.”

HDR video and enhanced stabilization

It’s not just still images that have seen an improvement. The phone now also offers HDR with Dolby Vision at up to 60 frames per second, which Apple says is the first time this is offered on any device. In theory, this will help control bright highlights and lift dark shadows, just as HDR does when shooting still images.

The optical image stabilization has also been improved by moving the image sensor to counteract movement and vibration, instead of moving the heavier lens, as was the case before. How much difference this makes remains to be seen when I can take out the phones for a proper test, but with better picture quality and better stabilization, I am very excited about what kind of videos I can produce with this phone.


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