Apple's iPhone 12 Pro Max camera stuns when shooting in RAW

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,683   +124
Staff member
Editor's take: I’ve long been a proponent of standalone digital cameras. They somewhat force you to think about your shots and are flexible with regards to lens choice, but most importantly, the quality of images they turn out is far better than what you can get from a smartphone camera. Or at least, that used to be the case.

The folks from pro camera app maker Halide recently got their hands on Apple’s new iPhone 12 Pro Max and were so impressed with its camera array that they decided to dedicate an entire post to the topic. The conclusion? It’s really freaking good.

A couple of key elements stand out when looking at the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s camera system. For starters, it uses a 47 percent larger image sensor with larger pixels to increase the amount of light gathered from the wide-angle camera. That wide-angle shooter features a fast f/1.6 aperture lens and also benefits from a new stabilization system that works at the sensor level rather than on the lens.

In normal (daylight) shooting conditions with Apple’s own camera app, which combines multiple photos into one and adds in noise reduction, you likely aren’t going to see a huge improvement in images shot on the 12 Pro Max versus, say, last year’s iPhone. Strip back the multi-exposure and noise reduction magic (which negatively impacts image quality in many scenarios) and the camera’s true appeal makes itself known.

Shooting in RAW (through the Halide app), the team saw dramatic improvements in image quality compared to what the standard Apple camera app spits out. This is especially evident in low-light environments where details pop. With Apple’s stock camera app, comparable shots were smudgy and lost lots of detail.

The new sensor shift is also a big deal, allowing the team to nail handheld shots at “ridiculous exposure times.”

“It would be impossible to get a shot like this on the iPhone 12, 11 Pro, or heck, the high-end digital cameras I have lying around the studio. This is very cool stuff.”

Worth mentioning is that all of Halide’s samples were taken handheld to replicate real-world scenarios.

All things considered, Halide views the iPhone 12 Pro Max as a huge leap forward in iPhone camera quality. But if you’re going to get the most out of it, you really need to shoot in RAW.

“It achieves images previously only seen in dedicated cameras, with sensors four times its size. It allows photographers to get steady and well exposed shots in conditions that weren’t imaginable a year ago. It captures low-light shots beyond anything we’ve seen on an iPhone. By a lot."

I'd recommend checking out Halide's post on the subject as it has full, uncompressed image samples that better illustrate the quality you can expect when shooting in RAW.

Masthead credit: NYC Russ, Halide

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,721   +3,617
I’ve been amazed by how fast my 12proMax focuses. I record in 4k60fps regularly. The image quality is amazing- the best their is.

I’m gonna upload a YouTube video to see what the quality looks like online.
 

dangh

Posts: 163   +192
It’s larger than other iPhones.... but not larger than dedicated cameras... and yet still delivers superior performance. That’s the point of the article here.
It is absolutely not a superior performance. It looks decent but nothing close to modern digital camera. Sure it is enough for many everyday use cases, but there are huge limitations due to sensor size and diffraction.
In the end it's not camera but photographer takes good or bad pictures, but from pure technical point of view other is no comparison to cameras even below the price of to his iphone.
 
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Joray K Joseph

Posts: 27   +34
I've said it many times and I'll say it again. If the iPhone can take better pics than you can take your with dedicated DSLR/Mirrorless then you are not a good photographer. My $150 EOS M can take better pics with Yongnuo lens. So when I hear YouTubers and bloggers say this it irks me to no end
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 3,559   +2,451
It is absolutely not a superior performance. It looks decent but nothing close to modern digital camera. Sure it is enough for many everyday use cases, but there are huge limitations due to sensor size and diffraction.
In the end it's not camera but photographer takes good or bad pictures, but from pure technical point of view other is no comparison to cameras even below the price of to his iphone.
I'm not arguing that... it's simply what the article was saying... the previous poster completely missed the point, so I clarified.

Now, saying all that, for 99% of all people, the iPhone takes just as good photos as an SLR...

The "camera-phone" has already basically eliminated the old "point-and-shoot" digital cameras... I suspect that, other than for professionals, they will take the SLR market - if they haven't already.

I own an SLR - I bought it back when I had an iPhone 4 - and I needed something that could take "action photos" of my kindergarten students. Fast forward several years - I still use my SLR... but more and more often, I find myself using my iPhone instead... and I "only" have the 11 Pro Max.... I suspect by the time the 13 or 14 comes out, I may retire the SLR completely.
 
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kiwigraeme

Posts: 160   +116
I'm not arguing that... it's simply what the article was saying... the previous poster completely missed the point, so I clarified.

Now, saying all that, for 99% of all people, the iPhone takes just as good photos as an SLR...

The "camera-phone" has already basically eliminated the old "point-and-shoot" digital cameras... I suspect that, other than for professionals, they will take the SLR market - if they haven't already.

I own an SLR - I bought it back when I had an iPhone 4 - and I needed something that could take "action photos" of my kindergarten students. Fast forward several years - I still use my SLR... but more and more often, I find myself using my iPhone instead... and I "only" have the 11 Pro Max.... I suspect by the time the 13 or 14 comes out, I may retire the SLR completely.
What you say is basically right - the camera in your pocket is your best camera. I have an "old" slr a N750 = - but some of the new Canon, Sony and Nikon Cameras are just amazing - supersharp focus on eyes as fast as you click - large low noise sensors - shoot in near dark . If you can afford the pro tele lenses with powerful motors on the latest pro bodies - you can track birds in flight with a super high success rate .
Also the one use fuji/kodak film cameras could take great photos if all you needed was f8/250 with good light from behind you focusing from 10ft to infinity .
Actually phones should be quick with a fast processor - it's not moving much "glass"

Anyway use to watch a funny guide reviewing cameras out of HK and Singapore - he gave top photographers toy barbie or similar cameras and 1 day - they all got artistic shots
 
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0dium

Posts: 135   +148
I've said it many times and I'll say it again. If the iPhone can take better pics than you can take your with dedicated DSLR/Mirrorless then you are not a good photographer. My $150 EOS M can take better pics with Yongnuo lens. So when I hear YouTubers and bloggers say this it irks me to no end
I was going to say just that. DSLR's are superior. People who are saying that phone camera takes better pictures simply are not photographers. Average people who like the result of built in camera filters.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 978   +579
I have an Olympus TG-5 and an iPhone 11 Pro Max (among other older cameras) and the iPhone 11 Pro Max shoots better photo and video across the board (RAW and auto), especially video, in fact my it’s even better than my GoPro Hero 8 at video, although not at stabilisation (also the go pro can shoot wide angle raw shots, the 11 pro max cannot). The TG-5 is more rugged and a lot cheaper though.

Very few people need more than a modern smartphone can do photography wise to take a good picture, most peoples photos would benefit more from a few photography lessons and/or a bit of practise than they would benefit from buying a higher specced camera.