Photographer Austin Mann, who is known for his camera-focused reviews of Apple’s iPhones, today shared details on ProRAW, the new format that Apple enabled for the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max with the iOS 14.3 update yesterday.
ProRAW is a RAW format for iPhone that also takes advantage of all of the computational photography features that Apple builds into the iPhone. As Mann explains, it combines the computations necessary for accurate imaging with user control over preference parameters like white balance, noise reduction, sharpening, and more.
To test the new ProRAW feature, Mann used the iPhone 12 Pro Max to shoot a meteor shower at night. He took the same photo in both ProRAW and standard mode and edited the photos in Lightroom. The ProRAW version captures more detail in the sky, highlighting the stars that were erased by noise reduction in the standard image.
Standard HEIC image on left, ProRAW image on right
Mann includes a video on the benefits of ProRAW when it comes to HDR scenes that have bright sunlight and shadows, as well as the expanded color range. Images shot in ProRAW are 12-bit color, allowing for more nuanced shades and a significant improvement in color depth.
With 12-bit color, 14 stops of dynamic range, and dramatically more creative control, Apple ProRAW is a massive leap forward in professional imaging with iPhone. I’m now comfortable relying on my iPhone 12 Pro to capture a strong photograph in virtually any light conditions because I know I’m able to custom tailor the processing to my taste, instead of relying on computational generalizations designed for most users.
According to Mann, shooting in ProRAW makes the most sense in extreme scenarios where Apple’s general algorithms are unable to do all the work. Indoor mixed lighting, extreme low light, and super high dynamic range images have the potential to benefit from ProRAW settings.
Mann points out that ProRAW files must be edited and are not ready to be shared straight out of the camera, and the feature is not available in Portrait or Panoramic mode. Mann has additional tips on shooting in ProRAW in his full piece on the new feature.