There are quite many aspects to it - because it all depends on who you are - or better said - what you are used to do. A casual user who uses iPhone 7 Plus and upwards until iPhone 11 - may not have real benefits from it. Because in order to use the (normal) RAW format in those cameras, you also have to deal with the RAW files - which means work. For a photographer, there are definitely benefits with RAW !

But who works with iPhone RAW's today ?

I mean everyone who is glued on their phones... certainly don't make effort into dealing with RAW files, but prefer JPG - because most of it, is anyway just used for Social Media.

So, I can only think of serious photographers who wish good quality, are using RAW. Because you do get out more dynamic range, which means saving highlights and shadows. You get better control over sharpness which is better with RAW. You have no problems to change color balance, and it ain't affecting the quality - which is a major point ! And you can deal with contrasts far better.


Why didn't I use it more often ?

So. I am surprised I have not used it more often. I always thought (with the iPhone 7 Plus) I would use it. But I never did. Now with my newer iPhone XS Max - I didn't use it at all - albeit the quality of the RAW files is even better.

However, I need to use the app HALIDE II in order to be able to use RAW, instead of JPG).

With the new iPhone 13 Pro Max, i can enable the new Apple ProRaw by default - and the native camera app handles it from there. Only in portrait mode with background blur - that info is NOT embedded into the ProRaw, from what I understand (I am not sure, because I have not gotten the phone yet).

Example of JPG vs RAW quality, albeit to the RAW i also added my own enhancement, mainly through the Topaz Sharpen AI and DeNoise AI software in post processing.




Still: Whatever you can crank out - counts (as long it looks good to the eye and from a "ethical" photographical perspective. But the difference above is actually profound...

The sensitivity in the photos was ISO 125.


Preliminary Results

The first JPG looks like a typical mobile phone image. (Here the difference in JPG quality between Apple's Camera app and Halide's JPG was similar "crude". Where contrast and colors are partially "off", especially when you view images on a real computer screen. (They always look good on iPhone screen of course). Which is a little bit like cheating, if you ask me...

Now the RAW gave very different options to me, in terms of contrast and color. Everything looks much more nuanced. And the fine details are fine. It reminds me of a Micro Four Third sensor. (Which is a LOT bigger). And with the latter, when combined with post processing with Topaz apps, you get serious high quality, when needed !



That is one of the reasons I have never understood the tedious debacle and hate, about MicroFourThird sensor vs Fullframe. Both are fantastic in the potential of giving very high quality. I prove that every day, and my photo Diary is filled with images made with MicroFourThird camera.

You just have to know how to work your shit - that is the key !


I had better cameras, and used them instead of iPhones

So, the main reason I didn't really use my iPhone XS Max much for photography was, I always had access to much better image quality through my cameras. Almost always I carry with me one. Whether the Olympus EM1X, or the Canon EOS R6 - they shine in every aspect. And they are much bigger of course, no doubt.

But I value that the most. So, the iPhone, even when i got the better one, the XS Mac, I used it less. And never with RAW. It is only during the past few days I use Halide II app with RAW, I start to enjoy it. And see that yes, there is definitely more quality I can get out of RAW images. Also the contrast and fine tuning of noise and colors, I feel is better with RAW.

But it takes work of course.

Which I do not mind.


Apple's new ProRaw

I am of course curious of the new ProRaw format. Apparently it now embeds all the computer photography voodoo Apple does with it's files, directly into ProRaw, by being written into the RAW. This should give much better quality in images people take with DARK MODE. Because the JPG output is pretty crappy and blotchy. But when I saw the results from Dark Mode, embedded into a ProRaw file - it really impressed me (for being a handheld "longtime" exposure shot of the sky made with an iPhone). But compared to the JPG output, the details where much better, and the blotchyness was far less.

Now that impressed me. As an "always with me camera", that is a feature I find interesting, given how much I love night photography. And if I really have nothing at hand - well i could think of Dark Mode with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and getting a ProRaw file to work with better quality.


Do you remember... ?

I remember earlier, it's been several years, we had an Northern Lights outbreak. I believe I was still on an iPhone 6 Plus, I don't remember. It must been 2014 or 2015... I took images of the very bright auroras over Stockholm - but the results where beyond crappy, you wouldn't believe (well how much information can you get out of a compressed JPG taken at night at high ISO and limited exposure time ?!?)

Almost nothing.

So, such situation would be cool, being able to use DARK MODE and then getting those results in a ProRaw file, with preserves finer details, makes noise more natural, and reduces the icky blotchyness that the JPG often puts out when doing such images at night.

Apparently ProRaw is only available since iPhone 12 Pro. The normal RAW you can access through third party apps, since iPhone 7 Plus. I believe that since iPhone 12 Pro, you can of course also use the normal RAW instead. It does not embed the Apple computer photography voodoo in the RAW file, which then is slightly sharper, but also noisier.

In iOS 15, as well with iPhone 12 Pro and upwards, you can now use the Camera app, and get RAW or ProRaw. Earlier that was not possible - you had to use an app like Halide to enable RAW photo images.


iPhone Photography - A niche of it's own ?

Anyway. I am not an Apple iPhone photographer. But I do realize in the latter years, that iPhone photography is almost like a photography niche within photography. A branch, a type of photography which is standing on it's own legs. You know, similar to what Polaroid Photography was, a niche of it's own.

It see this kind of photography still as a casual tool, a party tool, a fun tool, but i rarely use it for serious photography, albeit since iPhone 7 Plus in daylight, those images are highly capable in general, especially since iPhone XS Max, the images are more seriously useable, especially during daylight.

I reserve myself for images taken in lower light, evenings etc - I never liked the output (from JPG). RAW is also better here, because you get better control over the finer details, color nuances and noise. But the margins are shrinking the higher ISO you use.


Dark Mode with ProRaw

It's going to be very interesting how the new iPhone 13 Pro Max with ProRaw and Dark Mode, handles the low light quality in general. Since the phone is 3 generation newer than my XS Mac - and it uses noticeable features I was never able to access - I think it's going to be interesting with the new Phone. Not to mention having 3 lenses now, from which one is unusual wide (13 mm super wideangle I believe).

The iPhone 13 Pro Max isn't a replacement, but a complementary tool. I've always been fond of higher image quality, as well evening and night photography. But the latter was always much, much better with real cameras, not iPhones.

So, I don't mind that if the ProRaw voodoo adds to higher quality and better colors in evening images. That would be a difference. Let's see, if that is true or just another generation of gimmicks.

Will see.


iPhone 3s

My first phone was the 3s, with it's crappy sensor. But it was fun. Mainly when used additional photo apps, which made the results more interesting, you know. Over layering the crappy image quality the camera had... Albeit, sometimes the result were actually decent. See the image from Nikkaluokta in Laponia - I can work with that today.

So, some of those images can be enhanced with today's computer tools and apps. Albeit I have noticed apps in phones, do not always have that enhancing quality, like the apps you have on a real computer. Then of course, you have the limitation of JPG itself, that when you try to tinker with it - you can degrade the quality further. You need to know what you are doing...

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.


2009 • iPhone 3

20 June 2009 • Nikkaluokta, Laponia - Extrem North of Sweden • iPhone 3s

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