This new imaging format is designed to tap into the upgraded triple rear camera array on both the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, which also features a LiDAR sensor to collect more image information.
Smartphones have been able to shoot in RAW format for some time, but by tapping into Apple’s powerful image processing, this custom Apple format can usher in a new way to shoot rich photos in data. Here is all you need to know about Apple PRORAW.
What is PRORAW?
When you snap RAW on a smartphone or DSLR, it captures a completely uncompressed image. These files are typically much larger than many DSLRs of standard JPEG photos and capturing phones by default.
These uncompressed images are much larger in file size, thanks to capturing a lot of image data, meaning that you have a lot more scope to edit them after you shoot them. Professional photographers shoot in RAW format so that they can manipulate photos using photo editing software such as Photoshop, and then process them into images that are suitable for viewing in digital or physical format.
However, shooting in RAW means that not all computational photography applied to camera shots is applied to the smartphone captured image. This means acquiring features such as advanced HDR photo processing, requiring you to shoot in a processed image format such as JPEG, and thus losing the ability to manipulate images deeply in editing software.
Basically, editing in RAW or JPEG format has to be compromised in some way to the convenience or depth. But Apple’s PRORAW format aims to remove those agreements.
In short, PRORAW will capture RAW images but implements some image processing on top. This includes merging frames from multiple shots captured by the cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro, using Apple’s Deep Fusion and Smart HDR technology, or with noise reduction. But this will still leave some room for editing things like color, exposure, and contrast at the same depth that can happen with the RAW format.
Think of it this way: Creating a finished image from RAW is for cooking food from scratch, which includes all the ingredients. JPEG images on the other hand are cooked food. So using this analogy, PRORAW is similar to cooking a meal, only you have all the ingredients that are measured outside and are ready to use. Effectively, PRORAW provides people with an image-based processing to make editing in final photos much easier.
What are the benefits of PRORAW?
You can think of PRORAW as a helping hand in your photo editing. Sorting out things like white balance and using smart HDR3 to select details and textures in RAW shots then provide a better base image for people with editing.
Doing so sometimes avoids the intimidating process of editing RAW photos from scratch, which is why Apple had not offered to shoot RAW on its iPhones until now. Without any processing, RAW images can look a bit flat and frustrating and for inexperienced people with photo manipulation can be a challenge to tweak to their satisfaction.
Therefore PRORAW will take care of the tricky parts in creating an image for more sophisticated editing, and will leave an artistic tweak for better editing and manual editing. Calling it PRORAW can be a bit wrong as it is more of a tool for unused people or manipulating RAW images.
That being said, for professional photographers or experienced photography enthusiasts who shoot on the iPhone 12 Pro instead of DSLR, PRORAW can significantly speed up the time taken to create RAW-shot images.
What is the future of PRORAW photography?
Smartphone photography has improved so much that even mid-range phones can capture impressive photos. But they still cannot compete with DSLR cameras in terms of dexterity and picture quality. And PRORAW won’t change that.
But it can be seen as a neat development of smartphone photography, providing people with the tools to perform deep image manipulation, but also supported by powerful computation photography.
We have yet to try the iPhone 12 Pro with the Prova, but it is definitely an interesting feature that we want to put to the test. And if this proves to be a strong tool in getting better smartphone camera shots, then we can expect other smartphone makers like Samsung, Sony and OnePlus to take themselves to ProArw.
With ProRAW, the iPhone 12 smartphone can increase photography times. This means that upcoming phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 will really need their camera game in 2021.