Jason Snell Reviews The iPhone 14 Pro
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
The biggest single hardware upgrade in the iPhone 14 Pro is the main camera, which now has a 48-megapixel sensor, four times the pixels of the iPhone 13 Pro. Apple has for years said (accurately) that counting megapixels is not enough when it comes to measuring the quality of a camera, and the 12MP camera in the iPhone 8 is indeed a far cry from the 12MP camera in the iPhone 13 Pro.
True to its word, Apple has taken its flashy 48MP sensor and made its default mode… a 12-megapixel image. The idea is that Apple’s new “quad-pixel sensor” allows it to gather light from four separate pixels and then combine them to create a 12MP image with superior results, especially in low-light situations. And yes, I saw much less noise in images generated in 12MP mode.
But Apple’s decision is still somewhat puzzling. While you can get a 48-megapixel image out of the iPhone 14 Pro, you have to do it by turning on RAW capture in the Settings app. These RAW captures are slow — it takes a second or more for the camera to be available to take another shot after you snap one — and they’re huge (80 to 100 MB each). But they are also, especially in bright light, spectacularly detailed. Yes, they can be a little noisy, but with a little work in a RAW photo editor (I used Adobe Lightroom Classic), I was able to make great-looking images that had amazing levels of detail the likes of which I’d never been able to do on an iPhone before.
In the last few years, there have been numerous instances where Apple’s hardware effort seems to be a bit ahead of its software team. You’d think that for a product as important to Apple as the iPhone, things might be a little more in sync, but the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro have shipped without one of their highlight features (Emergency SOS via Satellite), and the banner feature of the iPhone 14 Pro—the Dynamic Island—is going to spend weeks, if not months, hamstrung by Apple’s failure to ship the Live Activities API in iOS 16.0.
Those features will get there, eventually. The Emergency SOS feature will almost certainly save lives and reassure iPhone users that they’re never truly out of contact in case of an emergency. The Dynamic Island has had a promising start, and if Apple keeps working on it, I think it could be a major addition to iOS. The new iPhone Pro camera is spectacularly good—but only the most committed iPhone photographers will ever really know how good.
If it’s time for you to upgrade your iPhone, you will be happy with the iPhone 14 Pro. If you’re a dedicated iPhone photographer, the 48-megapixel camera in RAW mode is probably worth serious upgrade consideration. If you are curious about the future of iOS interfaces, the Dynamic Island and always-on display are likely to eventually spread everywhere, but are making their debut here.
While the iPhone 14 is almost being held in stasis, the iPhone 14 Pro feels like the first stirrings of an entirely new generation of iPhone hardware and software. That new generation will probably start in earnest in 2023, but if you want a taste of the future now—or just want to shoot some of those sweet high-resolution images—the iPhone 14 Pro will give you the chance.