This year Apple is delving even deeper into professional photography features to set its higher-end models apart. While the iPhone 12 camera features are more geared toward fun and casual use, it’s clear that Apple is ensuring that serious photographers have the tools they need to use the iPhone 12 Pro as a full camera system.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with the addition of a new format, Apple ProRAW, which will allow users to capture RAW photos without losing all of the advantages of the iPhone’s computational photography features.
Although Apple has allowed users to shoot RAW photos for a few years now, this generally required a third-party app, and as new features like Smart HDR, Night Mode and Deep Fusion came along, they were naturally left out of RAW photos, which are entirely about capturing precise and unadulterated pixel-by-pixel data from the camera sensor.
With Apple ProRAW, however, Apple has created a new format that will allow it to layer all of its computational photography features as instructions, or essentially “edits,” within the photo. When taking pictures in ProRAW mode, all of the details that would normally be applied to a JPEG or HEIC photo are still calculated, including sharpening, white balance, tone mapping, and highlights, but rather than being baked into the actual image, they’re stored separately so that they can be read by ProRAW compatible photo editing tools.
Hence professional photographers get to reap all of the benefits and power of Apple’s A14-powered computational photography without having to sacrifice the flexibility of RAW photo editing workflows. The deep image file is computed at the time of image capture without any shutter delay, and you’ll be able to shoot ProRAW using any of the four iPhone 12 Pro cameras. Apple’s own Photos app will support editing Apple ProRAW files, professional photo apps like Photoshop will be including support for the format, and of course there will be an iOS-level API for third-party apps to take advantage of.
As with some of Apple’s other recent photographic advances, it appears that ProRAW won’t be available right away, but will likely arrive in an iOS 14.x update later this year.