Halide developer's expert view of iPhone 12 Pro Max imaging

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A few days ago you'll have seen my imaging head to head beteen the Lumia 950 XL and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Slightly controversially, the iPhone lost, thanks mainly to excessive noise reduction and edge enhancement in low light. My theory at the time was that Apple had tuned the image processing for regular users and that the ProRAW syste, coming in the next update would satisfy 'pro' users. And an article by Sebastiaan de With, expert iPhone photo buff and developer of third party camera app Halide, seems to agree with me. The linked article is a really deep dive into the 12 Pro Max's imaging and well worth looking through. He promises to revisit the device when ProRAW is released - as indeed have I!

NB. Sebastiaan does make one mistake - his diagram showing relative sensor sizes is wrong - '47% larger' should apply to area, not each dimension. So take that diagram in the linked article with a pinch of salt!

NB2. You'll need a Desktop resolution screen to view the article, which includes some very large and high-res example images.

From the article:

It seems Apple’s Camera app applies just as much noise reduction to the 12 Pro Max image as it does for regular iPhone 12. This unfortunately ‘blurs’ superior details out of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Apple isn't the first manufacturer to make this mistake - Huawei have done the same. In short, there is NO WAY the same algorithms should be used for a flagship phone camera as for a manufacturer's mid-range phones. Yet Huawei did - and now Apple have done the same.

Having said that, there's a huge shake-up coming in the next week or so, with Apple giving the option of saving photos from the 'Pro' phones in 'ProRAW' format. This will keep some of the basic noise reduction and all the multiple-frame goodness but essentially keep all the processing I was complaining about down to a minimum. So that when viewing or editing the 'ProRAW' version of the photo you see maximum detail and clarity with no heavy-handed edge enhancement. Perfect. Though it remains to be seen how this fits in with a typical workflow.

Sebastiaan is equally exciited:

We’re writing a deep dive on what ProRAW means, but there’s one practical implication worth talking about today. One reason people choose RAW is for fine grained control over noise-reduction, and unfortunately ProRAW files have already had some noise reduction applied. Not as much the JPEGs of the past, but it’s there.

For this and a few other reasons, ProRAW is less of a ‘true’ RAW, and more of a very high quality format for your shots. Aside from the noise reduction, it does expose fine control over magical processes like Smart HDR.

Go read the full article, which includes numerous examples from both the standard Camera app and Halide.

Source / Credit: Halide