Pro photog Austin Mann praises Apple ProRAW image format

Apple ProRAW in the iPhone 12 Pro series It combines computational photography with the RAW format.
Photo: Apple

Travel photographer Austin Mann has been shooting images with a iPhone 12 Pro Max in ProRAW format, and he calls it, “a monumental leap forward in digital imaging on iPhone.”

What Apple ProRAW image format is

ProRAW was created for serious shutterbugs who aren’t quite ready for RAW format. It includes some mild processing to images to combine the benefits of computational photography with the depth and flexibility of the RAW image format.

As Mann puts it, “the iPhone camera only leverages the computations that are absolutely necessary for accurate imaging, but gives us complete control over preference parameters like white balance, noise reduction, sharpening, and more.”

ProRAW is exclusive to iPhone 12 Pro models. And it’s now available to all users with Monday’s release of iOS 14.3.

Advantages of the new format

Noise-reduction algorithms in the HEIC format erase many stars. Not so with ProRAW.
Screenshot: Austin Mann

A post on Mann’s blog uses examples to show the real-world benefits of the new image format. He took the picture above in HEIC (the standard iPhone image format) and ProRAW, with otherwise identical settings. “You can see far more stars in the ProRAW image because they haven’t been erased by noise reduction algorithms,” notes the photographer.

He also points out that “HEIC is limited to 8-bit color, which gives us 256 different shades of red, green, and blue. 12-bit expands this range to 4,096 shades of red, green, and blue.”

And Mann goes on to recommend using Apple ProRAW in situations where HEIC has problems, like the low-light image above. Or when the foreground is dim but the background is bright. Whenever HEIC is having difficulties, try the new format.

But he goes on to point out that fixing ProRAW images with image-editing software is a requirement. “Shooting ProRAW really only makes sense if you intend to spend the time fine-tuning the image in post.” As noted earlier, the format includes minimal automatic editing by the iPhone 12 Pro. That’s up to the photographer. But by building the format on top of RAW, there’s plenty of the original image to work with.

Source: Austin Mann