iPhone RAW photography

A few weeks ago I did some comparative analysis of the image quality from three cameras and wrote about it here. These results were interesting and have affected my way forward with photography. While I had a suitable subject set up, I thought that I would carry out another comparison with the camera that is just about always to hand: my iPhone …

What I was not trying to do was compare the iPhone with “real” cameras [though it would not do too badly in that comparison!]. What I was interested in was evaluating how I use the iPhone to take photos. Most iPhone photographers use the standard built-in app and this can produce great results. As mine is an iPhone 7 PLUS, which has two cameras, the app can perform some very clever tricks. However, the app can only capture JPEG [or HEIC] which is rather processed/compressed. I would rather shoot RAW.

As Apple used to say [and maybe still do], “there’s an app for that” and, indeed, there are a number of apps that capture RAW format images [DNG to be precise] and, thus, give the photographer more control and latitude. Over the last couple of years, I have tried a number of apps for this job – 4 in total, which is by no means exhaustive. The ones I tried were: ProCamera, Obscura, Halide and Lightroom Mobile. All of them produced what seemed to be acceptable results. In fact, I rather assumed that a RAW image was a RAW image and did not think about it too much. I concentrated on the operation and facilities of the apps and eventually settled on Lightroom Mobile as the synchronization with the desktop software was a breeze. I heard some rumors that different apps produced different results and this is what I set out to assess.

Once again, I took the same picture, using the same settings, with each app. As the aperture is fixed [I used the “wide angle” camera], the only variable was ISO, so I chose 200. Then I inspected the results, mainly being concerned with image detail/quality. Here are abstracts:

LightRoom Mobile

 

Obscura

 

Halide

 

ProCamera

The bottom line is that the images do vary. I have no understanding of why this is the case and will need to do some more research. My feeling is that Lightroom Mobile does worst and ProCamera may be best …

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