The iPhone 14 Pro is the first phone that could replace my camera

Phone cameras have improved year by year, but no matter how much they improve, they still fall short of professional cameras. This year is different.

Last year, I did a fun comparison between my Canon R5 and my iPhone 13 Pro. These results were pretty impressive, so much so that I ended up printing images from this test to see how far we could push the iPhone 13 Pro image. Although I was happy with the results, at no time did I inspect the images and felt comfortable saying that I could shoot with the iPhone instead of my Canon R5 given the two options. I was expecting the same results this year, and halfway through editing my images, I realized something was different.

Throughout these tests, I shot in raw on my Canon R5 and iPhone 14 Pro. I only used the built-in camera app on the iPhone because last year I had issues with third-party apps so close to release. It’s also the most realistic in practice, as it’s built right into iOS. I only tested the new “main” camera (24mm/1x) as it got the new 48mp sensor while the telephoto and wide angle lenses didn’t receive upgrades significant enough to warrant comparisons this year. All photos were taken on a tripod and I will provide the resulting settings that the iPhone used automatically. All photos on the Canon R5 were taken in combination with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L adapted to different settings that you will find throughout the article.

All images have been edited using only Lightroom Classic. I think the most authentic way to do this comparison was to start by editing my Canon R5 images, as if I was editing them for my portfolio. Then I would edit the iPhone 14 Pro images to best match the Canon images. Throughout this article, I will present images from “Camera A” and “Camera B”. These will be mixed throughout the test, but I challenge you to browse through the images and see if you can guess which image is taken from each camera. The answer will be located after the article gallery.

First sunrise

Last year, I remember being very surprised that the iPhone could capture a whole range of light at sunrise, and it’s even better this year with the iPhone 14 Pro. This scene had no cloud cover, so the light quickly turned harsh, resulting in a scene with huge dynamic range, something that persists throughout many of these tests.

Camera settings:

  • Canon R5: f/11, 1/40 sec, ISO 100
  • iPhone 14 Pro: f/1.8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

Notice the shadow areas compared to these snow capped peaks hit by bright direct light. Both cameras were able to capture that amount of dynamic range without too much trouble, a noticeable improvement over last year for the iPhone. This is where things get interesting and what completely blew my mind when editing the photos. Zooming in was always where the iPhone image collapsed to immediately reveal which camera was taking each frame. Prepare yourselves.

Zooming to 100% on both images, do you see what I see? I let the pictures speak for themselves. If you want to download this raw file for yourself, you can find the updated link in the video above.

blue hour

Low light is where all small sensors struggle, and phone sensors are the smallest of the bunch. Any review you read will continually mention that low-light performance is directly correlated to sensor size. This was the toughest test of this year’s comparison for the iPhone 14 Pro.

Camera settings:

  • Canon R5: f/8, 1/4 sec, ISO 100
  • iPhone 14 Pro: f/1.8, 1/115 sec, ISO 125

Still, the results, especially at smaller resolutions, are nothing short of amazing. I had trouble matching the iPhone image to the R5, but not necessarily because the data isn’t there to match it. That’s largely because it’s the image I’ve edited the most. Artistically speaking, this was the most pleasing scene of the whole comparison, so I pushed the Canon R5 image as far as I could. Trying to get similar highlights, detail and color science between the two cameras was a challenge, so you can definitely see a bit of that in play here.

Zooming in to 100%, you will notice a slight difference in quality between the two cameras. After taking these images and learning the strengths and weaknesses of the iPhone 14 Pro, shadow recovery in low light scenes like this will have degraded quality. That being said, I’m still very impressed with the final image. I’m also very curious how this scene would have turned out if I had used an app like Halide to adjust my ISO and shutter speed. If you are interested in more tests like this, let me know in the comments.

That’s how the picture started, straight from the iPhone. Keeping in mind that almost all iPhone raw photos look like a black hole in scenes like this. This should provide context into which the image was pushed into the edit.

second sunrise

Another sunrise in the blue sky with great dynamic range, so much, in fact, that many photographers around me were taking bracketed shots, but I was able to capture it all in one exposure with both cameras.

Camera settings:

  • Canon R5: f/8, 1/30 sec, ISO 100
  • iPhone 14 Pro: f/1.8, 1/580 sec, ISO 80

As someone who rarely photographs sunrises or sunsets against blue skies, I decided to edit this image a little differently from my usual style. Many of you reading this could very easily take an image like this and try to give it a “movie” look, or you could push the contrast hard to create a high-key image, or you could even replace the heaven if your heart willed. So, I tried myself with a different editing style to see how the iPhone 14 Pro handled such editing.

Zooming in to 100% you’ll see a bit of loss of detail in the shadows, just like our blue hour shot. I notice that shadow detail is lost a bit, while any areas that had adequate light retain information a bit better.

The details

In this final image, we’re testing a more realistic time for those of you who don’t wake up for sunrise or stay out for sunset. This was taken a few hours before sunset, giving us long shadows, a ton of contrast and most importantly testing how much detail the iPhone 14 Pro can pick up in a busy scene.

Camera settings:

  • Canon R5: f/5.6, 1/40 sec, ISO 100
  • iPhone 14 Pro: f/1.8, 1/640 sec, ISO 100

This was another absolutely impressive image for the iPhone 14 Pro. A scene with plenty of light to work with gives us an immense amount of detail in both images. I would be surprised if you could tell the difference between these two images without cropping.

Zooming to 100% left me at a loss for words. Not only is the image filled with detail, but highlight retention and shadows are also present. It’s not something I could have shown you last year, where zooming in would have lost way too much detail in a scene like this. It was this photo that literally made me walk away from Lightroom and walk around feeling like I got results.

During this walk, I had fleeting thoughts: “Am I seeing this correctly?” “Did I accidentally edit two Canon R5 images?” “It does not go well.” I don’t use hyperbole lightly when I say I could easily see myself taking pictures with the iPhone 14 Pro that will end up in my portfolio or for sale on my print site. This is not a camera replacement. It should be obvious that there are a lot of limitations. However, if I’m about to pack a bag and climb a mountain, and something magical happens without my camera by my side and I’m taking pictures with the iPhone 14 Pro, I would be professionally satisfied results under the right circumstances.

Another finding in this year’s test was that using the ApplePro Raw profile in Lightroom didn’t give me the best results. By accident, I discovered that I had an easier time matching images from iPhone to Canon using the built-in Apple profile. Above you’ll see the same image side by side where I couldn’t quite get the highlights with ApplePro Raw. I would love to hear your experience below if you have any edits to make to these images. If you want to see more pixels, my thoughts, and a little more about editing these images, be sure to watch the video located in the article.

Below is a gallery of all the images in this comparison so you can enlarge them a bit more. Also included are a few images straight out of the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera, which are comically bad compared to their raw counterparts. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, as this was an eye-opening experience for me.

The iPhone is: ABAB

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