TRAVEL REPORT: Fall Fun in the Windy City – Nocturnal Adventures with the iPhone 14 Pro – Economy Class & Beyond – Kevin Marshall | Ad On Picture

Nocturnal adventures with the iPhone 14 Pro
Fall fun in the Windy City

In this adventure:

It’s time for some travel tech – with the iPhone 14 pro and be camera array.

I’m not going to do a full review of the iPhone 14 Pro – there are plenty of other places out there that have written or published their article about it – instead I’m going to throw a challenge at the camera – night photography.

Evening and night photography poses challenges for a camera – this is where these wonderful high-speed lenses come into play.

The iPhone has three lenses:

  • Ultrawide – 12MP Ultra Wide: 13mm, ƒ/2.2 aperture and 120° field of view
  • Normal – 48 MP main camera: 24 mm, aperture ƒ/1.78 with image stabilization
  • Telephoto – 12MP 3x telephoto: 77mm, f/2.8 aperture with optical image stabilization.

The lenses also support 3x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; 6x optical zoom range; digital zoom up to 15x. Given that there’s now a sub-f1.8 lens in the camera, it should be able to gulp in a lot of light.

But how does it fare in the real world on a cold Chicago night?

We start on South Michigan Avenue. While things that are being fixed work well, the camera struggles a bit to keep up with the city’s fluid traffic. Although I do note that the camera tends to overexpose whatever blues it can capture.

Switching to Cloud Gate with matte gray light seems to do well with stopping motion as the crowds are constantly moving. The iPhone camera focused more on the gray evening than on the cool blue tones.

However, if you find a bit of blue sky, you’re fine as the camera tries to correct itself. Again, by default, the iPhone loves to over-correct blues.

Let’s check 3x what the camera offers. I go from an ultra-wide angle through every lens (except for the 2x zoom – which uses just 12-megapixels of the main lens’ 48-megapixel array).


Extra wide


normal


3x zoom

The main lens is still the best performing as you can see in this image, capturing the gray of the cloud while the blue twilight comes in nicely.

In heavy blackout, let’s walk down South Michigan Avenue. Like most lenses and sensors, the camera feeds on light – although it can freeze what is happening in this picture very well.

Crossing the North Michigan Avenue bridge over the Chicago River provides plenty of light for your nighttime architectural photography needs. Again, shooting with the main lens gives you the best chance of swallowing any lux of light it can get.

Even mixing darkness with the Chicago River can add some depth to a photo.

With limited light when you look up there are challenges. But the lenses performed ok here. Remember to keep calm if you want those crystal clear images. The iPhone helps here with its long exposure feature, but it requires an important skill — keep your hand still for a second or more.

And trust me – this can be harder than it sounds (coming from someone used to holding DSLRs for 1-2 seconds and hoping the images aren’t so blurry). Yes, the smaller form factor and greatly reduced weight help a lot here – but it can be a challenge.

One of the problems iPhone cameras have for… *lost track of* over the years is the internal reflections that the lenses sometimes give off. Unfortunately, nothing has changed with the coatings, which leave annoying stains, as you can see in the picture above on the right.

It’s something to be aware of, and sometimes forces a change in how you shoot or the joy of post-processing in Adobe Lightroom/Photos/your app gift of choice.

ProRAW? RAW? DNG?

One thing Apple has finally done is debunking ProRAW (Apple’s RAW image file format) to its user base in the native camera app. This is great for someone who endlessly enjoys playing with digital negatives when time permits. Digital RAW files allow a photographer to go beyond basic camera settings while playing with a file’s contents to their heart’s content.

Unfortunately, Apple has yet to learn the meaning of CRAW (Compressed RAW). Here’s what’s in Finder when I imported my photos:

Forgiveness: almost enough 70 MB per night photo? Even uncompressed RAW from my EOS R doesn’t hit that hard, with the largest I’ve come across being around 50MB and with CRAW applied around 21MB per file.

Certainly a lot of room for optimization.

It also means that those working with ProRES or ProRAW will have to grossly overestimate storage requirements for their iPhone 14 Pro, as the base 128GB device won’t be able to consistently hold 70MB files (and I have Reports seen of files scaling up to 125MB per image).

The ProRAW output is fortunately encoded in Adobe DNG (Digital Negative) and not a proprietary format – for which one should be thankful (although Casio, Lecia, Pentax, Ricoh and Sigma are the ones that use it as an option in their camera with DNG , which is controlled by Adobe but made available royalty-free, this is one way to ensure we don’t get caught up in the joy of closed formats and outdated files.

File obsolescence is a real risk as we evolve in the digital world as experiences are lost as servers go down and support files disappear (just look at the gaming industry where a server goes down and the experience disappears ). In the commercial space it has happened more than once that application vendors have dropped support for products – even for me (I used a tool called Written which dropped support for the UK available application – so I had content in an application caught I could no longer access).


Yes. Obsolescence is one thing. Even with modern software.

Luckily I had a copy of the installer so I could bring it to my current device and grab content.

While I’m not advocating the full move to DNG, it’s something to keep in mind – even if the file spec comes from Adobe (and they’re just as guilty of pushing features and products into obsolescence as anyone else out there – the recent Pantone drama that happened), it’s a better fix for now.

Where was I? RAW iPhone files.

All I do is optimize the photo in Adobe Lightroom – as it can handle and read DNG files with ease.

Here’s the plain RAW file as it came in.

Well, there’s one issue that needs fixing – we’re enjoying the lens flare with a stray white dot (which is up on the right globe). Let’s use the healing tools to get that out of the way.

Well the stain removal makes me happy. Your mileage will of course vary.

After that, Lightroom has tools to help us further and we use the automatic tone and white balance correction so that the basic corrections can be made. It also chose a ProRAW profile to get us started.

From this we get the following picture.

Now comes the fine tuning. From here it’s time to let off steam and explore, whether through your own settings – like I did here:

What this output gives:

I went for a much punchier output with lighter red tones and increased the exposure to show more of the building to which the Chicago Theater sign is attached.

Of course, Lightroom has a number of built-in filters and presets. I’ve used some from the Urban Action Preset Pack in this demonstration.

I also tried one from photographer Sam Nash’s preset packs, which I use more for portraits.

RAW files also allow you to get into detail – remember what I said about the iPhone reflecting light? Let’s take a closer look at the harvest here.

If you look at the A, you’ll see the highlights of the G below flipped up – which is pretty annoying. It’s something you’ll notice with pixel peeping, but also something to be aware of when going with a larger sensor. Unfortunately, the iPhone lens coating still can’t help you here.

The thing with a digital negative or RAW file, it brings flexibility. As a photographer or image editor, this flexibility is so important when you need to invest time in a project or have control over what you want someone to see…

throughts

Coming from an iPhone 13 Pro, this might not be the upgrade you might expect – yes, the camera hump has grown to accommodate its new lens arrangement. And they’re perfectly capable cameras that can really pack a punch at night – a challenging subject when working with a camera of any kind. Coming from an iPhone 12 Pro – so the differences are there and welcome (I tend to think of one two-year upgrade cadence cycle, which shocked an Apple employee when I brought this device in).

Allowing two years between cycles allows new technologies to mature and appreciate the changes — as well as fund new cases to keep the phone safe.

There are trade-offs – although the sensors have improved, the lens coatings are still far too susceptible to flare, which either requires a lot of care when shooting or be willing to spend the time in post-processing to correct.

I’m still a long way from this iPhone 14 Pro – but I’m happy with the results it delivers – and in photography, being happy with a camera is important.

Even when it’s plugged into your phone.

photographer Chase Jarvis once said

“The best camera is the one you have with you”.

A camera phone gives you the flexibility to capture the image you want without having to reach for a large rig and spend time setting it up.

Having a camera phone that you can control and manage will help you with that. For me, the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera meets this requirement.

Unless you want to be held hostage to iCloud fees, just make sure that if you can buy one, get one with as much storage as you can afford.


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