Apple’s Photonic Engine technology improves low-light camera performance

The iPhone 14 offers a 49 percent improvement in low-light performance, and it’s all thanks to a tweak Apple made to its Deep Fusion image pipeline. During its Far Out event on Wednesday, Apple unveiled all of the camera improvements planned for the 2022 iPhone lineup, with the company’s new “Photonic Engine” topping the list of improvements. When you take a night photo with the new iPhones, Apple’s Deep Fusion image processing algorithm jumps into action sooner than before, resulting in better colors and faster performance.

On the iPhone 14 Pro, Apple claims that the Photonic Engine offers improved low-light performance for all of the device’s cameras. The front-facing telephoto and main cameras are apparently up to 2x better at capturing night scenes, while the ultra-wide camera is up to 3x better in less-than-ideal lighting. A new action mode, available on all four new iPhone models, allows the smartphones to use all of their sensors to record more stable videos.

iPhone 14 Pro specifications

Apple

Apple combines these software improvements with new hardware. For the first time, the company is using a 48-megapixel main sensor in one of its Pro models. Bucking the industry trend, Apple stuck with 12-megapixel sensors while many of its Android peers began shipping phones with 48-megapixel and 108-megapixel main cameras. This has allowed them to use techniques like pixel binning so their phones can capture more detailed photos in optimal lighting conditions, which Apple will now do.

For the most part, the iPhone 14 Pro uses its 48-megapixel camera to capture 12-megapixel photos, maximizing the amount of light it can capture. However, the phone’s ProRAW mode also allows you to capture full 48MP files, which opens the door to plenty of editing possibilities. Another benefit of the new sensor is that the iPhone 14 Pro will offer true 2x zoom.

Apple has also equipped the main camera with new glass. It now features a seven-element f/1.78 aperture lens with a 24mm equivalent focal length. According to Apple, 24mm is ideal for a wide range of subjects, including portraits, but it’s definitely on the broad end of what you’d want for photographing people.

iPhone 14 Pro Zoom

Apple

Other hardware improvements to the photo experience include a new ultra-wide camera with a 1.4µm pixel pitch that offers a better macro mode. Apple has also completely revised the flash module on the iPhone 14 Pro. According to the company, it now automatically takes into account the focal length of the photo you’re trying to take, which theoretically gives better results. In practice, you’ll still shoot the flash directly at your subject, so still expect bright light. The regular iPhone 14 doesn’t have the redesigned module, but Apple says the flash is 10 percent brighter on the standard models. For selfies, there’s a 12-megapixel autofocus front camera, a feature also found on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus.

On the video front, the iPhone 14 Pro’s Cinema mode can now record 4K video at up to 30 frames per second – although you can stay at 24 fps for results that look more like a film. As before, the iPhone 14 Pro can record ProRes content at 4K and 30fps on all but the 128GB model – which is capped at 1080p due to storage limitations.

Follow all the news from Apple’s iPhone event exactly here.

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Russell Falcon

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