With yesterday’s release of iOS 14.3, Apple officially rolled out its new ProRAW photo format to iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max users. Travel photographer Austin Mann has now published an in-depth look at the new ProRAW photo format, calling it a “massive leap forward” for the iPhone.

Mann starts off with a short explanation of why ProRAW is an important step forward for the iPhone:

Pro photographers traditionally choose to shoot in RAW because it offers more control. Where there is more data (more color, more range, more everything), there is more latitude to push an image to achieve a vision, and now with ProRAW we have this luxury built right into the native iPhone camera app.

The comparison image below shows “dramatic difference in detail in the rock and the sky” when using ProRAW versus HEIC:

This images shows the difference in color:

What does 12-bit mean? Well, 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, which basically means ProRAW can render far more nuanced shades of each color than lossy formats like JPEG or HEIC.

One thing that Mann points out is that you’ll see the most significant impact with ProRAW when shooting in “extreme scenarios.” This means that not everyone will necessarily benefit from ProAW in every instance:

You’ll see the most significant impact in extreme scenarios — ones where the general algorithms can’t do all the work. Shooting scenarios like indoor mixed lighting (cool and warm), extremely low light (like shots of stars), super high dynamic range images (like shadowy foreground with sun-lit red rock in the background).

The conclusion for Mann is that ProRAW makes him comfortable enough to rely on his iPhone 12 Pro in more situations:

With 12-bit color, 14 stops of dynamic range, and dramatically more creative control, Apple ProRAW is a massive leap forward in professional imaging with iPhone. I’m now comfortable relying on my iPhone 12 Pro to capture a strong photograph in virtually any light conditions because I know I’m able to custom tailor the processing to my taste, instead of relying on computational generalizations designed for most users.

As usual, Mann’s full blog post is full of detailed comparison images, tips and tricks, and much more. You can check it out on his website right here.

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