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iPhone 14 Pro – the real deal?

A camera perfect for content creators?

iPhone 14 Pro
image courtesy of author

Who was I kidding!!

So, it’s been a few days since I was last with you. I try to take the weekends off, just to let the creative juices refill a little.

After the Far Out event, I had written here on a few occasions, telling you that the iPhone 14 was probably not for me. AirPods Pro 2nd generation and the new Apple Watch 8 were getting my attention, instead. Thos arrive this week.

As far as the iPhone 14 went, it kind of didn’t interest me that much. In my mind, I knew my YouTube channel (you can subscribe here), needed to up its game regarding the video quality. I am starting to think far more creatively about photography, the main A roll, B roll shots & thumbnails alike. With that in mind, I had seriously started to look at Canon cameras, and thought that would be the way to go.

Then, the iPhone 14 Pro reviews started to come in…

It all changed

My hesitation with getting a Canon was simple – I have never used a DSLR camera, and I was pretty sure I’d get in a total mess trying to set it up. There would be so much to learn, that it could easily have stood in the way of my production schedule.

Two reviews in particular changed everything for me. One from Matti Haapoja and the other from Peter McKinnon. Both of their videos were shot entirely on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, and the results looked stunning. Matti made a point, as if almost speaking directly to me, saying that if you can’t get good results from the iPhone 14, then you won’t stand a chance with a full-blown camera.

Learning my trade

Even the thumbnails at the top of my blogs, take time to set, and get the lighting right etc. The more time I take, the better the results and the more tips and tricks I pick up.

Based on those two reviews, pretty much, my mind was made up. I am a tech, audio, and Apple channel. Using an iPhone to shoot with seems almost a perfect match. So far, all the videos on my channel have been shot with a standard iPhone 12. Two years old, and the base model with only the two camera set-up.

If I spend the next year or two learning everything I can about product photography, lighting and editing, whilst also creating better videos, then I may be in a position to add a DSLR camera to my arsenal. But for now, I reckon the iPhone 14 will be more than enough.

The choice was made

So, Saturday morning, after some tossing and turning the night before, I jumped onto Apple’s website to see what I could collect that same day. I had always thought I wanted the iPhone Pro Max. I mean, I knew it had to be the Pro, and I just fancied the biggest of them all.

Other than screen size, you gain nothing by owing the Pro Max. Anyway, none of those were available in the UK for a good few weeks. OK, so the choice was narrowed to the regular iPhone 14 Pro.

Storage was going to be crucial to me. I was going to be shooting ProRes 4K video and also shooting images utilising the full 48MP main camera. Until now, I have shot the videos using the FilmicPro app on my iPhone 12. It allows me to shoot in 10 bit raw. Of course, I have always been limited by the small sensor in the 12, no matter how well lit my set was. I mention this now, though, as I’ve learned to be fastidious about deleting files from the iPhone, once they are on my MacBook Pro. Last week’s file, for instance, when shooting for the A roll alone, I shot for 50 minutes, and that file, was 50GB! Even so, I knew I’d be needing good amounts of storage. Initially, based on the fact my iPhone 12 was only 256GB and was only around half-full, after two years, I figured 512GB would be plenty. It probably would have been too, but none were available!

So, that all meant, my choice was sort of made for me – iPhone 14 Pro, in purple and a whopping 1TB of storage! For some context, that is the same amount of storage as my 27-inch iMac! That model, was available for same-day collection, from an Apple Store only about 10-miles from me.

So, collection time booked, and I off I popped…

It takes time

It was quite late on Saturday, by the time I got back, so I left it overnight before setting up.

As much as the set-up procedure gets ever easier, it remains a ball-ache, so it was the right choice to have waited. Sunday afternoon, on the sofa, I had plenty of time to go through getting the 14 ready to use. It just takes time, doesn’t it?

Logging back in to YouTube, the banking apps, Twitter and Netflix all takes time, right? It’s only then, a new iPhone truly starts to feel like yours. Luckily, I am pretty good with passwords, and heavily rely on Keychain. So, after a few hours, I was done, logged back into everything – I was all set.

Now to start to find out about those cameras…

First impressions

So, I think you’ll have gathered, the main driver behind buying this phone, was the camera. The specs are pretty damned impressive.

The main camera is 48MP with an ƒ/1.78 aperture. On the two Pro phones, you can actually opt to shoot in 48MP as well. To enable, go to Settings > Camera > Formats. Under Photo Capture, you’ll notice that you can turn on Apple ProRaw.

The benefits of shooting Raw are obvious. The amount of extra data you’ll capture in the shadows and highlights will allow for more meaningful work to be done in post, say in Photoshop. The files come down with a dng file extension, and, as you’d expect, are large! 61.9MB per image. You can turn ProRaw on and off on-screen, in the camera app. With all the storage, I have, I will be shooting all my shots for my content creation work in 48MP, and then delete. For family snaps etc, I will simply carry on as before.

The detail and results are amazing. Looking at the images on the mini LED, Liquid Retina XDR panel on my 16-inch MacBook Pro…you have to see it to believe it….I am sold! Wearing my other hat, as a graphic designer, I could almost use this camera for clients product shots, and not hire a photographer. The image capture is that good.

Video

This was what I really wanted to check out. And so far, I am pretty, darned, impressed.

So, there are a few features that are all new to me. Coming from the dark ages as I have, from iPhone 12 to 14, ProRes and the Cinematic mode were the two features I most wanted to check out.

For every YouTuber, we all hanker after that, soft, shallow depth of field. It is that which gives that soft, subtle background.

First, I’ll look at ProRes, straight from the camera app. Once again, head to Settings > Record Video > 4K at 24FPS. That is the sweet-spot you’ll want to choose. While there, enable the grids as well – it’ll really help you frame a shot. Set up Cinematic at the same time, and pick the same settings as just mentioned. It’ll help you shoot the most ‘movie-esque’ videos.

Marques Brownlee has recently launched a new channel, AutoFocus, and the whole mantra behind that channel is shooting with an iPhone. I mean, that man has every camera conceivable available to him, and yet is deciding to shoot with an iPhone. That, really, says it all for us mere mortals, huh?

The first thing I noticed, was the natural depth of field effect that the main camera offers. It is so subtle, but, beautiful. As before, you can select to turn off ProRes on screen. I have not worked with Apple’s ProRes CODEC before, but having looked at the results in Premiere Pro, it is pretty dynamic. So much detail is available to you in post. I think I may well shoot the next video using Apple’s ProRes format.

The other point that shocked me was the clarity and definition coming from the camera. I did a quick headshot video, and the detail it was picking up on my skin tones and face…amazing. There is just so much data there to play with.

The rack-pull effect cannot be overestimated, either. It is so natural. Just by walking in to frame, the in-focus background, just subtly shifts to a light blur. Honestly, I think I may prefer this to the Cinematic mode.

Although, in Cinematic, you can edit the rack-pull after the fact, it just looks a little more intense all over. And, you can’t shoot ProRes in Cinematic, either.

A tiny point, that will also help, is the new stabilisation feature. Shooting B roll, any camera wobble really irks me. I have not had a chance to try it yet, but this week, it will get a thorough workout!

FilmicPro

Finally, looking at my fav video app – FilmicPro, that too has come on a long way.

It, too, utilises the updated camera hardware. In Filmic, you can opt to shoot in ProRes 709 or 2020, or even in Dolby Vision HDR. Both the 10-bit and 8-bit options are still there for you as well.

I checked last night, and FilmicPro have updated the LUT’s pack to include LUT’s for the ProRes files. You can find that new LUT pack here.

Wrapping up

So far, the guilt I felt over buying this phone, and wondering if I had made a mistake, by not buying a DSLR camera, have been totally allayed.

My video requirements will probably never exceed YouTube, and I reckon this camera will be more than enough to give me all the results I could ever wish for. I can switch between FilmicPro, ProRes and 4K, 24-bit Cinematic modes. I have so many choices now, I’m spoiled.

I can’t wait to get this camera put to work over the coming weeks, and see what results it gives me. I love what I do anyway, but this new camera has really got me buzzing.

Oh – yet get a phone free with the camera as well!

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