Apple ProRaw versus JPEG: does it live up to the hype?

Apple ProRaw versus JPEG: does it live up to the hype?
(Image credit: Moment)

Every single year, Apple seems to be pushing its phone cameras to produce better quality results – as is the case with the iPhone 12 Pro family, and the advent of ProRaw with the latest iOS update.

Both the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max benefit from the new ProRaw format, but what does it actually do – and does it actually make that much difference to your images, or is it just hype? 

• Read more: Best camera phones

Images produced by most camera phones tend to have a certain aesthetic, which some may not find pleasing – and that's because camera phones produce images that are highly processed, which can often lead to compromises in both detail and color accuracy.

It's this processing that really affects the image quality on smartphones. The huge amount of contrast, sharpening and noise reduction can sometimes leave you with a pulp of an image – especially if you attempt to edit them. However, ProRaw from Apple may end up being a huge leap forward. 

A recent video from Moment (above) compares the results with ProRaw versus standard JPEGs from the latest iPhone 12 Pro cameras. Using a tripod to closely match each scene, Moment takes a number of images with both formats – with the great thing about the iPhone user interface being how straight forward it is to switch between the two image types. 

It's probably unlikely that you'll be able to see a clear difference between the images on a smartphone screen; however, on a larger more professional screen, there seem to be some distinct differences. 

The results from ProRaw are definitely more pleasing to look at, and lack the over-processed look. JPEGs from the iPhone have a comparatively harsh, 'chunky' look to them, which is due to the extreme amount of contrast and sharpening being baked in. The ProRaw files, however, look like they were taken with a 'proper' camera. 

The colors from the ProRaw files are more pleasing to look at, and they seem to transition better as well. The biggest difference, though, is that details look clearer and more natural.

It's definitely interesting to see how this could impact the photography industry. With the help of computational photography, these less processed images could be of great benefit when taking shots with a smartphone.

Read more: 

iPhone 12 Pro vs Max
Best iPhone for Photography
Best camera phone

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Usman Dawood

Usman is a commercial and architectural photographer based in West Yorkshire, who has been working professionally for over seven years. He has also spent over four years as a writer for the biggest photography sites in the world, including Staff Writer for Digital Camera World, senior staff writer for FStoppers, and tech writer for Petapixel. 

With a particular interest in technology developments, high-resolution imaging and the high-end cameras, Usman has been on the cutting edge of camera news as well as writing features about medium format systems and global shutters, and has reviewed some of the latest Leica cameras as well as a tripod that’s even taller than Andre the Giant!