I seem to keep jumping between the line of hobbyist and pro when it comes to photography. I take on client work for photography a couple of times a year but I still very much consider myself a hobbyist as I take a lot of pictures purely for fun.
In the last two years things have changed a lot when it comes to the pictures I take. I used to carry around my mirrorless camera everywhere. Now I barely do unless I know for certain there will be picture-taking opportunities.
I’ve been using the iPhone 13 Pro since it’s release and it’s truly amazing seeing how far camera tech in smartphones has come.
The 13 Pro has three cameras which very much dominate the back of the phone. I remember being blown away by how large the camera module was. There’s the 77mm Telephoto, 13mm Ultra Wide and the 26mm Wide lens.
I barely use the Ultra Wide if I’m honest. I much prefer the Wide and Telephoto as the photos are much cleaner and suit my style of photography.
I shoot exclusively in ProRAW. You can find this option in Settings > Camera > Formats. The reason for shooting in ProRAW is that I prefer having images that have a lot more data. ProRAW are 12-bit files which means they retain a lot more color and dynamic range. That makes it much easier to manipulate the images.
Here is an example of a before and after. On the left is the original image shot and on the right is my edited version. I’ve brought up the overall brightness of the image and changed the colours.
Here is another example. You can see the shadows have been crushed in the original. But with RAW it’s salvageable. I’ve brought up the shadows and also reduced the highlights, giving a much flatter image. It’s amazing that all of this can be done with a smartphone. This is something I would usually expect from a high-end professional camera.
I edit all of my photos in Lightroom. Main reason I use Lightroom is because it works on both my phone and laptop, so I can have all of my photos synced across. It also has all of my Lightroom presets which I use on every single image. It helps me have a consistent look across all of my images. I can simply copy and paste edits across very easily. My edits are usually very minimal and consist of mainly making exposure, contrast and saturation adjustments. I let the presets adjust the colors.
A notable and key feature of professional cameras is the subject separation they can provide. It’s something that comes down to physics and unfortunately I don’t think the iPhone will ever match (other than maybe through software?), but boy has it gotten much better.
In the three images above you can clearly see a nice background blur. I’m holding the subjects at pretty comfortable lengths away from camera and you can see a very natural focus fall off. It just amazes me that this is all on an iPhone.
There are two main reasons why I keep using a mirrorless camera, they are dynamic range and subject separation. My style of photography leans heavily into having blurred backgrounds. If the iPhone can ever match it, I’ll have even less reasons to carry around my mirrorless.
Night time photography isn’t something I usually do mainly because the sensors on the iPhone are so small. To gather the limited light you need a large sensor area. But there there is the clever night mode on the iPhone where it will ask you to stand still for a couple of seconds when you take a night time picture. By doing this, it’s exposing the sensor to the light for longer, giving it more time to gather the light. There is one drawback to this, if there’s something moving in your image, it can end up looking blurred. You can see that in the image above by looking at the bus at the bottom of the frame.
The few night shots I have taken have turned out great. The image above showing the London skyline came out much better than I expected.
My favourite camera on the 13 Pro is the Telephoto. The 77mm focal length provides some great angles. The longer focal length also provides some nice “layering”. I love layering in photos I shoot. The picture above is a good example of that. In the foreground you have the building on the left, the trees at the bottom and the restaurant on the bottom right. In the centre we have Tower Bridge and the you can quite clearly see the detail in the architecture.
Well lit interior shots look incredible when using the Wide camera. I find I can trust the white balance 99% of the time when shooting in any situation. The shot above is actually much more warmer looking in real life but the white balance on the iPhone levelled it out very well. And the benefit of shooting ProRAW is that if the white balance is a little off, you can easily adjust it without destroying the image.
The iPhone 13 Pro camera is great, like really great. It’s pretty incredible to see how far smartphone photography has come in past five years alone. I’m using my iPhone more than ever to take pictures and it’s replaced my mirrorless for a lot of things. Is it going to replace my mirrorless camera completely? No. But for everyday picture taking and for unplanned events, it is amazing camera and does the job really well. I’m looking forward to see how Apple can improve it even more in the coming years. I sometimes even dream of a dedicated camera made by Apple.