Apple unveils iPhone 12 Pro, the first smartphone that can shoot, edit, and playback 10bit 4K Dolby Vision HDR. And, this is kind of a big deal.
Other new (and notable) features include the new A14 Bionic chip, Super Retina XDR OLED displays across the line-up, improved camera systems and LiDAR Scanner on the Pro models.
By now, I’m sure all of you know everything spec-wise about the new iPhone 12 models. From 5G connectivity across-the-board, to MagSafe, wireless charging, and OLED displays, which I am sure are important to lots of folks, but if you’re like me, I’d take the camera and HDR video improvements over Internet speed any day.
iPhone 12 Pro models offer the highest quality video in a smartphone, and are the first cameras and only devices in the world to enable an end-to-end experience for HDR video with Dolby Vision, up to 60 fps, and even better video stabilisation for cinema-grade productions.
Dolby Vision grading is “processed live and sustained during editing”. Users can edit photos and videos in HDR natively in the Photos app or iMovie, and later this year in Final Cut Pro X.
And of course, for 4K Dolby Vision playback you’d need to have either an Apple TV 4K or an AirPlay-enabled TV. Or watch it on your iPhone 12 Pro.
Capture and edit 4K Dolby Vision HDR video
10bit HDR video in a smartphone is a big deal. And to prove their point further, Apple hire 3-time Oscar winning cinematographer Emannuel “Chivo” Lubetzki to for this:
Regardless of how you feel about “smartphone” footage these days, the footage that Chivo shot on the iPhone 12 Pro looks nothing short of incredible. The detail in the sky, the rich yellows and orange tones of the desert, and just the overall vibrant look is not like any other smart phone footage I’ve seen.
And I’ve never been a fan of the way smartphone video looks – all sharpened, and video-like. But this (apart from deep DoF) appears in on a different level. And of course, you could say that no matter what camera you give an artist like Emmanuel Lubetzki, he’d make it look amazing, and you’d be correct. But something about this new way that the iPhone 12 captures HDR video “on-the-fly” is very exciting..
I somehow, find it really strange to see a 3-time Academy Award-winning DoP run around a desert with an iPhone and a DJI Osmo OM-4 gimbal. But, after all, we’ve seen crazier things this year…
Say what you will about HDR, but to see advanced HDR tech such as Dolby Vision – captured in-device, the can also edit it and play it back afterwards.
iPhone 12 Pro Video Resolutions and Frame Rates
Nevertheless, just like you, I am also confused as to what iPhone model can shoot 4K/60p HDR Dolby Vision.
In a nutshell, the iPhone 12 Pro (and Pro Max) shoot HDR Dolby Vision up to 4K/60p, while the lower-tier iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini get 4K/30p HDR video. So, in reality, as long as you can live with the much smaller screen size, you can shoot 4K/30p Dolby Vision HDR on the cheapest new iPhone – the 12 mini.
Apart from this (and of course the optical differences and number of lenses on each model) all new iPhone 12 models can shoot 1080p at 120 fps or 240 fps slow-motion video, as well as SDR 4K in 24fps, 30fps, and 60fps.
Dolby Vision HDR 4K up to 60p (10bit)
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
Dolby Vision HDR 4K/30p (10bit)
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 mini
What’s the big deal with Dolby Vision HDR?
So, why is Dolby Vision HDR and HDR video (in 10bit) such a big deal you may ask? Well, unlike the more common (and open HDR standard) HDR10, which is not only limited to 10bit, but also “render” the whole scene in HDR at once – as opposed to the “dynamic HDR” that Dolby Vision offers.
HDR10, HDR10+ vs. Dolby Vision
However, despite its superior colour rendition, Dolby Vision also supports up to 12bit (which no current consumer TV supports), but it does something very clever – it “down-converts” this 12bit color depth to a more “display-able” 10bit imagery.
Moreover, Dolby Vision’s cleverness is way more than that 12bit support. It’s algorithm works in a much smarter way than conventional HDR standards – it works it’s HDR magic on a frame by frame basis. Thus, giving you a much better and richer picture quality, with brighter highlights and richer shadows.
The downside of Dolby Vision is that it is expensive to license (since it’s proprietary tech by Dolby), and is very process-intensive. And this is where, the monstrously fast A14 Bionic chip comes in handy. Something that competing Android makers will probably spend the next couple of years trying to catch up to.
Apple ProRAW comes to iPhone 12 Pro
No, not ProRes RAW (I wish), but something Apple calls “ProRAW”. Because if it has the Pro in front it has to be better right? Well, we’ll see about that once the phones start shipping (and Apple updates iOS 14 with ProRAW support later in the year).
ProRAW uses Apple’s multi-frame image processing and computational photography with the versatility of a RAW format.
However, I doubt it’s something you absolutely must-have, as iPhones already have support for raw photos. Nonetheless, it’s something that really no other smart phone has, but the benefits of which will have to be evaluated at a later point in time.
Also, it’s worth nothing that ProRAW is coming only to the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max models in a future iOS 14 firmware update.
What’s New in the iPhone 12 Pro Camera?
iPhone 12 Pro comes equipped with a new 7-element lens Wide camera with an f/1.6 aperture, meaning – it delivers 27 percent improved low-light performance in both video and stills capture.
The camera-trio on the Pro models is also complimented by the Ultra Wide camera with a 120-degree field of view, perfect for capturing more scene in tight spots or epic landscapes; and a 52 mm focal length Telephoto camera, great for framing portraits, bringing the optical zoom range to 4x.
iPhone 12 Pro Max gets more improvements in cameras. The new f/1.6 aperture Wide camera is now complimented by a 47 percent larger sensor with 1.7μm pixels for a massive 87 percent improvement in low-light conditions.
It also includes the expansive Ultra Wide camera and a 65 mm focal length Telephoto camera for increased flexibility with closer shots and tighter crops. And unlike the iPhone 12 Pro, it offers 5x optical zoom range.
However, for video creators probably the biggest differentiating factor after 4K/60p HDR is the new sensor-shift optical image stabilisation, which is only present on the flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone 12 Pro gets a dual-optical image stabilisation.
All-New LiDAR Scanner for iPhone 12 Pro (and Pro Max)
Oh, yeah – I almost forget about LiDAR. The all-new LiDAR Scanner measures light distance and use pixel depth information of a scene, which means you get a lot more realistic AR experiences and significantly better autofocus in low-light scenes in both photos and video mode.