Computational Photography Part 2

I wrote last year while in Iceland about the power of computers to compete with traditional metal and glass camera photography systems. With the introduction of the iPhone 12 Pro cameras, er, phones, Apple hasn’t so much upped the ante as it has illuminated even more clearly how this technological evolution is going to play out.

And it ain’t gonna be pretty for the SoCaNik triumvirate.

If you are a photographer or someone who pays attention to mobile technology, you no doubt already know about Apple’s new iPhones. You may have even seen Apple’s “Hi, Speed” event. [BTW, does anyone else think that the pandemic has given us superior online event presentations?] Computatiuonal photography has been something of a pregnant promise for some time, but that promise is finally being delivered.

5G is nice I guess, but to me, the real speed innovation is the A14 chip. This is one serious piece of silicon. 11 trillion ops per second; that’s a fsckload of processing power. Apple is applying all that capability to Night Mode [now available in UltraWide], Deep Fusion, LIDAR TrueDepth and HDR, with even brighter, longer lenses. And even more importantly, Apple is applying all that processing to the RAW file in a new format called Apple ProRAW. For the serious photographer, this may well be a game changer. I really don’t like that term; it’s so overused, but I think it fits here.
 
At heart, I am a Phase guy. I love the 151mpx images of the Phase IQ4. I love the labor of love that each images becomes. And for many of the same reasons, I love shooting with my Hasselblad X1D. Something about the way that medium format forces one to be a bit more deliberate in everything from composition to light management is so flipping enjoyable. But Apple is rapidly making the iPhone a pleasurable photographic tool, not merely the camera you have with you, but the camera you want to have with you. Within another generation or two, lower end DSLRs are going to be out of business.

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