What is Apple ProRaw? A Look Into the New Hybrid Raw Format for iPhone

The new photo file format is available for iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, but what is it and what exactly does it do?

Mobile phone cameras have come a long, long way in the last few decades. My first camera to have a phone did so by plugging in a large tumor looking device into the port at the bottom. It captured images so low resolution you could almost count the pixels. Now, we have cameras built-in and more than capable of capturing photographs and video at a commercial grade.

There had always been a lot of skepticism over the ceiling of phone cameras. With little space for a sensor and even less for a lens, how would it ever compete with standalone camera bodies? Well, the physics, as one might expect, really did stay steadfast in its limitations. However, computational photography grew into the gap and has started to fill most corners of it. The faux depth of field — under the right circumstances, of course — can be indistinguishable to most people. The HDR images they can almost instantly produce are equal to, or better than, the best software we had available to us a decade or so ago. Well, now Apple is adding a new version of the raw file format which may improve on the basic raw file for phones.

That is to say, it’s not looking to topple raw format, but rather to add an extra dimension for phone users. Raw format on phone cameras is rarely utilized by the masses, perhaps in part due to how complicated it is to make changes when contrasted with filters. So Apple has aimed to split the difference and give users access to a file format that, while raw in essence and non-destructive editing, also makes use of the computational side of phone photography, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR, and the like.

Have you tried ProRaw yet? What did you think?

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