Lab – Apple iPhone 14 Pro: the photo in front of Samsung, but a notch behind Google

It took seven years before Apple radically changed its tune. Indeed, since the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, the Cupertino company had not changed the definition of its photo sensors, which seemed irremediably fixed at 12 megapixels. Then came the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max with a new 48MP main sensor! “This is a revolution”obviously.

As always in the world of Apple, the manufacturer of the sensor equipping the iPhone 14 Pro remains unknown. And not surprisingly, the company does not upset the operation of the very defined sensors found on modern smartphones.

From 48 to 12 MP in moments

So, by default, when you shoot with the main module (24 mm f/1.78 in eq. 24×36), the photos captured will always be in 12 Mpx, the terminal having recourse to the now well-known practice of pixel binning. With each shot, the device combines the pixels to offer an image that is certainly less defined but which, with a lot of software grub, would make it possible to obtain more successful images in low light, and also less heavy for the bowels of your phone.

To Digital, as you well know, each technological novelty tickles our curiosity. Also, as soon as we were able to get our hands on the new high-end smartphones from Apple, we tested them on our test benches.

A really relevant increase in definition?

This analysis goes through that of RAW files in full definition. Because yes, little coquetry made in Apple, to access 48 Mpx, you have to go through an image capture in its proprietary ProRaw format. We wanted to contrast the shots from the main module of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max with those of their most relevant competitors.

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In a rather classic way, we multiplied the tests on our scene by concentrating on the main module of each mobile. We also used their default mode, analyzing only the files from the pixel binning during the day, in low light, with and without “night mode”. Let’s save the battle for high definitions for a later battle.

By day

Vs the iPhone 13 Pro Max

By day, the similarity between the two Apple products is obvious. Despite the increase in definition, the merging of pixels, the change in focal length or even the variation in aperture, it is complicated to distinguish the iPhone 14 Pro Max from the iPhone 13 Pro Max. However, if you look closely, you can see differences here and there.



iPhone 13 Pro Max


iPhone 14 Pro Max

If the colorimetry is close, the management of micro-contrasts allows the iPhone 14 Pro Max to offer a slightly more detailed shot. It remains tenuous, but the new kid offers a slightly richer image than its elder. That being said, the leap forward is not as pronounced as one might have imagined with such a renewal.

Vs the Google Pixel 6

Google has become the expert in the software transformation of its photos. The shots from the Pixel 6 are very rich, almost too much, but it brings out most of the hidden details in our scene. Note for example the lines of the cards in the center or bottom left.



Google Pixel 6


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

Opposite, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is more timid regarding the management of micro-contrasts, but it has for it a better controlled colorimetry and closer to reality. Indeed, Google’s 2021 vintage smartphones tend to oversaturate colors that are not always representative of what our eyes can really observe.

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Vs the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung takes the opposite view of American manufacturers. Despite a much more defined main sensor, the South Korean manufacturer has opted for a softer treatment. It’s a little less flattering on a smartphone screen, but within the framework of the banknote in the center of the image, the rendering of the S22 Ultra is, from our point of view, more elegant, because less forced, if l compared with the iPhone 14 Pro Max.



Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

Nevertheless, this less advanced treatment is paid for as one moves away from the “hypercentre” of the shot. The image provided by the Samsung is thus less clear, almost more “mushy”, perhaps proof that the management of a 108 Mpx sensor is not always easy. Apple, by offering a more homogeneous image from start to finish, is doing slightly better.

By night

Vs the iPhone 13 Pro Max

Once the light is lowered considerably, we can see the contribution of the new sensor compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The fusion of the pixels makes it possible to recover more light and the shots produced by the 14 Pro Max are much sharper and brighter.



iPhone 13 Pro Max


iPhone 14 Pro Max

The most recent model takes a clear advantage when the night mode is deactivated, which is always interesting for photos on the fly.

Vs the Google Pixel 6

The Google Pixel 6, even without night mode, does everything to get closer to a scene lit like daylight. The tint is less orange, the whites are less vivid and the micro-contrasts less marked at Google, for an overall more successful shot in the center of the image.



Google Pixel 6


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

Apple nevertheless retains a slight advantage on the periphery of the photo.

Vs the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

As we had already noticed during the test of the S22 Ultra, excluding night mode, the images are hardly flattering. The rendering is far too soft, almost blurry, pushing the user to only use night mode.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

At the same time, the 14 Pro Max provides a more homogeneous image, much more usable, and with more readable details.

Night Mode

Vs the iPhone 13 Pro Max

If, once the night mode is deactivated, it is quite easy to observe a real difference between the two vintages of Apple, once this mode is activated, with a longer exposure time and a calculation of the captured images, the differences become more tenuous. It is even very complicated to determine which version of the iPhone prevails over the other. In detail, it even seems that the 13 Pro Max is doing a little better, a shame!



iPhone 13 Pro Max


iPhone 14 Pro Max

In addition, while during the day the colorimetry turned out to be quite similar, with the night mode, we observe an unequal treatment of the colors which leans, according to the tastes of the author, also in favor of the older of the two devices.

Vs the Google Pixel 6

Unsurprisingly, once in night mode, Google’s Pixel 6 lives up to its reputation. If it weren’t for a slight underexposure, you’d think the photo was taken with our daytime lighting. Admittedly, our scene lit under 3 lux is much darker and the light more orange, but we are still amazed at the software work operated by Google to offer a very clear and detailed shot.



Google Pixel 6


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is much more sparing in this area. If there was a draw without the night mode, Apple still has work to do to reach the level of its American rival once the “night vision” of the latter is activated.

Vs the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

As since the beginning of our article, the S22 Ultra offers a softer image, which is not necessarily to displease us. But even with the night mode, many details are lost and the scene remains excessively plunged into darkness.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

With the iPhone, comparing with the shot of the Samsung, it almost seems to have turned on a light as the scene is better exposed. Color processing isn’t the most accurate, but the photo turns out to be more flattering and usable.

A marginal difference between the two generations of Apple

After our various comparisons, this new version of the iPhone leaves us a little skeptical. As with other manufacturers, and even if Apple took its time, we expected significantly better photos. Admittedly, there is indeed an improvement at night compared to the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, but for the rest, in our laboratory, the differences are at the margins, and not always in the right direction.

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