Smartphones are mature, with manufacturers looking for ways to stand out.
With the launch of the iPhone 15 Pro, Apple have put the focus very clearly on the professional video capabilities of the new handsets.
But there is more here than meets the eye…
The tech giant went so far as to shoot the latest Apple Event on the iPhone 15 Pro Max using the much touted new headline feature which makes all the difference – Apple LOG. The results have a deep depth of field and only use one lens, but otherwise demonstrate very good results, with a robust codec, very good dynamic range, good colour and very low noise even in the drone shots at night.
You can see for yourself here, although bear in mind not every shot is with the iPhone:
Apple makes a ‘thank you’ to Blackmagic and Beastgrip at the end, likely because Resolve was used to grade the footage! I really do hope Apple can continue to improve iMovie… I mean, Final Cut Pro X so that it meets the same standard especially for colour grading.
It is no secret that Apple have their eye on the mirrorless camera market, where increasingly phones are adopting key features of our much-loved enthusiast cameras.
Aware of how many Apple users are creative professionals, like photographers, filmmakers, musicians and social media content churner-outers, they are keen to make a new selling point of the iPhone – that of a B-cam to your Sony a7.
Actually though, what Apple has realised is that the not-so humble smartphone has the potential to become your A-cam.
The requirement for pro lenses is going to tail off, because AI and computational photography are going to replace them. One tiny basic lens, with a small sensor behind it can mimic the look and FOV of almost any full frame lens already, and can do so with increasing sophistication even for video. It is not there yet (and Apple admit as much by shooting the Special Event without any DOF simulation) but the usual argument against smartphones being physically too small for proper optics is going to end up completely moot.
There was a time not so long ago where processing power and memory bandwidth also put a limit on the quality of codec which you’d find on a phone. Now we have 10bit ProRes and even Cinema DNG RAW internal recording in 6K on select Android devices.
The other key advance of the iPhone 15 Pro Max has been the long awaited switch to USB-C. Apple could have done this in a halfhearted way and just used it as a charging port. Instead they have gone with a full speed implementation, and really opened things up. The support for ProRes recording on external SSD drives was a real surprise, as is the video output and monitoring capabilities which really put it on a level playing field with a professional mirrorless camera.
Of course, Apple is doing all this on their flagship phone to sell more phones – and to differentiate the iPhone to competitors. With ProRes, Apple LOG, USB C and a Mac, you now have a professional filmmaking workflow with just your stock iPhone and no third party apps, from capture to completion. With an Android device and a PC, the professional filmmaking capabilities are coming along too, but the workflow relies heavily on unofficial camera apps from third parties, like mcpro24fps. There is no standardised LOG profile across all the different handsets either.
I am very interested to see if Apple step things up again in their camera ambitions.
Of course the temptation is to think that a Apple video-orientated mirrorless camera to rival Blackmagic and Sony would be the way to go.
In reality this might only cannibalise the iPhone and in 10 years time seem like an retrograde step once computational photography has surpassed traditional optics.