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Home / Tips and Tricks / iPhone 12 Pro and ProRaw Photos: Everything you need to know about Apple’s new photo file

iPhone 12 Pro and ProRaw Photos: Everything you need to know about Apple’s new photo file



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The developer beta of iOS 14.3 brings Apple ProRaw photo support on the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. Once you enable ProRaw, you will see a new “RAW” button at the top right of the native camera app.

Patrick Holland / CNET

When Apple announced the new iPhone 12 ($ 829 at Amazon) family in October, one way it differentiated the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro ($ 999 at Amazon) and 12 Pro Max from the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini was with Apple’s new raw photo format. It is called ProRaw and gives you the ability to modify a raw file that is infused with the iPhone’s computational smart photos. Aside from ProRaw’s listing on the October event, not much was known about it. The release of the beta version of iOS 14.3 supports Apple ProRes photos and gives us more clarity on how it works.

If you are currently taking a photo on your iPhone, it will be saved as a JPEG or Raw file. Think of a JPEG file as a meal served to you in a restaurant. You’re basically stuck with how the restaurant prepared the food and you don’t have many options to change it. In a JPEG file, your phone controls the color balance, exposure, noise reduction, sharpening, and other aspects of a photo.

A raw file is more like a bag of groceries with all the ingredients you need to prepare a meal. You can adjust a photo to look the way you want. However, the camera sensor on your phone is small, especially when compared to larger sensors on a mirrorless or DSLR camera, which means it gets a lot of image noise and has a small dynamic range. However, JPEGs (or the newer HEIC format) get a boost to ‘fix’ those minor sensor flaws in the form of Smart HDR, Deep Fusion and Night mode on the iPhone.

Raw photos can only taken on iPhone with a third-party app, such as Halide or VSCO, and without any math help. This means you can create a JPEG file with the native iOS camera app and get the computing power from Apple or take a raw photo with a third party app without this app.

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Apple ProRaw is not enabled by default. You have to go to the camera settings to enable it, which adds the “RAW” power button to the iOS camera app.

Patrick Holland / CNET

The addition of ProRaw changes all of this. It’s native to the iOS camera app on the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, but it’s not on by default. Go to to enable it Settings > Camera > Formats and under a new To take a picture section there is a switch to flip Apple ProRaw on and off. You will see a new one at the top right of the camera app Raw button to quickly switch between ProRaw photos and JPEG (or HEIC) photos.

ProRaw works on all four iPhone 12 cameras and in night mode. It uses the widely supported Adobe Digital Negative or DNG file format and includes information for 12-bit color and support for 14 stops of dynamic range. Files are large, averaging about 25 megabytes.

read more: iPhone 12 Camera Tips: A few tweaks can take your phone photos to the next level

The approach Apple took with ProRaw is similar to how Google stores raw files created with HDR Plus on Pixel phones. ProRaw files are made up of multiple image frames and keep the data of the best parts of those photos. Deep Fusion analyzes those images pixel by pixel to create a deep photo file. The A14 Bionic performs all of these analyzes in real time without causing shutter lag.

MacOS and iOS both support and can convert ProRaw files, as well as apps such as Dark Room and Pixelmator. You can edit ProRaw images in the Photos app. The photos are given an unedited tag in the same way as HDR videos. Since the file is DNG, apps like Adobe Lightroom will work, but will work better once they support ProRaw.

“We are working closely with Apple and are excited about the opportunities ProRaw can bring to our common customers,” said an Adobe representative. “We don’t have any details to share at the moment.”


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It is also worth noting that support for basic raw photos on iPhone will still be available to third parties. In fact, developers can provide support for both raw and ProRaw photos in their apps.

At this point, there’s no word on whether ProRaw will be included in the final version of 14.3, or when it will be officially available to iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max owners.


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