With iOS 10, RAW Photography Finally Becomes a Reality

Pictures snapped from an iPhone took a major step closer to professional status yesterday, and you don’t even need to buy the iPhone 7 to take advantage.

For the first time in the nearly decade-long history of iOS, Apple brought RAW image files to the Camera app in iOS 10 thanks to a new AVCaptureOutput that will also allow third-party apps to snap Live Photos along with RAW. While Android users have had this functionality for over a year, those with iOS devices (specifically the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro), now have the same pro-level option in their hands.

Apple's official platform notes state that, “The new AVCapturePhotoOutput class provides a unified pipeline for all photography workflows, enabling more sophisticated control and monitoring of the entire capture process and including support for new features such as Live Photos and RAW format capture.”

For many years, most DSLRs have offered RAW image capture which allows for greater manipulation of a photo’s properties when editing because no information is compressed, unlike JPEG files which record 256 levels of brightness compared to the 4,096 to 16,384 levels of brightness in RAW image files. That gives you a lot more “headroom" for your image editing, thus giving you more creative freedom.

While iOS 10’s RAW image capture is only available via the rear camera and you can’t use image stabilization when shooting RAW, Apple has added the ability to shoot RAW+JPEG with a single click and bracketed shooting. It’s exciting that Apple has finally given iPhone users the highest image quality possible straight out of the default Camera app, and since most of us carry a smartphone with a built-in camera, getting these professional-level capabilities really opens up the creative space for “mobile shooters” to not have to carry an extra camera such as a dSLR.

The only real drawback about shooting in RAW is the files are big. Weighing in around 30MB per file, shooting in RAW will eat through your iPhone’s storage quickly, so Apple has included an option to turn this functionality on and off.

Doug BensonComment