iPhone 14 Pro cameras vs 13 Pro: yes, there is a difference

This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2022, CNET’s collection of news, tips, and advice on Apple’s most popular product.

The iPhone 14 Pro has several improvements to the camera system that have led to great reviews, including a 48-megapixel sensor and Apple’s new image processing technology, the Photonic Engine. This immediately puts the iPhone 14 Pro at an advantage over last year’s iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, at least on paper.

But how much difference do these new hardware and software features actually make in the real world?

I compared the cameras on both phones in a series of challenging situations in San Francisco to find out. All these photos were taken in the default camera app on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro, both running the latest version of iOS 16.

You can learn about the specific improvements to the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera system in this deep dive from my colleague Stephen Shankland. CNET’s Patrick Holland also has a great breakdown of the iPhone 14 Pro’s photos and how the Photonic Engine helps improve photo quality in challenging lighting conditions.

iPhone 14 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro
Lexy Savvides/CNET The iPhone 14 Pro 48-megapixel sensor captures more details

In terms of hardware, the biggest change between the two phones is the 14 Pro’s new 48-megapixel sensor on the wide main camera that’s also physically larger than the older iPhone, making as much of a difference to photo quality as the increase. in megapixels. The 13 Pro uses a 12-megapixel sensor.

Using a technique called pixel binning, the iPhone 14 Pro combines four pixels into groups to capture 12-megapixel photos with greater detail. You can also create a full 48-megapixel image when shooting in Apple’s ProRaw format, which gives photographers more flexibility when it comes to editing and restoring shadow and highlight details, among many other benefits.

In good lighting, the 12-megapixel shots from both the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro look the same at reduced magnification, and it may not be so easy to tell the difference. Only if you persevere a little, the advantages of the new sensor and image processing of the 14 Pro become clear.

In the images below, taken in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the tree trunks are more defined and sharp in the iPhone 14 Pro photo than the 13 Pro. Areas of fine detail, such as grass, also retain much more resolution. You can click through to the full-resolution image of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro for easier comparison.

The iPhone 14 Pro’s lens on the main rear camera also has a wider field of view than the 13 Pros: 24mm versus 26mm. This means you can get a little more out of your shot, which can be especially useful for landscape photography.

The iPhone 14 Pro can take photos with 2x zoom

The iPhone 14 Pro also has another trick up its sleeve: the 48-megapixel sensor can also take 12-megapixel photos with an effective 2x optical zoom. You will see a new 2x option in the camera interface. That crops the center of the image at a higher resolution to give you immediate flexibility with focal length, without the need for a fourth lens. The iPhone 13 Pro can also take photos with 2x zoom, but it uses digital zoom and does not have the same quality or level of detail as this new technique.

I find the new 2x option on the iPhone 14 Pro helps with portrait mode. Instead of just offering 1x and 3x options like on the older phone, it can also take portrait mode photos at 2x. This results in more natural looking shots to my eye. I find it more flattering for facial features than the wide view of 1x, or the zoomed in perspective on 3x.

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iPhone 14 Pro vs. 13 Pro: low light and night mode

The iPhone 14 Pro has a new image processing pipeline to improve shooting in medium to low light. In combination with the larger sensor, I can see the difference with the iPhone 13 Pro in all the photos I took at dusk. In the photos below, check out the detail captured on the tree branches near the skyline.

The newer phone also has better low-light noise cancellation, with no night mode enabled. Dynamic range has also been improved in low light, capturing more shadow and highlight details than the older phone.

Specifically for night mode shooting, both phones use similar exposure times, ranging from 1 to 3 seconds depending on lighting conditions. The image below of the iPhone 14 Pro has a more accurate white balance overall and slightly better detail when you zoom in.

Action mode is the star of iPhone 14 Pro video capture

Both the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro shoot in 4K at up to 60 fps. The video image looks the same when you film with the main camera on the back. But the iPhone 14 Pro unlocks additional video tools like the action mode. This is like having a gimbal attached to your phone to give smooth results when moving, except you don’t need any additional hardware – it’s all done in the phone.

Action mode crops your image slightly and lowers the resolution from 4K to 2.8K. But I think the results are incredibly impressive, especially when compared to the same video recording on the iPhone 13 Pro.

I chased my puppy, jogged along the beach, and took a fast-moving tracking photo in front of a waterfall in the park using the action mode, and the results were remarkable. The video image from the iPhone 14 Pro looks like I was filming with a stabilizer, which smooths out even sudden jerky movements. The iPhone 13 Pro’s video looks much shaky. You can see those action mode examples in the video at the top of this page, or in my colleague Patrick Holland’s video below.

iPhone 14 Pro has major camera improvements, but the iPhone 13 Pro is still impressive

Apple’s latest iPhone has some significant advantages over last year’s iPhone 13 Pro when it comes to both photo and video capture. Importantly, you don’t have to consider yourself a serious or professional photographer to take advantage of that 48 megapixel sensor. But the iPhone 13 Pro is still at the top in most other areas and still offers one of the best all-round phone cameras you can get.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce major changes, such as the Dynamic Island, a new 48-megapixel camera system and Apple’s new A16 Bionic processor. All of these upgrades come together to provide an experience that feels fresh and fast compared to older generations.

Read our Apple iPhone 14 Pro review.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

The iPhone 13 Pro is the best phone Apple produces and got a great score in our review. The new smartphone adds a third rear camera with 3x optical zoom (versus 2x on the iPhone 12), a stainless steel housing and a ProMotion display with refresh rates up to 120 Hz for smoother scrolling.

Read our iPhone 13 Pro review.

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