Comparing iPhone 13 vs iPhone 14 for astrophotography

May 28, 2023

David Williams

Dave Williams is an accomplished travel photographer, writer, and best-selling author from the UK. He is also a photography educator and published Aurora expert. Dave has traveled extensively in recent years, capturing stunning images from around the world in a modified van. His work has been featured in various publications and he has worked with notable brands such as Skoda, EE, Boeing, Huawei, Microsoft, BMW, Conde Nast, Electronic Arts, Discovery, BBC, The Guardian, ESPN, NBC, and many others.

Comparing iPhone 13 vs iPhone 14 for astrophotography

May 28, 2023

David Williams

Dave Williams is an accomplished travel photographer, writer, and best-selling author from the UK. He is also a photography educator and published Aurora expert. Dave has traveled extensively in recent years, capturing stunning images from around the world in a modified van. His work has been featured in various publications and he has worked with notable brands such as Skoda, EE, Boeing, Huawei, Microsoft, BMW, Conde Nast, Electronic Arts, Discovery, BBC, The Guardian, ESPN, NBC, and many others.

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iphone astrophotography

The best camera is the one you have with you, or so the old saying goes. That statement has never been more powerful than now. I recently took a break from Adobe MAX to hit the desert for a short adventure with Russell Brown from Adobe. I wanted to shoot some star trails with a mirrorless camera, the Nikon Z6, but I also wanted to put my iPhone through its paces. Here’s what happened.

You can use the slider to see the RAW image and the finished edit with the iPhone 13 Max.

I took this shot at Joshua Tree National Park. It’s not a summer shot of the Milky Way, so the core isn’t taking center stage, but there’s still a dense collection of stars to work with. This is a 10-second exposure on my iPhone 13 Pro Max. I used the 1x camera, which is 26mm at f/1.5. The ISO was 2500.

After shooting, I took the Apple ProRAW image into Adobe Lightroom Mobile. I made some fairly basic adjustments to increase the Contrast and shift the White Balance. I made a targeted adjustment in the Milky Way by using a Brush to create a Mask and increasing the Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows.

It blows me away that our phones can do this now, particularly when looking back at the chunky pixels that used to impress me. Apple aren’t the only one making advances, of course. Sony, Google, Huawei, and Samsung are among the others also offering powerful, capable smartphone cameras. Someone who has experienced all the major smartphone cameras was Russell. Here’s what he observed in testing the difference between the iPhone 13Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro Max this evening.

Comparison

There’s a clear difference between the 13 and 14. The 13 Pro Max has a 12MP sensor, whereas the 14 Pro Max has 48MP in the form of a quad-sensor. Another difference is in the primary camera. The f/1.5 13 Pro Max lens has been ditched in favor of an f/1.78 lens in the 14 Pro Max. The sensor-shift optical stabilization has also been improved. Combined with the sensor capabilities, this gives us a much better result for astrophotography.

Close up differences

Russell Brown has put a lot of focus on mobile photography in recent years. He’s tested most of the smartphone cameras available. Here’s what he had to tell us:

If you want the sharpest and best detail of a Milky Way sky then the Google Pixel is still the winner with its 4 minute exposure. It even removes the earth rotation from the sky and locks in a solid foreground. However, the Samsung and iPhone are moving up fast to give a great image of the night sky on each new upgrade. I can only imagine what will be possible in a few years.

On a second detail about night photography, I think the Samsung and iPhone give you better results with general night photography. For example, the iPhone will capture an incredible moonlit landscape or cityscape at night with fantastic results. The colors and details from their 30 second night exposure are brilliant.

For standard daytime photography or studio photography it is essential to get serious about buying a phone grip with a Bluetooth trigger. If you are a serious mobile photographer then it is time to get at ShiftCam or BeastGrip phone grip. Fumbling around without a grip is a thing of the past. Get serious! It even makes you look more professional and people respect you more.

Here is the one thing you need to know about the future of mobile photography. It’s Computational AI. Huawei started this whole trend years and years ago, but now Apple, Samsung and the other phone companies are moving in this direction. You have to take a very small sensor and capture multiple images and then process all the images together into something even better. The more pictures you take and computationally combine together, the better the results. The Pixel phone is a great example of this computational mathematics with their 4 minute exposure made of of 15 different images of the night sky. I also think AI will play a part in the future and remove unwanted items and generate synthetic skies for example. Computers making us all look better is coming our way soon.

I absolutely agree with Russell. Most notably, computational photography is here to stay. I wrote about how AI has played its role in photography, which directly translates to mobile photography. The power of all smartphone cameras, not only the iPhone, is huge. Adobe Lightroom Mobile has had a lot of focus, and other Adobe mobile apps are also coming up to speed to reflect that smartphone photography is powerful. We’re in a position now where we can use another camera with connectivity, be that mirrorless or an action camera, and do all the edits on our phones. It’s time to take mobile photography seriously.

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David Williams

David Williams

Dave Williams is an accomplished travel photographer, writer, and best-selling author from the UK. He is also a photography educator and published Aurora expert. Dave has traveled extensively in recent years, capturing stunning images from around the world in a modified van. His work has been featured in various publications and he has worked with notable brands such as Skoda, EE, Boeing, Huawei, Microsoft, BMW, Conde Nast, Electronic Arts, Discovery, BBC, The Guardian, ESPN, NBC, and many others.

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