The video capabilities of the iPhone 14 Pro Max really impress me [Diary]

The video capabilities of the iPhone 14 Pro Max really impress me [Diary]

After starting with still photographyit was time to put my iPhone 14 Pro Max video capabilities put to the test, and I was incredibly impressed with how well the camera performed, especially at night.

Ok, it still won’t replace cinema cameras anytime soon, but my experience gave me a lot to think about…

About my iPhone 14 Pro Max video test

For this shoot, I used the FILMic Pro app, because of the added control it offered over Apple’s camera app. This is because my Journal pieces reflect my use of my Apple devices in real life, and this session was a test that I wanted to conduct for my own benefit.

tl;dr’s explanation is that I really enjoy video projects, but they are a lot of work, so I shoot less than I expected. Part of that is the logistics and effort involved in transporting and setting up my film crew, so I wanted to see if shooting outdoor footage with my iPhone would be realistic.

That’s not a question I expected to answer in the space of one shot, and I’ll keep experimenting, but I have to say I was very encouraged by the results.

FILMic Pro allows full manual control over ISO, white balance and shutter speed, and offers better control over exposure and focus point, including manual frame focus capability. If I had to shoot something like a serious video with iPhone, it would be with this app.

One of the biggest challenges for smartphone-sized sensors is low-light video. For this reason, I have included a fair amount of this.

I shot a mix of slow motion and timelapse/hyperlapse footage, with only a little bit of real time footage. That’s again because this reflects my real-life experience shooting outdoors. Most of the real-time footage is shot indoors, with lighting.

The sample video

Let’s start by taking a look, then I’ll talk about my thoughts on it. Please note that the video is straight from the camera, without any color grading.

Featuring all the frame grabs below, click to view full size.

With such a small sensor, there was no surprise about the first two drawbacks: noise in low light and limited depth-of-field control. But the iPhone 14 Pro Max performed significantly better than I expected on both counts.

It’s all about light

In daylight and with good interior lighting, the footage is incredibly clean. In very low light, so of course we see noticeable noise, but as I mentioned, it’s less than I expected.

With a little editing, there is a lot of recoverable shadow detail in the footage. It’s still muddy, but I’d say not much more than similar shots with a mirrorless camera:

The Covent Garden Market shots really impressed me. You’ll obviously see motion blur in a still image, but the dynamic range is excellent, capturing the face well lit and the background dark:

Again, a bit of shadow recovery shows how much detail is available:

(You can push it more than this, but this is already starting to lose the feel of the night, so I wouldn’t like it.)

Limited depth of field control

A small sensor also means a limited depth of field.

The classic solution to this is to position the subject reasonably close to the camera. In this case, I started to get closer, locked focus on his face, backed away, and then got closer again. A more reliable method is to start zooming in, back up, and then reverse the footage in the edit, but that would have had the bus on the bridge in reverse.

When you are further away, you have extremely limited control. But again, the background separation was better than expected:

Honestly, I’m not sure if this is all natural or if there’s some computational photography going on, but the focus drop certainly looks natural.

I also try cinematic video mode againto see if this has improved to any worthwhile degree.

video stabilization

I was hoping to use a gimbal for this shoot, but actually found that it wasn’t necessary.

Admittedly, that’s partly because slow-motion footage smoothes things out to a significant degree, but take a look at the Waterloo Station clip at 0:31-0:35. That’s so steady you could almost have been filmed on a tripod. Other shots depend in part on the smoothness of my hand movement, but I was really surprised at how stable the shots look. This doesn’t look like a portable video.

internal reflections

I mentioned this in 2019 when shoot with iPhone 11 Pro.

One weakness I noticed is that there is a lot of internal reflection when there are lights in the shot. For example, when panning in the bookstore, the rainbow crescent of lights are reflections from the balcony lights bouncing off the lens array. I see a lot of similar reflections in other clips.

The problem has steadily improved, but you still see them in some shots. They don’t capture well in stills, but look at the 2:19 to 2:23 shot. It definitely happens a lot less than before, but I’d still like to see more work done on the lens design to reduce it further.

Video iPhone 14 Pro Max: Conclusions

The iPhone 14 Pro [Max] of course it is not comparable to a film camera. Once you start looking at pixels, it’s not hard to find fault, especially in low light.

But it’s quite remarkable to me how close a mirrorless camera’s video performance is now. So much so that I think it comfortably passes the travel video test, as well as the travel photography.

For more serious jobs… well, it depends. You have to decide your own quality threshold. I know some people who would dismiss it for anything other than amateur video, and others who will comfortably use it as part of their camera arsenal, especially in decent light.

But it gave me pause for thought for three reasons…

First, if you’re shooting in a “public” location that is actually private, then a serious camera tends to attract serious attention. Try filming in an Apple Store with a movie camera, and I’m pretty sure someone will come by and ask what you’re doing. Doing it with my iPhone, nobody cared. The same in other pseudo-public places in London.

So if you’re looking to shoot guerrilla style in a big city, then there’s a lot to be said for doing it with an iPhone.

Second, film cameras, even entry level ones like mine – are bulky and heavy for when you’ve fixed them. That’s a considerable deterrent when it comes to taking photos on the street, and of course not something you’d carry “just in case.” {” So if I had been creating this video with a film camera, I would have walked less and gotten fewer shots. As the old saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Recording with my iPhone was quick, easy, and hassle-free, so I’m definitely going to be doing more. How far I’ll go remains to be seen, but this was a really fun experience, and I’m looking forward to doing more iPhone sessions in the future.

Which brings me to the third thing. Being good at anything takes practice, and the more experience you get, the more you’ll learn and the better your results will be. Video is very time consuming, so gaining experience is a slow process, as I’ve discovered.

But the fact that shooting with an iPhone is so quick and easy means you can speed up that process. Usually, with no more than 10-20 seconds of setup (choosing my video mode, setting exposure and focus points), I’m ready to shoot. I can try an experiment and quickly find out if it works. An idea can come to me while I’m on the go and I can test it right there.

So I think filming with an iPhone will make me a better videographer, faster. That is a great benefit.

That’s my experience, and yours? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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