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

Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro has several camera systems and performance improvements that have resulted in stellar reviews, including a 48-megapixel sensor and the company’s new image processing technique called the Photonic Engine. This immediately puts the iPhone 14 Pro ahead of last year iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Maxat least on paper.

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

To find out, I compared the two phones’ cameras in a variety of challenging situations in San Francisco. 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 more about deep diving Special improvements to the iPhone 14 Pro camera system, by my colleague Stephen Shankland. CNET’s Patrick Holland also has a Great iPhone 14 Pro photo analysis and how the Photonic Engine helps improve photo quality in challenging lighting conditions.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

iPhone 14 Pro’s 48-megapixel sensor captures more details

Hardware-wise, the biggest change between the two phones is the 14 Pro’s new 48-megapixel sensor on the main wide-angle camera, which is also physically larger than the older iPhone, which makes as much of a difference in photo quality as the upscaling. megapixel. The 13 Pro uses a 12-megapixel sensor.

Using a technique called pixel binning, iPhone 14 Pro combines four pixels into groups to capture more detailed 12-megapixel photos. You can also get a full 48-megapixel image if you shoot in Apple’s ProRaw format, giving photographers more flexibility when it comes to shadow editing and restoration, among many other benefits.

In good lighting, the 12-megapixel shooters on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro look like zoomed-out zooms, and it might not be that easy to tell the difference. The benefits of the 14 Pro’s new sensor and image processing become apparent as soon as you push it a little further.

In the photos below that I took in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the tree trunks are sharper and more defined on the iPhone 14 Pro photo than on the 13 Pro. Areas of fine detail, like grass, also retain much more definition. For an easier comparison, you can click on the full resolution image of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro.

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

iPhone 14 Pro can take photos with 2x zoom

The iPhone 14 Pro also has another trick: the 48-megapixel sensor can also take 12-megapixel stills with an effective 2x optical zoom. You will see a new 2x option in the camera interface. This crops the center of the higher-resolution image without the need for a fourth lens, immediately allowing more flexibility in focal length. The iPhone 13 Pro can also take photos with 2x zoom, but it uses digital zoom and doesn’t have the same quality or level of detail as this new technique.

I find the new 2x version of the iPhone 14 Pro helps with portrait mode. Instead of just offering 1x and 3x options like the old 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 on facial features than the wide view at 1x or the zoomed in angle of 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 help improve low- to medium-light shots. Combined with the larger sensor, I can see the difference compared to the iPhone 13 Pro in all the photos I’ve taken at dusk. Check out the detail captured on the tree branches in the sky in the photos below.

The newer phone also has better low-light noise reduction without night mode enabled. Dynamic range also improves in low light, capturing more shadow and highlight detail than the old phone.

For night shots in particular, both phones use similar exposure times of 1 to 3 seconds, depending on lighting conditions. The iPhone 14 Pro image below 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

Both the iPhone 14 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro shoot in 4K at up to 60fps. The video image is similar to when shooting with the main rear camera. But the iPhone 14 Pro unlocks additional video tools like Action Mode. It’s like having a gimbal attached to your phone for smooth results on the move, except you don’t need any additional equipment; everything is done over the phone.

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

I chased my puppy, ran along the beach, and took a fast-moving tracking shot in front of a waterfall in the park in Action mode, and the results were remarkable. The video image of the iPhone 14 Pro seemed to be shot with a stabilizer, smoothing out even sudden shakes. The iPhone 13 Pro video looks much more stunning. You can see examples of that mode in action in the video below or at the top of this page.

The iPhone 14 Pro has big 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 photos and video. Importantly, you don’t need to be a serious or professional photographer to take advantage of that 48-megapixel sensor. But the iPhone 13 Pro is still at the top of its game in many other areas, and still offers one of the best phone cameras you can buy.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce sweeping changes like Dynamic Island, a new 48-megapixel camera system, and Apple’s new A16 Bionic processor. All of these improvements combine to create 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 has ever made, and it got a star rating in our review. The new smartphone adds a third rear camera with 3x optical zoom (up from 2x on the iPhone 12), a stainless steel body, and a ProMotion display with up to 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling.

Read our iPhone 13 Pro review.

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