Low-light panorama tests: iPhone 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro (Max) – wellwellwell…

Note: this is another article I’ve been publishing in my series on the iPhone 14 Pro (Max)’s camera, particularly when it comes to comparing to older models. Please do search for my previous / other recent threads for my other articles. (Note: I’ve found one of my Nokia 808’s; will try to track down the app I used back in the time allowing for shooting at 41 Mpixels (as opposed to the 34/38 Mpixel modes) and will also publish some SERIOUS 14PM vs. N808 tests. Stay tuned!)===

First: the test images I’ll talk about in this article so that you can follow along:

1, The (high-quality) JPEG exports (the site still doesn’t support HEIC’s) have been uploaded to Flickr and can be found in the album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/33448355@N07/albums/ 72177720302384780 . Again, you MUST download the files to be able to zoom to the pixel level! (Too bad Flickr just can’t come up with a decent zooming something allowing for pixel-level, multi-click zooming, not even for paying Pro subscribers like me.)
2, The original HEIC files in a single ZIP file to https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UEmQ2xmfoBLI9RgcLnar1CduGuPWkzKj/view?usp=sharing , should you want to allow downloading the Flickr files one-by-one. (Note: by the time you read this – prolly years from now – it’s possible this ZIP file is gone!)

These files all have a 1/2/3 prefix to show the test set (of the three) followed by the model (iP11 or iP14). That is, compare 1 – iP11 – IMG_8411 to 1 – iP14 – IMG_0549 and so on.

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In my previous thread ( https://forums.macrumors.com/thread…the-last-three-years-on-the-contrary.2361607/ ), I got mixed results in my good-light panorama tests: while the iP14P(M) definitely handles lens flare better, its oversharpening was definitely more destructive than that of the iPhone 11, while I couldn’t discover other areas of obvious impovements on the new models. (And, in addition, I discvovered more stitching errors in the pics produced by the new model. As I don’t want to judge / compare the phoens on such small tests with comparatively few comparative images, I didn’t list stitching errors as a cons for the iP14.) Therefore, because of the oversharpening, I couldn’t wholeheartedly recommend the iP14P(M) for good-light panorama shootings.

Again and again, while the main cameras of the 14PM are certainly vastly(!) better than that of the 11, panorama shooting is such a neglected area of ​​the camera modes that the vastly increased resolution etc. just doesn’t make it to panoramas. Everything is destroyed by the massive oversharpening, just like shooting into regular JPEG / HEIC files. Therefore, pano modes shouldn’t be used professionally – instead, get a decent pano head OR a 360 camera with excellent photo quality making using a dedicated pano head not that big a necessity any more. There are already some of these cameras even in the consumer-priced category, unlike back in 2015-2016 when they started to appear on the market (Gear 360 and the likes with their comparatively low-quality stills).

As I promised in that thread, I also conducted some low-light, synchronized(!) panorama tests to find out whether the massive camera improvements, which do come thru for example in low-light video shooting (see my thread at https:/ /forums.macrumors.com/thread…ro-max-controlled-comparative-videos.2361410/ ) also results in cleaner, less-smeared, etc. panoramas.

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smearing

And yes, they do, at least when it comes to smearning. In all my tests, in low light, the iP14PM continuously delivered better, cleaner results than the 11 in the very dark areas.

Please check out the following attachment pairs:

1 – dark smearing – 11 – comp
1 – dark smearing – 14 – comp

and

3 – dark smearing – 11 – comp
3 – dark smearing – 14 – comp

The first prefix shows which set they compare (1 / 3) and the name of the model can also be found in the filename.

It’s in the 14PM images that I annotated some of the affected, low-contast where the 14PM fared considerably better than the 11. Notice the much more prevalent smearing in the 11’s images, which essentially resulted in a lot of details to be completely smeared away, unlike the 14’s images.

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dynamic range

What about the dynamic range, you may ask? After all, the 14PM’s Quad Bayer sensor is at least theoretically (when two of the four subpixels are programmed to be “less sensitive” than the other two in 12 Mpixel mode) definitely capable of better dynamic range. When properly utilized, that is.

Interestingly, at least in pano mode, this doesn’t seem to be the case. (A major neglection on Apple’s part? Again, quad-Bayer sensors, by design, allow for much bigger dynamic range than traditional ones. Dunno…) Highlights have the tendency of clipping equally badly in the iP14PM panos as with those of the the iP11. If you check out my thrre pairs of comparison images, you’ll see the 14 fares in one of them (2 – dynrange – 14 – comp) better, while in the other two cases it’s worse.

Also notice that the first “1” pair (1 – dynrange – 11 – comp / 1 – dynrange – 14 – comp) exhibits stitching errors on both phones. (Again and again: I’ve moved the two in perfect synchronization – “glued together”) The errors (I annotated the two most prevalent ones with arrows in “1 – dynrange – 14 – comp”) are significantly more visible in the 14’s image. Another neglection / lack of improvements on Apple’s part?!

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Summary

All in all, you really do NOT want to update to the iPhone 14PM from an iPhone 11 if all you shoot are panoramas and don’t really need the otehr features / improvements. Apple seems to have neglected improving the cloth mode in any way. Heck, they don’t even make use of the (in 12 Mpixel mode) vastly superior dynamic range of thw 48 Mpixel sensor.

And, let me emphasize again: this ‘do not bother’ advice only applies to panorama shooting. Video and (if you shoot ProRAWs) stills are WAAAY better.

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