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


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

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

The iPhone 14 Pro features several camera system improvements that have led to excellent reviews, including a 48-megapixel sensor and Apple’s new image-processing technique called Photonic Engine. This gives the iPhone 14 Pro an immediate advantage over the previous year iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Maxat least on paper.

But what difference do these new hardware and software capabilities actually make in the real world?

I compared the cameras of both phones in a series of challenging situations in San Francisco to find out. All of 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 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 analysis of photos taken by the iPhone 14 Pro and how the Photonic Engine helps improve photo quality in difficult lighting conditions.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

The iPhone 14 Pro’s 48-megapixel sensor captures more detail

On the hardware side, the biggest change between the two phones is the 14 Pro’s new 48-megapixel sensor on the main wide camera, which is also physically larger than the older iPhone, impacting photo quality as much as the increase in megapixels . The 13 Pro uses a 12-megapixel sensor.

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

In good lighting, the 12-megapixel shots from both the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro look similar at reduced magnification, and it might not be as easy to tell the difference. Push in a little and the benefits of the 14 Pro’s new sensor and image processing become apparent.

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

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

The iPhone 14 Pro can take photos with 2x zoom

The iPhone 14 Pro has another trick up its sleeve: the 48-megapixel sensor can also capture 12-megapixel shots at 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 to give you more focal length flexibility right out of the box without the need for a fourth lens. The iPhone 13 Pro can also take 2x zoom photos, but it uses digital zoom and doesn’t have the same quality or detail as this new technique.

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

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

The iPhone 14 Pro features a new image processing pipeline to improve medium to low light shots. In combination with the larger sensor, I can see the difference to the iPhone 13 Pro in all the photos I took at dusk. Take a look at the detail captured on the skyline’s branches in the photos below.

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

Specifically for night mode shots, 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 if you zoom in.

Action mode is the star of iPhone 14 Pro video recording

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

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

I chased after my pup, jogged along the beach, and did a rapid tracking shot in front of a waterfall in the park in Action mode, and the results were remarkable. The iPhone 14 Pro video image looks like I’m filming with a stabilizer that smooths out even sudden jerky movements. The video of the iPhone 13 Pro looks significantly more shaky. You can see these action mode examples in the video at the top of this page, or in my colleague Patrick Holland’s video below.

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 taking photos and videos. Importantly, you don’t have to consider yourself a serious or professional photographer to take advantage of this 48-megapixel sensor. But the iPhone 13 Pro is still at the top of its game 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 sweeping changes like Dynamic Island, a new 48-megapixel camera system, and Apple’s new A16 Bionic processor. All of these upgrades combine to deliver an experience that feels fresh and fast compared to previous generations.

Read our Apple iPhone 14 Pro review.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

The iPhone 13 Pro is the best phone Apple produces and it got an excellent rating in our review. The new smartphone adds a third rear camera with 3x optical zoom (up to 2x on the iPhone 12), a stainless steel body and a ProMotion screen with refresh rates of up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling.

Read our iPhone 13 Pro review.

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