This is so pro, and we think you’re really going to love it. Words that seem to flow out of every Apples executive at every mention of their top-of-the-line iPhone. Of course, we can argue for ever about what Pro actually means but when it comes to cameras, Apple talks a good talk in every press release. You can’t argue with the fact they walk far down the line of supporting those statements too, but for whatever reason just don’t seem want to give their users pro camera controls.
Don’t get me wrong, you can achieve amazing things with the iPhone camera. In my opinion it is still the best smartphone camera to just point and shoot the Note 20 Ultra gets remarkably close.) and 90% of the iPhone users won’t care about this at all. They will carry on shooting shots on their iPhones and getting amazing results. However, for the few of us out there that want more control we are reliant on third party apps like Halide, or just admit defeat.
Most of the controls needed are available in a sense. Users can tap on the screen to adjust the general exposure of an image and use a slider for a bit control over the image. Focus can be changed slightly and even locked with another tap(s) on the screen although and minute control is not allowed, and the camera interface also lacks any kind of influence over shutter speed. Something that becomes immediately obvious once you want to use Night Mode, but the option appears and disappears what seems to be randomly.
All in all this is fine. As said most users won’t even need these kinds of options, and that’s why they are missing. However, it can get frustrating when Apple makes a big deal about what aperture their lens are and grade the amount of fake background blur achievable in Portrait Mode in f/stops yet give you absolutely no control over this in camera, it’s all fixed. I love the fact that the new iPhone 13 Pro’d wide camera can go down as low as f/1.5 but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to shoot at f/8 sometimes!
Perhaps I am missing something. It is possible that Apple have thrown so much stuff into its very confused camera interface that I have missed out on learning new tricks. Indeed, I didn’t realise I could lock focus until I wanted an Instagram reel a few days ago. With that said, even because the expose control exists doesn’t mean it is easy to use, or that I know what is changing in camera. Shutter speed or ISO, both of which I want to be able to control myself. Undeniably Pro photographers take amazing shots with them all the time, but for an Oh So Pro Camera, it’s not as pro friendly as it should be.
The solution if you really want pro controls, and I think any solution Apple would point too, is third party apps. I use Lightroom, with a quick launch option as a widget, but many others rely on the awesome app Halide. The argument could be made that the team behind Halide are doing a ‘better job’ than Apple in pushing the iPhone (and iPad) camera boundaries and informing its users that want more out of their photos. Granted, again this is going to be a ridiculously small percentage of their users. Leaning on a third-party system is fine for a more robust reminders system, or a new email app but falls down a little for such an integrated part of your smartphone such as taking pictures. At least until Apple allow me to set a default camera app and support it properly.
Instead, the solution is that the time has come for Apple to really put its money where its mouth. To deliver a pro interface to go with its pro camera set up. Most third-party apps do a wonderful job at imitating the stock camera app and making it feel more ingrained with the system, but if Samsung can build nice pro controls into its app, so can Apple. Oh, and add on a camera button while you’re at it.
Edited at 16:19: I had not realised the aperture was fixed on Apple lenses, which makes sense.