Apple changes its formula this year, abandoning its 12-megapixel wide-angle module to go to 48 Mpx. The optics open at f/1.8 with 24mm equivalence, but above all smaller pixels of 1.22μm. It is always accompanied by a 12 Mpx ultra wide angle (f / 2.2) and a 12 Mpx 3x telephoto lens. As in 2021, the ultra-wide angle also functions as a macro lens, but has been improved on the 14 Pro models, allowing you to get even closer to a subject in more detail.
Main module: 48 MP, f/1.8, eq. 24 mm
Just like what we are used to explaining for Android smartphones, the definition change on the wide-angle module this year is accompanied by the arrival of pixel binding on the iPhone. This means that by default the smartphone will record in 12 Mpx, but it is possible to reach full resolution to achieve better image quality. We have detailed this process in detail in an article dedicated to the 48 Mpx ProRAW mode.
For this test, we will therefore analyze the 12 Mpx images of the iPhone 14 Pro Max against those of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Note that unlike the iPhone, which uses a binning at 4, Samsung benefits from a binning with 9. The South Korean therefore merges 9 pixels into 1.
If the iPhone 14 Pro Max offers a more neutral and realistic image overall, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra might offer a result that is slightly more pleasing to the eye. Despite a slightly strong exposure, the latter benefits from a better sharpness. The micro-contrasts in the image of the iPhone can highlight the details, but the South Korean smartphone does a little better here.
In low light, the iPhone 14 Pro Max does not overexpose its image, unlike the Samsung, which delivers an orange image with a very warm tone. Once again, we notice the presence of microcontrast in the image taken by the Apple model, which highlights the details. Perhaps even a little too much given the white edges that appear in certain areas of our photo scene. But at the end of the day, the two images are equally detailed, and it’s the post-processing that separates them. iPhone prefers to turn to something more natural, unlike Samsung.
Ultra-wide-angle module: 12 Mpx, f/2.2, eq. 14 mm
On the ultra-wide angle, our analyzes can be the same as those performed on the wide angle. With this module, the iPhone 14 Pro Max goes up less in sensitivity than its opponent, which allows it to keep a “clean” image, where the S22 sees the appearance of digital noise (visible on the black background). Once again, the micro-contrast enhancement from Apple’s software plays a bit on the sharpness of the image, which can therefore appear less detailed than Samsung’s. In an attempt to increase the level of detail, the South Korean model plays on the exposure of the image.
At night, however, the rendering of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is superior. That of the iPhone suffers from software processing that is a little too aggressive, which is unfortunate. Overall, the image of the smartphone provided by Samsung is more flattering.
3x telephoto: 12 MP, f/2.8, eq. 77 mm
The iPhone 14 Pro Max manages to catch up with the telephoto lens. The result offered during the day is much better than Samsung’s. Both terminals offer 3x optical magnification, but the image of the Galaxy S22 Ultra lacks sharpness. Here the Apple model is clearly superior, with good colorimetry and an acceptable level of sharpness for this type of lens.
At night, it’s always a bit complicated. Few smartphones can boast a decent result with their telephoto lens. Very often this is because it is only a crop in the image recorded with the wide-angle module. Fortunately, this is not the case for either of the two challengers, and although the iPhone tends to offer a more qualitative photo than the Samsung, it is just as difficult to really exploit.
Front module, portrait and video mode
There is also change ahead. Apple keeps a 12 Mpx module, but gives it a better aperture (f/1.9) and above all adds autofocus. As a result, selfies are much brighter, better exposed and, above all, sharper. The contribution of autofocus is really felt, and it’s a shame that Apple had to wait all this time before integrating one into its front module.
These additions also benefit portrait mode. If the iPhone is still not the king of this function, we must recognize that the company has been able to improve in this area over time. The haircut is not yet perfect and can encounter problems when faced with curly, wandering hair or a slightly structured cut. On the other hand, with the rear modules, the portrait mode produces small wonders. Cropping is very good, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max even manages to blur an object in the foreground to reveal only the face (eg a hand upstream of the face). By default, portrait mode on the back is based on the x2 zoom that Apple reintroduced this year, but it’s possible to switch to x3.
True portable cameras, the iPhone has established itself as a benchmark in this field. Obviously, the 14 Pro Max model wasn’t supposed to be a game changer. We’ll start with the cinematic mode introduced last year, which now allows recording up to 4K HDR at 30 fps. Another novelty, the Action mode, which turns this iPhone into an action camera. The vibrations are therefore strongly limited, without being close to a real action camera. That being said, the option does the job well. For the rest of the video, the iPhone 14 Pro Max can record 4K at up to 60 fps or 1080p at up to 60 fps. Recording can also be done in Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60 fps. Finally, let’s finish with the option to film in macro, slow motion or accelerated.