What is Photonic Engine on iPhone 14 and how it works?

iPhone 14 Main Camera panel close-up image

One of the major advancements of the iPhone 14 series is its upgraded camera features. Apple has highlighted its computational photography technology as Photonic Engine. Interestingly, the feature will only work on iPhone 14 models among other iPhones running iOS 16.

However, what is Photonic Engine on iPhone 14, and how does it boosts low-light photography. Let’s get into the details.

What is Photonic Engine on iPhone 14?

The Photonic Engine is an enhanced image pipeline that combines hardware, intelligent software, and machine learning components to provide 49% better camera performance in mid to low-light conditions. So, now your iPhone can capture more detailed images and render brighter colors.

Here is Apple’s take on Photonic Engine:

Through a deep integration of hardware and software, Photonic Engine improves mid- to low-light performance for photos across all cameras: up to 2x on the Ultra Wide camera, 2x on the TrueDepth camera, and an impressive 2.5x on the new Main camera. Photonic Engine enables this dramatic increase in quality by applying the computational benefits of Deep Fusion earlier in the imaging process to deliver extraordinary detail, and preserve subtle textures, provide better colour, and maintain more information in a photo.

Compared to iPhone 13, this built-in intelligent image enhancer uplifts the Ultra Wide and TrueDepth camera sensors by 2x improved performance. The main camera will get a 2.5x boost in low-light environment photography. But how has Apple made this possible? Let’s go through the nitty-gritty of the Photonic Engine technology. 

How the Photonic Engine boosts low-light photography

The first milestone of Apple’s computational photography was the Deep Fusion technology in 2019. This mechanism takes many photographs instead of just one and compiles all the frames into a single image. Before saving the final photo, it optimizes the texture and color to get the most out of iPhone’s camera. 

The Photonic Engine on iPhone 14 is a specialization of this Deep Fusion technology. The advanced machine learning algorithms in iOS 16 analyze details and rework every pixel image. Your iPhone’s camera captures several frames with various exposures in a single click.

The Photonic Engine applies the Deep Fusion technique to the uncompressed images in the middle of the image processing pipeline. So, it can feature even the subtlest texture in the frame. Finally, the optimized outcome is saved as a snapshot on the camera roll in a matter of milliseconds.

Apple has claimed that mid-to-low-light photography has advanced significantly, thanks to the Photonic Engine. Overall, every photo will retain more textures, color contrasts, and details and eliminate the usual picture noise in dark parts. And the best part is that the Photonic Engine operates in the background without any additional settings.

But don’t confuse Photonic Engine’s low-light image enhancement with the existing Night Mode on iPhone. Here’s why:

Photonic Engine vs. Night Mode: Key differences

We all are well-versed with the iPhone’s Night Mode, which takes great photos in low-light conditions. According to Apple’s description above, the function seems to be similar to the Photonic Engine. But there’s a catch! The Photonic Engine enhances all photographs with a special focus on the darker parts. 

On the other side, Night Mode only concentrates on low-light images. Therefore, it will continue to exist along with the Photonic Engine. Another difference is if you want to click images in Night Mode, you must toggle it on. But the Photonic Engine is infused in image processing and applied in every snap by default. 

Furthermore, Night Mode photography is available on iPhone 11 and above. Whereas the Photonic Engine is available on iPhone 14 and above (hopefully). That’s because this beautiful integration of machine learning and camera capabilities is possible because of iPhone 14’s larger sensors, quicker apertures, and more sophisticated lenses combined with Apple’s own hardware.

So, what are the upgrades?

Hardware upgrades of the iPhone 14 for Photonic Engine

The new hardware in the iPhone 14 models is necessary for the Photonic Engine as it is not merely a software feature. Even if the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus have the same 12MP main camera, the sensors and lenses have substantially improved. 

Besides, the 48MP primary sensor in iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max can, of course, capture sharper images. Also, the Image Signal processor in the A16 Bionic chip and Dolby vision support in display enhance the image optimization in the iPhone. 

That’s all for today, folks!

I’m eager to see what the iPhone 14 is capable of since my iPhone 13 Pro Max produces stunning images in low-light conditions. What’s your opinion on the new iPhone 14 series? Let me know in the comments.

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