While at its September event, where it announced the latest iPhone 14 lineup, Apple unveiled something called Photonic Engine. It’s a new iPhone camera technology that promises better images in low-light conditions. Here is everything you need to know about it, including how Photonic Engine works and which iPhone models support it.
What is Apple’s Photonic Engine?
Simply put: Photonic Engine is a computational photography technology with an Apple brand name. It uses hardware, machine learning, and software to boost your photos, particularly those shot in less-than-ideal lighting.
Did Photonic Engine replace Night Mode?
No. Photonic Engine is a technology that improves photos overall. It exists separately from Night Mode. For more about how to use Night Mode, see Pocket-lint’s guide: How to turn off Night Mode on iPhone and keep it off.
How does Photonic Engine work?
The beauty of Photonic Engine is that it works in the background. There is no setting to enable. It is basically an expansion of Apple’s Deep Fusion image processing technology that launched within the iPhone 11 in 2019.
Photonic Engine leverages hardware inside the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max and applies some machine learning and iOS 16 software magic. The result? Your shots taken in mid-to-low light should be wildly improved. Apple called Photonic Engine a “giant leap” for low-light photography. It said Photonic Engine uses machine learning to process photos on a pixel-by-pixel basis, which optimises the texture, details, and noise throughout an image. Apple promises a “dramatic increase in quality” – including in colour – but that subtle details will not be negatively impacted.
The hardware found in the iPhone 14 lineup is also crucial to Photonic Engine. The main camera, telephoto camera, and TrueDepth camera on the latest iPhones have all been dramatically upgraded from the iPhone 13 so that their performance is up to 2x better, according to Apple. Meanwhile, the ultra-wide camera apparently benefits from up to 3x better performance in low-light conditions.
The main thing to take away is that larger sensors and faster apertures and more advanced lenses – all paired with intelligent software and Apple’s own silicon – enable Photonic Engine to work.
Here is how Apple describes 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 color, and maintain more information in a photo.”
Which iPhone models support Photonic Engine?
Photonic Engine technology is present on the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max.