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Apple Spotlights iPhone 12 Photography

Source: Apple

Source: Apple

For the past several years, Apple has shown off some of the best photos taken with the current-generation iPhone. In a press release today, the company highlights 17 beautiful images taken around the globe, as a showcase of what the iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max can do. It’s one thing read about the latest iPhone camera technology, which today’s press release recaps. However, it’s something entirely different to see what the latest hardware and software can do in the hands of a skilled photographer.

A few of the many photos highlighted in Apple's press release. Source: Apple.

A few of the many photos highlighted in Apple’s press release. Source: Apple.

In 2019 and 2020, Apple’s January photography announcement was accompanied by a photography contest judged by Apple employees and a team of professional photographers. This year’s press release makes no mention of a contest, which is understandable in light of the global pandemic.

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Jason Snell on the iPhone 12 Mini and Pro Max

After a few months of use, Jason Snell has written a great article on the iPhone 12 line’s two outliers. Despite waiting for the shortfalls of a small phone to become apparent, the other shoe never dropped for him on the iPhone 12 Mini. Small phone aficionados won’t be disappointed by Apple’s long awaited return to devices in that size class. Similarly, for those willing to accept the enormous size, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is unafraid to deliver on the best an iPhone can be. As Snell describes, these products have rounded out the iPhone product line:

Apple’s one-size-fits-all approach to the iPhone worked for a very long time. But eventually the company realized that the iPhone needed to be more than a product—it needed to be a product line. And over the past few years, it’s been building out that product line—leading to late 2020 and its release of four distinctly different models in three distinct size classes.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro share a size, if not features. But bracketing them are the two outliers, each sharing a set of features with one of the 6.1-inch phones back at home base.

Don’t miss the full post over at Six Colors.

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AirPods Max Power Management Explained by Updated Apple Support Document

Ever since the release of the AirPods Max there has been confusion about how power management for the headphones works. Apple has clarified the situation with an update to an AirPods Max support page that MacRumors discovered explaining the different power modes and the role the headphones’ case plays.

The bottom line is that there are two low power modes. The first leaves the AirPods Max connected to a device by Bluetooth and discoverable in the Find My app. When you put the headphones into their case, this first low power mode is triggered immediately. If you don’t use the case, the mode is triggered when the AirPods Max have sat undisturbed for five minutes.

A lower-power mode is triggered after 18 hours in the AirPods Max case or 72 hours outside the case. The difference in the time it takes to enter the ultra-low power mode isn’t explained in Apple’s support document, but one possible explanation is that Apple wants the headphones to be discoverable in Find My longer if they are put down outside the case because they are more likely to have been misplaced if not intentionally placed in their case.

Whatever the reason, though, tests conducted by MacRumors have shown that the difference in battery drain in and out of the case is small.

I’m curious about the reasoning behind the choices Apple has made in the AirPods Max’s power management, but mostly, I’m just glad to hear that the difference between using the case or not is negligible. Up to 20 hours of listening time is enough to get me through a few days especially if not using the AirPods Max for a day or two has minimal impact on the headphones’ remaining charge.

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Apple Releases Cardio Fitness Notifications for Apple Watch

Our level of cardio fitness is a strong predictor of our overall health. With yesterday’s release of watchOS 7.2 and iOS 14.3, the Apple Watch now supports monitoring and alerting you when your cardio fitness level is too low over time. Per Apple’s press release on the feature:

With iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2, Apple Watch users can view their cardio fitness level in the Health app on iPhone, and receive a notification on Apple Watch if it falls within the low range. Breakthrough technology released in watchOS 7 allows Apple Watch to easily measure low cardio fitness, and today cardio fitness notifications empower users to be more active for dramatic long-term health benefits.

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Developer Ben Sandofsky on ProRAW and Halide Mark II’s Implementation of the New Format

ProRAW is a big deal for iPhone photography. Joining Austin Mann’s article that I linked earlier today is an even deeper dive by Ben Sandofsky, a member of the Halide Mark II team. Sandofsky does a fantastic job of contextualizing the benefits of ProRAW and explaining how it has been implemented in Halide.

Before getting into the technical details, Sandofsky walks readers through a high-level overview of the limitations of the RAW format, concluding that:

ProRAW elegantly solves all of these problems and more. You can finally reproduce the results of the first-party camera, while retaining most of the editing latitude from traditional RAWs.

What’s more, as Sandofsky explains ProRAW is an extension of the open DNG file format, which should facilitate the implementation of support for ProRAW by third-party app makers:

This may be surprising to some: ProRAW is not a proprietary or closed format. Credit where it is due: Apple deserves kudos for bringing their improvements to the DNG standard. When you shoot with ProRAW, there’s absolutely nothing locking your photos into the Apple ecosystem.

Source: Lux Optics

Source: Lux Optics

Halide Mark II, version 2.1, is available on the App Store now and supports ProRAW in a number of interesting ways:

  • Photographers can take ProRAW-only or ProRAW+JPEG images, whereas Apple’s Camera app always captures both a ProRAW and JPEG image in one shot when the ProRAW option is picked. Capturing a JPEG alongside the ProRAW image is convenient for quick sharing, but having the option to dispense with it helps reduce file size, which is a real issue with ProRAW images that are typically around 25MB.
  • The new ProRAW options are available alongside the app’s existing RAW options by long-pressing the RAW button in Halide’s image capture UI to reveal a context menu, a new feature that makes switching formats faster than repeatedly returning to settings.
  • The same context menu lets users pick between 10-bit and 12-bit color, reducing file sizes where 10-bit color depth is sufficient.
  • Unlike Apple’s Camera app, you can also turn on ProRAW, and it will stay on even if you leave Halide and return to it later, although turning it on and forgetting it’s on will fill your storage fast.

I have only just begun experimenting with Halide’s new ProRAW support, but I like the context menu for quickly changing format and color depth settings a lot. The added flexibility the app provides for which formats are captured and the color depth used are welcome, too, but it will take some time to get a better sense of which to pick in different scenarios.

ProRAW is a fascinating combination of traditional RAW and computational photography that provides hints about where Apple may be headed with its camera sensors. I highly recommend Sandofsky’s article, which is the best explanation I’ve seen of what is happening under the hood with ProRAW and what the format means for beginner and expert photographers alike.

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Microsoft Office 365 Updated to Support Apple Silicon and Big Sur

Microsoft today announced updates to their suite of Microsoft 365 apps to support Apple Silicon, including design tweaks to match the look of macOS Big Sur:

We are excited to announce that starting today we are releasing new versions of many of our Microsoft 365 for Mac apps that run natively on Macs with M1. This means that now our core flagship Office apps—Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote—will run faster and take full advantage of the performance improvements on new Macs, making you even more productive on the latest MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. The new Office apps are Universal, so they will continue to run great on Macs with Intel processors. The apps are not only speedy, but they also look fantastic as they have been redesigned to match the new look of macOS Big Sur.

Among the other changes, Microsoft’s Outlook for Mac can now be used with iCloud email addresses for the first time. The Apple Silicon update for Microsoft Teams isn’t ready yet, but they’re working on it:

Microsoft Teams is currently available in Rosetta emulation mode on Macs with M1 and the browser. We are working on universal app support for M1 Macs and will share more news as our work progresses.

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Pro Photographer Austin Mann Explains ProRAW

With the release of iOS 14.3, Apple’s ProRAW image format is available in its Camera app and third-party apps like Halide Mark II. Travel photographer Austin Mann, who has been testing ProRAW, published a story explaining why the new format matters, demonstrating the scenarios where it makes the biggest differences, and sharing tips on how and when to use the format.

As Mann explains:

Pro photographers traditionally choose to shoot in RAW because it offers more control. Where there is more data (more color, more range, more everything), there is more latitude to push an image to achieve a vision, and now with ProRAW we have this luxury built right into the native iPhone camera app.

However, ProRAW doesn’t abandon computational photography completely. Instead:

the iPhone camera only leverages the computations that are absolutely necessary for accurate imaging, but gives us complete control over preference parameters like white balance, noise reduction, sharpening, and more.

HEIC image (left) ProRAW image (right). Source: [austinmann.com](http://austinmann.com/trek/iphone-proraw).

HEIC image (left) ProRAW image (right). Source: austinmann.com.

To test ProRAW, Mann took some 30-second Night mode images of the Geminid meteor shower using the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The contrast between what could be achieved by editing a HEIC file versus a ProRAW file in Lightroom is compelling. With the HEIC image, many of the details in the image were lost but with the ProRAW file, Mann was able to preserve the stars in the night sky and the fine details of a rock.

Mann also has side-by-side comparison shots that demonstrate the difference between ProRaw’s 12-bit color and HEIC’s 8-bit color. The differences are more subtle but still noticeable.

Not all photos benefit equally from being shot in ProRAW, and because the files are much bigger than HEIC images, it’s worth understanding when it makes sense to use ProRAW. According to Mann, the format works best for shots with which Apple’s computational photography has the most trouble, such as very low light and high dynamic range scenarios.

Be sure to check out Austin Mann’s entire article for additional examples of ProRAW in action, tips on when and how to use the format, and his interview with Rene Ritchie about ProRAW.

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