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  • Writer's pictureAlex Groom

iPhone 15 Pro: Viable for Video Production?

Apple's September event brought forth the much-anticipated iPhone 15 , with a particular focus on the video capabilities of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. This iteration signifies a significant shift towards recognizing the iPhone as a serious filmmaking tool, rather than merely a smartphone with some creative features. Now with external recording via USB-C to an SSD, Log Recording, and up to 120mm focal length. Is the iPhone finally worth taking seriously for video?

iPhone 15 Pro Max's Video Capabilities

The flagship iPhone 15 Pro Max stands out for its advanced lens capabilities. Equipped with a 48MP primary camera and an optical-quality 2x telephoto feature, powered by the A17 Pro, it introduces notable hardware improvements. While not featuring the rumored periscope camera, Apple's ingenious solution involves a tetraprism—a folded glass structure beneath the lens, creating space for a 120mm focal length.

What distinguishes the iPhone 15 Pro Max is its ability to achieve seven different focal lengths: 13mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 48mm, and 120mm, along with a Macro feature. This versatility provides filmmakers with an array of prime-like focal lengths right within their pocket.

Complementing these enhancements is a new 3D sensor-shift optical image stabilization and autofocus module that operates in all three dimensions. This not only ensures better image stability but also enhances low-light performance.

The inclusion of USB-C is a noteworthy addition, enabling creatives to transfer ProRes video at high speeds of 10Gbps. What initially seemed like a gimmick in previous iPhone releases, ProRes is now a viable recording option.

The integration of via FilMic Pro further enhances the iPhone's capabilities, making it suitable for a wide range of content creation beyond social media platforms.

The A17 Pro: Powering the Experience

Underlying these video enhancements is the A17 Pro chip. While the SOC may not directly benefit filmmakers, the true advantage for filmmakers lies in the chip's dedicated ProRes engine along with AV1 decoder support. Videos recorded on the iPhone 15 Pro Max now benefit from ACES color support and Log capture. With the option to use external SSD storage, filmmakers can record ProRes video in up to 4K at 60 fps in Log mode.

A Surprising Addition: iPhone 3D Camera

In a surprising move, Apple introduced a Spatial Video feature with the Apple Vision Pro, which initially required the Vision Pro's dedicated cameras for 3D recording. However, the iPhone 15 Pro now allows the use of two of its own cameras for this purpose, expanding its capabilities into the realm of 3D video capture.

The implementation details of this feature with the Vision Pro are yet to be disclosed, but it's expected to open new creative possibilities for tech-savvy filmmakers. Leveraging tools like LiDAR and accelerometers on the iPhone, some have already demonstrated impressive photogrammetry and camera tracking techniques. With the Spatial Camera, the creative potential is set to soar for AR/VR video experiences.

Real World Use

In keeping with its tradition, Apple released a "Shot on iPhone" video in conjunction with the iPhone 15 unveiling. This time, it took the form of an entire music video featuring Olivia Rodrigo, who has previously collaborated with Apple on similar projects. The video quality stands out for its remarkable quality, never immediately standing out as smartphone footage.

Notably, the video showcases impressive skin tones and color rendition. A feat that is noteworthy when compared to other camera options available within a similar price range. This achievement in color accuracy and image quality can be attributed to the iPhone 15's support for Log recording and ACES color space, which contribute to a more professional and cinematic look.

Is the iPhone 15 Pro Max for You?

The iPhone 15 Pro Max, along with the iPhone 15 Pro, retains a similar pricing structure to the previous generation, starting at $999 for the 128GB Pro and $1199 for the 256GB Pro Max. While it may seem pricey compared to dedicated cinema cameras available in the used market, it presents an attractive option for creatives who already carry an iPhone.

If your primary goal is to use the iPhone solely for filmmaking, there may be more cost-effective options. However, if you're due for an upgrade and consider yourself a creative enthusiast, the iPhone 15 Pro Max offers a compelling package. It provides a host of features that cater to filmmaking needs, some of which you might not have known you needed. For those ready to embrace the future of mobile filmmaking, this device offers exciting possibilities.

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