iPhone 14 Semi-Pro: 3 new cameras make cheapest Apple flagship more than iPhone 13S?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
iPhone 14 Semi-Pro: 3 new cameras make cheapest Apple flagship more than iPhone 13S?
Much has been written about how “underwhelming” the iPhone 14 series will be compared to the iPhone 14 Pro. Of course, that’s partly thanks to the fact that (for the first time ever) Apple has decided to equip the new vanilla iPhone 14 with the same A15 Bionic processor that’s powering last year’s iPhone 13.

Another (good) argument is that iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are getting a brand new, pill-shaped Face ID housing, while iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus (or whatever this one ends up being called) are keeping the good old notch that we first saw all the way back in 2017.

Finally, the camera system differences between the new iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 are the reason photography enthusiasts aren’t really looking forward to the more affordable 2022 Apple flagship, which isn’t getting the brand new, larger 48MP camera treatment that the Pro model is expected to get, gaining the ability to shoot 8K video, gather more detail, and perform better in low-light.

But! What if I told you that the cheaper iPhone 14 won’t be the underwhelming Apple flagship we’ve all been ignoring for months now? I admit I was one of those people... I quite literally put out a story titled “iPhone 14 to be iPhone 13S…”, but… things seem to have changed since then!

Hours before the official iPhone 14 series launch in Cupertino, here are the new, and surprisingly, many camera upgrades that are now expected to come to iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus.

Apple’s cheaper and iPhone 13-looking 2022 flagships just got way more exciting!

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Underwhelming? Not really! iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus could be getting three brand new cameras: That’s 3/3

That’s right! Three out of three brand new cameras could very well be coming to what was supposed to be one of the most unimpressive iPhone upgrades in the past five years!

We're talking a brand new front-facing camera with auto-focus, a new ultra-wide-angle camera with better low-light performance and Macro Mode, and even a new and larger primary camera sensor!

Let's break it down one by one...

Big AF front-facing upgrades coming to the compact iPhone 14 and bigger iPhone 14 Max/Plus

Starting from the front, although the Face ID system on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus won't be visually changed compared to the Pro models, which are getting the new pill-shaped cutout, the iPhone 14 series is expected to get the exact same brand new selfie camera as the iPhone 14 Pros.

Apple’s expected to finally, and for the first time ever, bring auto-focus to the selfie shooters of all new iPhones. This will not only put the iPhone 14 on par with what’s expected to be a much more expensive iPhone 14 Pro, but it’d also give it a big leg-up in the smartphone industry as a whole!

Currently, only two Android flagship phones that are in the iPhone 14’s price category have AF on their selfie cameras - the Galaxy S22/S22+ and Huawei’s P50 Pro flagship. Of course, the latter isn’t really competing with anyone due to the fact that it doesn’t support Google apps by default.

The auto-focus enabled camera on the Galaxy S22 series has helped Samsung establish itself as the leader in the selfie category, as Samsung’s latest flagships produce some of the best-looking selfie photos and videos on the market with sharp focus and gentle background blur, which is expected to also be the case with the iPhone 14.

It’s highly likely that Apple will be bringing other improvements to the front-facing camera of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro, such as a wider aperture, a bigger sensor, and an upgraded processing algorithm for more accurate skin tones, which is an area Apple’s phones have been lacking behind in for ages.

Pro-grade ultra-wide-angle camera to give the more affordable iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus a Macro Mode

The other camera upgrade we’ve heard about through the grapevine has to do with a camera that’s notso near and dear to my heart, but it’s certainly a fan favorite! The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus are (finally) expected to bring new ultra-wide-angle cameras to the more affordable version of Apple's flagships, which is bigger news than you might think!

The truth is that the ultra-wide-angle camera of the vanilla iPhones hasn’t been upgraded in ages - since 2019 and the iPhone 11, if I have to be concrete, which is (you guessed it) when Apple first introduced the ultra-wide-angle camera...

So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the current UWA camera sensor on the iPhone 13 is small, dated, and lacking behind the likes of the Galaxy S22 in virtually every area, both practically and on paper. Mixed and low-light photos coming from my iPhone 13’s UWA camera are particularly poor. But not for much longer!

According to reports, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus are now expected to directly inherit the ultra-wide-angle camera of the iPhone 13 Pro series. While the sensor size of the two 12MP shooters is the same, what’s very exciting for those who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg is that the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus should be able to take Macro Mode photos and videos thanks to the fact that the UWA camera of the iPhone 13 Pro supports auto-focus!

Furthermore, the new 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera has a noticeably larger aperture than the old one (f/1.8 versus f/2.4), which will help in the area where help was needed most - mixed and low-light photography and videography!

iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus getting Apple’s latest and final 12MP, Sony-made primary camera sensor... from the iPhone 13 Pro

Last but definitely not least, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus might actually be getting a new primary camera too! To be clear, this isn’t a rumor or a leak we’ve seen but an educated guess based on Apple’s recent approach when it comes to hardware upgrades and how they spill over from last year’s Pro model onto the new vanilla iPhone…

Last year, the more affordable iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini inherited the primary camera sensor of the iPhone 12 Pro Max (which was larger than the one on the smaller Pro model). So, if Tim Cook rolls up on stage on September 7 with a “brand new” 12MP primary camera sensor for the iPhone 14, you should know that this likely is last year’s iPhone 13 Pro camera, which Apple’s managed to fit into the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus.

Anyway, if things pan out, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus should gain a new and upgraded 1/1.65-inch primary camera sensor with f/1.5 aperture and Sensor-shift OIS. In comparison, the iPhone 13 has a 1/1.9-inch sensor with an f/1.6 aperture and, again, Sensor-shift OIS.

The difference in the aperture size isn’t big, but combined with the larger sensor size, the new iPhone 14 should be able to produce photos with a more pronounced bokeh/blurry background, which has a great cinematic effect in both photos and videos. Of course, more importantly, the new iPhone should be able to take better photos in mixed and low-light scenarios.

Our own testing has shown that the better camera hardware on the iPhone 13 Pro helps it take slightly better low-light photos than iPhone 13, while video is noticeably brighter and clearer in very dark scenarios, which is good news for the supposed iPhone 14 series camera upgrade!

What a plot twist! iPhone 13 Pro "leftover" cameras would actually make for a pretty good iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus

So... As you can see, the cheaper iPhone 14 is suddenly shaping up to be a more compelling flagship phone than we thought it would be…

Now, do the expected camera upgrades make the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus more exciting flagships? No, not really. However, they’d certainly make Apple's cheaper flagships much more competitive compared to what Android is cooking up...

After the latest One UI 5 upgrade, the Galaxy S22 series of phones produce some of the best photos we’ve ever seen come out of a Samsung camera, while videos taken by the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 are strong too. Also, let's not forget that Samsung gives its cheaper flagships proper 3x zoom cameras.

On the other hand, the Pixel 7 isn’t too far from becoming official, and we all know how influential Google’s phones can be when it comes to cameras, regardless of the big price difference we expect to see compared to the iPhone 14, which might make this comparison even more interesting!

So, are you thinking of picking up one Apple’s more reasonably priced flagships this year? I have to say, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Max/Plus are now shaping up to be the substantial upgrade that some iPhone users might've been waiting for - especially those with larger old iPhone models. iPhone 11 users or those with older iPhones will probably be the perfect match for the new 14.

Am I right?

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