You can take RAW photos with your iPhone, you just can't do it with the default Camera app. Apple does allow third-party apps to access the hardware and software needed to take RAW photos, so you can use one of the many options to do it. RAW photos provide a lot more flexibility than HEIC or JPEG photos, but with a much larger file size. Using a third-party app means you can keep using the Camera app for regular photos and use the other app when you want to take RAW.
A lot of professional photographers and some amateur ones like to shoot using RAW format with their regular digital cameras. But you can also shoot RAW format using your iPhone. Now you may not know this because there's no way to do it with the default camera app. The default camera app doesn't allow you to set it to capture as RAW and it's probably a good thing because most people want to take pictures that will then compress and then fit well on their phones. After all I get tons of people asking me how they can fit more photos on their phones and what they can do when they run out of space on their phones. But I rarely ever get anybody asking me how they can take images that have better pixel quality.
So if you want to take a RAW photo with your iPhone you need to get a third party app. Apple actually has a special section where they list third party apps that allow you to take RAW photos. Basically Apple is allowing it in the hardware and they're are allowing it for software developers to be able to access that functionality. They're just not putting it in the default camera app. One of the good advantages to this is that you can then get one of these apps and then go to it whenever you want to take a photo in RAW mode and then use the default camera app for everything else. When you take standard pictures just for a quick message or just a reference or something like that you use the standard camera app which is quick and easy to get to. Then when you want to take a really nice shot of something important you can then use that special camera app.
So let's take a look at one of those apps. We're going to start by looking at Obscura and when you go into that app, it's a fairly standard camera app, and you can see that I can set a lot of things including Format. So I can go back and forth here, filters and grid and all of that. But if I go to Format and I tap on it I get a wheel here where I can select from the high efficiency photo which is kind of the default now. You can go to the old JPEG format for compatibility but also you can switch to RAW. Now I can take a picture using RAW just by tapping in. It will remember that setting so now I can use this app to take RAW photos very easily. As a matter of fact if I go back to this main screen here and tap and hold here I get the ability to take a RAW photo right there on that screen.
Now that's how it works on most of those apps. You find the settings in the app and you change the format. You can switch usually between the HEIC, JPEG, and RAW. Sometimes there are other formats or variations thereof as well. Now in Adobe Lightroom, if you're using Adobe software and you have the Lightroom app there's a camera app inside there, and Adobe has their own DNG RAW format. So if you go into the Lightroom app and you tap the camera at the bottom you'll see at the top it's got DNG there at the very top. So if I tap the DNG at the top you can see I can switch to JPEG if I want. But leaving it at DNG will give you that RAW format that probably most people want if they are using the Lightroom app to begin with. You can make other adjustments that you want and take the photo. It'll get saved there and using Adobe Creative Cloud. That's the way to do it if you're using Adobe stuff.
So here are three pictures of that fake apple that I took. I did it in quick succession in Obscura switching to the different formats. So you can see here for the HEIC format, that standard one now, I get something that's 1.7 megs in size. So that's pretty good. Now just to compare the old JPEG format, which some of you may still be using because you want maximum compatibility, that same photo is almost identical, is 2.9 megs. So you can see how much space HEIC saves you over JPEG.
Now prepare yourself because this is the RAW photo, which is the same photo. I mean these are taken shot shot shot. It's 14.3 megs! So you can see having all that additional data there really does add up. Now if you look at the photo itself you could see that, you know, the HEIC and the JPEG almost look identical to each other. You can switch between them. You don't really see any picture quality difference. You're going to see something very different when you look at RAW. It's got all the data there. Now it looks different because it's not baking in all of the, kind of, enhancements and changes to the photo.
In reality I've got more data there and if I go and edit the photo now and make my own changes to it there's a lot more that I can do with this photo. So say if this was a product shot that I wanted to post as part of my eBay account or it's a picture of something I just built and I really want to create a good photo and post it online I may want to consider taking RAW and then playing around with the adjustments for just that one shot. But if you're going to just take, you know, a hundred shots of a night out having fun then shooting RAW is probably going to add up to too much space, too much storage, for it to be worth it. Especially if you're not going to go and do fine tuning on the photos.
Link: Apple’s List of Raw Photography Apps.