Does the iPhone need a separate Pro Camera App?

Does the iPhone need a separate Pro Camera App?

Is it time for Apple to develop a dedicated iPhone Pro Camera app, that is different from the main app, to better support enthusiast photography? Here I’ll suggest they do but let's start with what a Pro Camera App shouldn’t do.

These are the features that make the current camera app stuffed to the gills and don’t need to be carried over to a separate app, at least not to begin with. I should say a separate camera app is relatively unlikely, other options could include a Pro mode instead but either way, I’d say something needs to be done about the native iPhone Camera app, it is getting more unwieldy, features hidden away, an interface that isn’t always clear, just look at the Macro mode and the changes Apple had to make, to provide a better experience.

Back to features, assuming Apple would even consider releasing a Pro Camera app, I think features like these shouldn’t be included:

  • Everything but Photo mode removed, Video, Pano, Slow-Mo, Time-Lapse etc.
  • Live Photos
  • Filters
  • Photography Styles
  • Front camera support
  • iPad support

The Pro Camera App would be complementary, for these features above you’d still use the main app but leave the Pro Camera App with a renewed focus on one thing, more control over how you take photos. So what would an Apple Pro Camera App look like? Here are a few ideas on potential features:

  • No additional modes, the app would be used for photography only
  • Only supported on iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max class or newer phones
  • ProRAW on by default
  • Support for 10-bit HEIF
  • Composition grid on by default, with different layout options available
  • Histogram display, on by default
  • ISO and shutter speed controls
  • Easily accessible exposure compensation controls
  • Manual focus and more advanced autofocus like tracking
  • An option to set the default camera app

The overall idea would still be to leave room for third-party apps and not try to replace them, in other words, not to ‘Sherlock’ apps like Halide but to offer a built-in app that is better placed to support aspiring enthusiasts, with a dedicated experience, stripped back of all the features that might otherwise get in the way. Placement would need to be worked out, what best fits where or which features to have in both apps, like Macro, Night Mode and ProRAW. This is probably one of the risks of another camera app, if you move features, it may frustrate users and actually make things worse.

Another option would be to host the app on the App Store, which you have to choose to install, so at least you know what you are getting. Again, all of this is very un-Apple like, so the chances of this are unlikely, to say the least, but in a recent ‘The iPhoneography Podcast Network’ episode, they talked about how much time Apple spend on camera features in keynote presentations and this would be a big one, it would also be big product differentiation, providing a different class of photography for those that want it on the more expensive phones.

So has this been done already elsewhere? Funny you should ask, yes it has ‘ Expert RAW’ is Samsung’s more pro focussed photography app, that can be installed on phones like the Galaxy S22 series. Samsung promotes this on the product page as “A pro studio in your pocket” and “ We're taking Pro mode to the next level. Download Expert RAW for full control over your shots, saving the RAW files directly to the Gallery”.  The featured image at the top of the post is from the Expert RAW download page!

I do like the sound of Apple releasing something similar, as an app you download that gets updates not through iOS updates but as a regular app on the App Store. This would allow Apple to take more risks, and develop the app quicker, trying out different things.

As has been said many times what does pro mean anyway in products like the iPhone Pro and iPad Pro, this for the iPhone Pro would be a big departure and offer something unique you wouldn’t get on the cheaper phones, even better it shouldn’t alienate most users, as they wouldn’t care about a pro camera app anyway. Anyone with a big camera, DSLR, APS-C, Mirrorless etc. would love a Pro Camera app built-in, as well as those users just trying to further their photography skills.

Apple please make it happen, your competitors are already doing this and not that that’s a yardstick you always follow but why have such an awesome camera system, with that ridiculous camera bump, that is reportedly getting bigger in the iPhone 14 Pro models when you don’t have an app to match. Thanks for reading, please subscribe if you found this post interesting and if you would like more articles like this, sent straight to your inbox!