iPhone RAW File? HEIC? or Hallide

I’ve been shooting SLRs → DSLRs → Mirrorless cameras for over 30 yrs now. I’ve been a Lightroom user for over 15yrs - I might even have the CDs for my 1.0 release.

Playing alot more in the world of iPhone photography I’m trying to figure out, which camera app to reach for at any moment.

  • iPhone built-in Camera - shoot to RAW? - pro flexibility - change white balance and some exposure in lightroom
  • iPhone built-in Camera HEIC? - pro good guess at white balance and exposure built in to the image
  • Hallide - RAW and Jpeg - two for the price of one.

What are you using? Why?
If you use more than one what makes you switch between each option?

Personally I’ve not got much into playing with camera applications on the phone and usually just use the stock camera app - this isn’t a deliberate selection - it is just because I haven’t invested time in evaluating other options.

To add another option to your list - as you are already a Lightroom user, have you tried the camera app that’s built into Lightroom? Just had a quick look, it appears to be have a few manual controls such as exposure comp, shutter speed, iso etc. There also appears to be option to shoot DNG or jpeg. Any synchronisation with your existing LR catalogue ought to be fairly seamless (you’d hope anyway!).

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I bought Halide, but it is just a curio to me. If anyone were to do a study of ergonomics in photography, I think smartphones would rank at the bottom of the list. Add a complicated app into the mix and that just gets worse. I hate on screen controls for photography as much as I do for games.

I tell myself I don’t take a lot of iPhone photos, but the truth is I do. What is also true is that they are taken mostly on the spur of the moment and therefore fiddling with finding a particular app and tapping the screen to get the right settings is far from my mind.

That’s what the iPhone is good at:

  1. Being ever present.
  2. Being quick to activate (swipe from right on lock screen).
  3. Being good enough in most situations to get a satisfactory shot.

For those reasons, I think I will only ever use the built in app (maybe another if they ever allow us to set the default) and if I want a great photo I will use a dedicated camera.


@stu_w Darn you, you made my world more complicated (in a good way).

Next up how to make the Lightroom Camera available from a Home Screen vs. Opening the Lightroom the editor.

@zkarj Thanks its another detail that I’ve just been reminded of. I need to record who recommended an app and why/where. I agree with your comments about the UI, its fussy.

Pretend I flip the question - what would you shoot:

  • LR Camera RAW
  • iPhone RAW
  • iPhone HEIC

…dedicated camera isn’t always handy. When it is the quality is better. From my wife’s perspective the iPhone camera has the advantage that she gets pictures to share much faster.

Depends on your goal and reason for making the image.

I recently did a hike at the Grand Canyon, down to the river and up the next day. As it was not a photography expedition I took only my iPhone. But I shot everything in RAW to give me the most flexibility in post processing.

I used Halide, but I am annoyed that I paid for the app, and then they switched to subscription. The old bait and switch. But that is irrelevant to the quality of the app itself.

I’ve not used the Lightroom app on my phone, but I do have a Photoshop/Lightroom subscription, so I may give it a try.

That said, I also take plenty of images with the stock photo app, as HEIC, when I do not expect to post process. That is, when I’m not on a ‘photoshoot’.

So to answer your question, all of the above.

Hope this helps … :slight_smile:

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I like, and use, the ProCamera app.

Like others, I prefer to use a “proper” mirrorless camera when I have the choice but there are times when the iPhone is all that I have with me. On those occasions it’s good to take a photo and know that it’s effectively in both DNG (RAW) format and jpeg so that if I need to I can process the RAW file to get the best from it.


If you long press the Lightroom app icon there’s a menu option to jump straight into the camera.

On the file format debate, my own approach would be: if I were taking the photo with the LR app that would be a “considered” photo so RAW/DNG; stock camera app would be a “grab-shot” so the default HEIC.

I am in a similar boat- I was on the public beta for the Lightroom 1.0 release and have been loving it ever since. My DSLR, while I love it to bits and it’s wonderful RAW files, is no longer following me on vacation trips. The break-point for me was the iPhone 12 ProMax where I found the quality (finally) good enough for almost any type of personal use. It has also forced me into Photos, so I now maintain two libraries.

That said, I mostly use the buit-in Camera app, but also reach for Halide at times when I want to reduce exposure (sunset shots, stage performances etc). I stick with HEIC, as I don’t see much extra value from the RAWs of the iPhone. My experience is that the RAWs are extremely noisy and I find it hard to get better results than the default processing.

If I’m going to use an iPhone I prefer to just let the computational photography try to make a go of it. Shooting RAW on the iPhone in my (limited) experience just highlights how hamstrung the sensor is by its size. If I was to spend time processing RAW images from any camera, I would want to do it on a Mac and my preferred tool for that cannot read (any) images from modern iPhones.

Correct, but that doesn’t change my calculus. If I want a great photo, I need a dedicated camera. If I don’t have one, I don’t get the great photo. Simply being present doesn’t make the iPhone take great photos.

I respectfully disagree with most comments present. I think the only sensible solution on an iPhone is to shoot HEIC/JPG. The moment you shoot RAW you throw out all the expertise Apple has been putting into photo algorithms. And the truth is, only reason why phone photos can look so good is precisely because of those algorithms. I would go with the built-in Camera app. 3rd party ones have one major disadvantage – they’re much less convenient to access. And the touch controls are very finicky to use. I would say that if taking a “big” camera is too cumbersome, then 99% of time adjusting settings in a touch-based interface will be too cumbersome too. Especially considering the fact that what the iPhone gets in fully automatic mode usually is quite good.

I would have a 3rd party camera app just for that 1% of cases where it makes sense to use it.

Perhaps using Apple ProRAW could be a sensible option too. I don’t have experience with that as I have an older iPhone (XS; still works good enough for me). I don’t know how well it is supported in Lightroom as I use Apple Photos.

In any case, I would advise to try the built-in app first, as most iPhone users would. Only if the results are dissatisfying I would check out 3rd party solutions.

To give more background, I use my iPhone camera somewhat frequently, almost always with the stock Camera app. For more “serious” photos I have Fujfilm X-T3. Although this one is fairly often used in JPG mode as well.


Ok, enough opinions that we clearly need data. I just need some idea where to host the data.

I shot two sets of images - flower outside @ noon and a bookshelf inside.

I shot each image with all 3 iPhone lens using: iPhone Camera (HEIC + RAW), Lightroom to DNG, Halide (JPG + DNG).
and with my OM-D EM5-MkII @ 12mm and 38mm. (I don’t have a 6mm lens for the OM).

Where can I host the full resolution files so we can debate the minuatea? Would this work on Flickr?


iPhone Camera vs Halide vs Lightroom Camera vs Olympus

Tools under comparison

  • Apple Stockapp HEIC
  • Apple Stockapp RAW
  • Halide DNG
  • Halide HEIC I get Halide to produce a Jpeg at the same time as the RAW file mostly to see what its capable of
  • Lightroom RAW
  • Olympus EM5 MkII - RAW - I also shoot jpeg for the OM so I can easily share photos with my wife on request. (I may drop this)

I looked at all images in MacOS using Preview.


My Olympus doesn’t have anything as wide as 13mm full frame equiv. So all notes skip this one. Add

Iris - this is hard to compare, even though I think I was kneeling in the same place the Lightroom image seems wider angle. The Lightroom image is also a little out of focus - this might have been wind. When zoomed into actual size the HEIC the pixels are a bit too apparent.


  • Lightroom - is wider angle again and the image is slightly soft focused, or maybe the image noise is just too apparent for my taste

Halide says the shutter speed was 1/30th - the softness of focus might be camera shake or autofocus not quite

  • Halide HEIC - slightly less sharp than the stock Apple app - as a backup with the DNG file it’s fine, just not for pixel peeping
  • Halide DNG - same loss of sharpness
    In both cases Halide renders the image about as well as the Apple Stock app

Apple decide to use 1/85th as the shutter speed

  • Apple Stockapp RAW
  • Apple Stockapp HEIC - these two files look almost exactly the same

Apple opted for a slightly higher shutter speed. Halide pro - you can shoot both RAW and HEIC at the same time so you don’t have to decide right out of the gate what your purpose is.



  • Lightroom - is wider angle again and the image is slightly soft focused - I think the LR Camera is out of the running for me
  • Apple Stockapp HEIC - focused on the wrong flower - likely wind
  • Olympus RAW (and jpeg) capture more detail


  • Apple Stockapp HEIC and RAW file - slightly pixelated
  • Hallide both DNG and HEIC are almost the same as the Apple Stockapp
  • Olympus RAW - I made a poor choice for shutter speed at 1/160th - I could have dropped to 1/60th or 1/50th and it would have used a lower ISO below 2500



  • Apple Stockapp HEIC - in focus details are excellent, background areas are suitably out of focus although I prefer the Olympus
  • Olympus RAW - seems to capture a slightly wider range of colour


  • Apple Stockapp HEIC and RAW - both seem a little soft - shutter speed was 1/60th of a second, I wouldn’t expected camera shake to be an issue at that shutter speed with any degree of image stabilization. The HEIC file seems a little over processed for my personal tastes
  • Hallide both DNG and HEIC are maybe a little sharper as the Apple Stockapp
  • Olympus RAW - again I wasn’t careful enough with shutterspeed so the ISO is too high and there is a bit more noise in the background, over all the image feels less over processed

General conclusions

  • Lightroom camera is not great
  • Halide is hard to use well, I often set exposure compensation by accident
  • Halide is handy in capturing JPEG + RAW simultaneously
  • All iPhone pictures are slightly over sharpened when you get down to actual size (pixel peeping). Halide might better than Apple StockApp but not much. On deeper reflection I’m guessing this isn’t so much over sharpening as an illustration of the tiny tiny pixels with iPhone camera sensor
  • Under very good light conditions the 26mm camera does well when compared to a mirrorless camera
  • When image stabilization is required the Olympus camera does a better job
  • Olympus Camera is a bit better than the iPhone at 77mm.

Weaknesses in my analysis: I didn’t look at edges/corners; Light conditions for both were close ideal so I didn’t need to test shadow or highlight recovery. So I should still test differences between iPhone RAW and Olympus RAW for shadow recovery and highlight detail/. I don’t normally pixel peep, so I’m sure there is alot to consider that I didn’t. Feel free to use my images via dropbox to do your own analysis.


  • Lightroom camera is useless for me
  • Halide doesn’t add enough anything extra over iPhone RAW to be worthwhile
  • iPhone RAW files are massive (30Mb), vs Olympus (13-14Mb)

Choose iPhone because its fast and slows the family down less. Choose Olympus when I can breath.


How do you shoot RAW in the Camera app? Is this an iPhone 12/13+ feature? (I have an 11 Pro.)

Crikey! My 24 MP Pentax DSLR has an average RAW file of about 31.2 MB. What on earth are they storing?

I haven’t been digging much into ProRAW (my iPhone doesn’t support it; It’s only for 12 Pro and 13 Pro) but I think it contains everything. And that would mean not just the standard RAW file, but also all other layers. iPhone takes more than one picture when taking a single photo and I suspect that all captured data is stored when using ProRAW. Support article says that while DNG standard is used (= you can edit ProRAW in anything that supports DNG) for best results you need compatible software (presumably to be able to take advantage of that extra data). It also warns that ProRAW images are 10-12 times larger than HEIF/JPG.

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I have an iPhone 13. With rare exceptions I use my iPhone camera the same way I use my two mirrorless cameras, i.e.:

  • I shoot raw (ProRaw if I’m using my iPhone).
  • I (usually) don’t bother with jpeg / heic.
  • I edit everything in Lightroom Classic CC on my desktop.
  • Once I’ve imported my iPhone’s images into Lightroom, I delete them from my phone, just as I delete the images on my SD card once I’ve imported them. (The photo gallery on my phone contains images from all of my cameras that I’ve edited and added back as jpegs.)
  • Sometimes I’ll spend an hour in Lightroom editing a photo just so (especially if I’m going to print it). Sometimes I’ll just crop as needed, slap on a profile, hit Lightroom’s “auto” button, et violà, I’ve got something that’s ready to print or share as a jpeg.

With my iPhone:

  • I use Halide.
  • Most of the time I shoot ProRaw.
  • Occasionally, I’ll shoot ProRaw+ if I think I may want a HEIC in addition to the ProRaw file—usually if I expect to share the photo from my phone immediately.
  • Lightroom has (finally!) added an Apple ProRaw profile that accesses the local tone mapping metadata built into the ProRaw DNG file. This article by Jeff Carlson is a good explainer for why that’s a good thing and how to take advantage of it. (Executive summary: You can now access and tweak Apple’s computational processing when you edit the image in Lightroom.)

For a deeper dive into ProRaw, read [Halide’s own very detailed explainer]
(Understanding ProRAW – Lux).


It’s under Settings → Camera → Format → Apple ProRAW. No idea what iPhone version you need.

I believe Apple ProRaw is only available on iPhone 12 Pro / Pro Max and iPhone 13 Pro / Pro Max. You can shoot RAW on an iPhone 11 using third party apps like Halide, but it’s not ProRaw.

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This is true for “plain vanilla” RAW files shot on an iPhone. The advantage of ProRaw is that it retains Apple’s computational processing metadata so that it can be accessed in third party editing software like Lightroom.

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True – that’s the whole point of this technology. I assumed for the most part that @mlevison would be using regular RAW as there was no mention of particular model of the iPhone and ProRAW is only available on 12 Pro and 13 Pro (RAW is possible on anything with A10 and above).

By the way, I would advise @mlevison to inspect if he really wanted to share all metadata with the photos, including the physical location. Just to be on the safe side.

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