iPhone 14 Pro Cameras vs. 13 Pro: All the Ways They’re Different

This story is part of iPhone 2022 focal pointCNET’s collection of news, tips and advice about Apple’s most popular product.

Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro has several camera systems and performance improvements that have led to it stellar reviews, including a 48 megapixel sensor and the company’s new image processing technique called Photonic Engine. This immediately puts the iPhone 14 Pro ahead of last year’s iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Maxat least on paper.

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But do these new hardware and software features really make a difference in the real world?

To find out, I compared the two phones’ cameras in a series of challenging situations in San Francisco. All of these photos were taken in the default camera app on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro, both running the latest version of iOS 16.

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You can learn more in a deep dive about the specific improvements to the iPhone 14 Pro camera system, by my colleague Stephen Shankland. CNET’s Patrick Holland also has one great analysis of iPhone 14 Pro photos and how the Photonic Engine helps improve the quality of photographs in difficult lighting conditions.

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iPhone 14 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro

Lexy Savvides/CNET

The iPhone 14 Pro’s 48-megapixel sensor captures more detail

Hardware-wise, the biggest change between the two phones is the 14 Pro’s new 48-megapixel sensor in the main wide camera, which is also physically larger than the older iPhone, making as much of a difference in photo quality as the megapixel increase. The 13 Pro uses a 12-megapixel sensor.

Using a technique called pixel binning, the iPhone 14 Pro combines four pixels into groups to capture 12-megapixel photos with more detail. You can also get a full 48-megapixel image if you shoot in Apple’s ProRaw format, and that gives photographers more flexibility when editing and recovering shadow and highlight detail among many other benefits.

In good lighting, the 12-megapixel shots on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro look similar at reduced magnification, and it might not be so easy to spot the difference. It’s when you push a little that the advantages of the 14 Pro’s new sensor and image processing become clear.

In the images below that I captured in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the tree trunks are more defined and sharper in the iPhone 14 Pro photo than in the 13 Pro. Areas with fine detail, such as grass, also retain much more resolution. You can click on the full resolution image of iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro for easier comparison.

The iPhone 14 Pro’s lens on the main rear camera also has a wider field of view than the 13 Pro: 24mm versus 26mm. This means you can get a little more in your shot, which can be especially useful for landscape photography.

The iPhone 14 Pro can take photos with 2x zoom

The iPhone 14 Pro also has another trick up its sleeve: the 48-megapixel sensor can also take 12-megapixel photos with an effective 2x optical zoom. You will see a new 2x option in the camera interface. This crops the center of the higher-resolution image to immediately give you more flexibility with focal length, without the need for a fourth lens. The iPhone 13 Pro can also take photos with 2x zoom, but it uses digital zoom and doesn’t have the same quality or level of detail as this new technique.

I think the new 2x option on the iPhone 14 Pro helps with portrait mode. Instead of only offering 1x and 3x options like the older phone, you can also take portrait mode photos at 2x. This results in more natural photos to my eye. I find it more flattering on facial features than the wide 1x look or the 3x wide perspective.

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iPhone 14 Pro vs 13 Pro: Night and low-light mode

The iPhone 14 Pro has a new image processing pipeline to help improve shots in medium or low light. Combined with the larger sensor, I can see the difference compared to the iPhone 13 Pro in every shot I took at dusk. In the photos below, take a look at the detail captured in the tree branches across the horizon.

The newer phone also has better low-light noise reduction, without enabling night mode. Dynamic range is also improved in low light, capturing more shadow and highlight detail than the older phone.

Specifically, for night mode shots, both phones use similar exposure times ranging from 1 to 3 seconds depending on lighting conditions. The iPhone 14 Pro image below has a more accurate white balance overall and slightly better detail when you zoom in.

Action mode is the star of iPhone 14 Pro video recording

Both the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro record in 4K at up to 60 fps. Video footage looks similar to shooting on the main rear camera. But the iPhone 14 Pro unlocks additional video tools like Action mode. This is like having a gimbal attached to your phone to give smooth results when you move, except you don’t need any additional hardware – it’s all done on the phone.

Action mode crops your image a bit and drops the resolution from 4K to 2.8K. But I think the results are incredibly impressive, especially when compared to the same video shot on the iPhone 13 Pro.

I chased my puppy, jogged along the beach, and took a fast-motion tracking shot in front of a waterfall in the park with Action mode, and the results were remarkable. The video footage from the iPhone 14 Pro looks like it was shooting with a stabilizer, smoothing out even the sharp movements. The video on the iPhone 13 Pro seems much more unstable. You can see those examples in action in the video below or at the top of this page.

The iPhone 14 Pro has big camera improvements, but the iPhone 13 Pro is still impressive

Apple’s latest iPhone has some significant advantages over last year’s iPhone 13 Pro when it comes to both photo and video capture. Importantly, you don’t need to consider yourself a serious or professional photographer to take advantage of that 48-megapixel sensor. But the iPhone 13 Pro is still at the top of its game in most other areas, and it still offers one of the best phone cameras you can get.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce radical changes such as the Dynamic Island, a new 48-megapixel camera system and Apple’s new A16 Bionic processor. All of these updates come together to make an experience that feels fresh and snappy compared to older generations.

Read our Apple iPhone 14 Pro review.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

The iPhone 13 Pro is the best phone Apple makes and received a stellar score in our review. The new smartphone adds a third rear camera with 3x optical zoom (previously 2x on the iPhone 12), a stainless steel body and a ProMotion display with refresh rates of up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling.

Read our iPhone 13 Pro review.

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