What Is Photonic Engine? And Which Apple iPhones Have It?



Apple has introduced a new technology it calls the Photonic Engine, which helps your photos look better than ever. But not all iPhones have it. Here’s what you need to know…


Apple has now introduced its iPhone 14 series for the year. The series includes the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Each phone saw updates across the board, but one of the areas that got the most attention on each phone was the camera system.

The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus still have the dual-lens 12MP camera system, but the lenses each got a specs boost. On the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, that spec boost was even more apparent. The Pro series’ triple-lens camera system saw improved lenses across the board as well as the main lens seeing a boost from 12MP to 48MP.

But despite the superior lens system of the iPhone 14 Pro series, the entire range of iPhone 14’s received a new type of photographic technology that Apple is calling the Photonic Engine. Here’s what you need to know about it…

What Is Photonic Engine? And Which Apple iPhones Have It?
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What Is The iPhone Photonic Engine?

When you hear “Photonic Engine” you probably think of a single component. But Photonic Engine is the name Apple gave to a new system of computational photography that relies on three things: the camera hardware, machine learning, and software.

So, the Photonic Engine is the result of the three ingredients above. They all work together to give you the ability to take photos that look better than ever.

But just how does the Photonic Engine make your photos better? Specifically, the Photonic Engine enables much better low-light photography. As already stated, it does this by a mixture of the benefits of the new camera lenses in the iPhone 14 series, the iPhone’s software (iOS 16, in this case), and powerful machine learning algorithms.

The result, Appel says, is an increase in the quality of low-light photos without scarifying the color of elements in the photo that should be dark.

Because of the Photonic Engine, Apple says photos taken with the main camera on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus will result in low-light pictures that are up to 2.5x better than before. And on the ultra wide camera, it will lead to up to 2x better low-light photos.

On the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, Apple says the Photonic Engine will deliver up to 3x better low-light photos on the ultra wide lens, and up to 2x better photos on the main and telephoto lenses.

How Do I Use The Photonic Engine?

You don’t. What we mean by that is that the Photonic Engine is built into the iPhone itself. There are no settings or Photonic Engine button for the feature. Just snap your pics as you normally would.

What iPhones Have The Photonic Engine?

The Photonic Engine is available on the following iPhones:

  • iPhone 14
  • iPhone 14 Plus
  • iPhone 14 Pro
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max

As the Photonic Engine relies on hardware as well as software and machine learning algorithms, iPhones before the iPhone 14 series are not capable of Photonic Engine.

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Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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