I'll admit that I've acted like one of those recalcitrant photographers from the early years of this century who claimed that digital would never supplant film, that analog photographs would always be superior to electronic files, and so on. But my Luddite tendencies have never been aimed at film versus digital (we started shooting commercially with digital cameras back in 1998) rather I've been a reluctant convert to the relevance, convenience and quality of smart phones.
A number of years ago some wag created a category of image making he called, "iPhoneography" and the whole idea back then left me cold. The phones didn't have the resolution I thought they would need and the video wasn't nothing to write home about, not to mention that storage was small and expensive. But that's all changed. And the ascendancy of photography and video production with phones is being hammered in conclusively with the launch of the iPhone 12 Pro (but was evident with the iPhone 10 and 11 models too!).
One of my video producer friends sent me a link last week that showed an interview with famous cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, and about 3 and a half minutes of wonderful video that Lubeski shot with the new iPhone 12 Pro. It also has him doing a voiceover and explaining why he feels that the new phone will change filmmaking forever. Before undertaking any knee-jerk reactions just watch and listen to what he says: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m07zMRXXP0
Yes, the video is sponsored by Apple but "Chivo" (Lubezki) is a much sought after cinematographer with a tremendous record of achievement and it's not likely at all that his opinion was "bought." And, yes, it's true that part of the reason the video looks so great is the combination of: great locations, great models, potentially hundreds of thousand of dollars of support equipment (professional level drones, cranes, specialty lighting, etc.) but the fact remains that the files coming out of the new camera are impressive in their own right. Lubezki's great work should be seen as something aspirational, after all, he's using the exact same camera and lens that you can pick up in the next few weeks from your favorite cellphone service provider for around $1K.
To say that it's cheating to show work that was created out of a support-rich environment is like saying that having 30 years of daily, hands-on experience is unfair. The tool is neutral. It creates quality based on what the operator brings to the project. The phone itself isn't a magic wand.... And is actually a democratizing addition to the whole world of filmmaking.
But back to that "magic wand" thing. What attracts me to the new phone are things that I would loved to have used on projects over the last few months. The first one being 4K, 60fps HDR footage. The images coming off the 12 Pro are in some ways more beautiful in their dynamic range than any of the best, under $5,000 traditional hybrid cameras which, in order to match the 12 Pro have to be used in V-Log and then meticulously color graded in long and grueling post production sessions. The difference is that the iPhone 12 Pro is doing all the work with in-camera processing and showing you the finished product on screen, as you shoot. It's the first phone to offer video in 10 bit, 4:2:2 and it's a wonderful to carry around and use on small, lightweight (but very effective) gimbals.
While I might still need traditional video cameras for commercial work it's mostly because, for now, I need to be able to plug in and use professional XLR connected microphones to record traditional interviews. I need long, fast lenses for situations like this evening when I'll need to shoot from a static position but cover a waist up or mid-torso up close-up of a stage performer from 50 feet away. Maybe, just maybe, my full frame cameras will have less noise at the higher ISOs I'll need to use this evening. But, maybe Apple's incredibly fast A14 processor will be able to stack multiple frames in real time and make the noise a non-issue. We'll know when we get hold of one.
The new camera comes with three lenses as well as LIDAR for low light and no light focusing. The lenses have some optical zoom range but I haven't dived into those numbers yet.
The model I have in mind is the 12 Pro. There is a bigger one called the 12 Pro Max but it's too big for me to comfortably use as a day-to-day phone, and it's more expensive but doesn't really have any additional production-oriented features. The price for the one I want is $999. I'll select the graphic finish for mine. I'm not really a big fan of bright colored phones and if I wanted to momentarily become aesthetically flamboyant I can always toss on a cute protective case covered with something topically current.
Of course the new phone won't replace every camera on every shoot but I can't imagine that I'll want to use anything else again on a gimbal. I can't imagine that anything else will be as convenient and comfortable to use.
To the caveat about audio and the need to use external microphones, does anyone imagine that a bluetooth or wi-fi app won't soon be available that will allow the wireless connection of mixers and microphones that will provide the same level of control we currently enjoy with our big, double-use (photos and video) cameras right now?
The technology that Apple is delivering in the new products is just stunning. And it's not just "potential" or advertising stunning; you see amazing results from current iPhones in real life all the time.
If filmmaking gets technically easier and easier then great ideas get more and more valuable. The barriers to entry continue to fall; which is neither good nor bad. You can reject the change or embrace it. It doesn't matter. I'm on board because I've already seen what a two generations older iPhone can do on a gimbal.
A filmmaking powerhouse that really fits in a pocket and creates stuff in a way we would have thought was magic just a few (very short) years ago amazes me. Please deliver mine now.
Funniest comment I've read about the phones so far. Of course from a DP Review commenter:
"If it doesn't have dual card slots I'm out."
I have to assume that was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.