The iPhone 12 Pro in really low light

The iPhone 12 Pro in really low light

In the beginning of November we enjoyed a road trip in country NSW.

One of the stops was Wellington, which we visited to see the Wellington Caves.

Wellington Caves is a complex of over 40 limestone caves located just outside the town. We visited Cathedral Cave.1

The visit to the caves presented me with a wonderful opportunity to test the much discussed low light photography capabilities of my brand new iPhone 12 Pro.

The caves themselves are awesome, and the way the operator conducts tours was not only very professional and safe, but also very COVID-safe.

All of the images in this post were shot using ambient light only—i.e. with no flash. They were also hand held, and all are presented straight out of camera. I have not even cropped any.

What I observed is that the LIDAR functions in the camera really augment the capability of the camera system in low-light conditions

There is one image in particular I want to highlight. At one point in the tour, when the group is safely in one place, the tour guide extinguishes all light to provide the experience of being in complete dark.

This next image was hand held and captured in a pitch black environment with zero ambient light.

Now this isn’t the best image I’ve ever shot, but it is among the most extraordinary. The LIDAR sensor very accurately mapped the contours of the cave and the feature known as *The Altar. The camera picked up the detail very effectively.

When looking at this image, please bear in mind:

  • The image was created in absolute darkness
  • The image was created on a mobile phone
  • The image was handheld.

After few moments to acclimate to the darkness the lights were turned back on and we go to see the Altar. It is a magnificent structure.

The image to the left was also taken handheld on the iPhone 12 Pro, and using only the ambient illumination in the cave.

What I wish I had done is taken a tripod with me and set the iPhone up on that. I suspect that would have been a really interesting result.

My conclusion is that the iPhone 12 Pro lives up to the hype around its low-light photography capability. To be honest in situations like this I would be tempted to reach for the iPhone before setting up a ‘real camera’ on a tripod.

The LIDAR sensor is a game changer, and I wonder how long it will be before we see this on mainstream cameras.

Here are a few more images, all shot in ambient light.

  1. Which was the only cave which could be visited due to COVID-19 social distancing measures. 


Photography enthusiastic, writer, hiker and diving geek from Canberra (and Sydney), Australia. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

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