[00:00:20] Is the new Action Mode worth the iPhone 14 Pro upgrade? How do I get down from here? As you might have guessed, this video is being brought to you by my new desk, the FlexiSpot Pro Plus Standing Desk E7. But more about them later. For now, let's talk about Action Mode. What is Action Mode and is it something that is worth upgrading to the iPhone 14 or the iPhone 14 Plus or the iPhone 14 Pro or the iPhone 14 Pro Max? Is it worth the upgrade for that? Well, that's what we're aiming to find out in this video. So, let's first talk about what Action Mode actually is.
[00:00:58] On its surface, Action Mode is basically, like the name implies, for shooting action. Not just standard, you know, your-kid-running-around action but, like, the hardcore action. The kind of stuff that you normally break out your GoPro for. Now, right, you're probably not going to duct tape an iPhone to the forehead of your crash helmet but you can get some pretty epic stabilized footage with this iPhone and that's what the Action Mode is all about. So, how does it actually work? Let's start with that.
[00:01:23] Now, if we look at just the stabilization — forget about Action Mode for a second — just the stabilization that is in the iPhone 14 Pro, it is called Second generation Sensor Shift Optical Image Stabilization. That's a lot of words. Let's break this down. “Optical Stabilization”. Let's start with that. This means that the optics, the lens itself is free floating and can move around to counteract any movement that you might do with the camera.
[00:01:48] This is moved around not accidentally — very deliberately — with magnets and gyroscopes and all kinds of who-the-hell-knows but it is moved around to compensate for your movement. The second part of that is the sensor shift part.
[00:01:59] Essentially the same idea. The sensor itself is shifting around inside of the camera. It can shift a lot more times per second than the lens can — I think largely because it weighs a lot less, but it is moving and the lens is moving. So, between the two of them, you've got some pretty serious stabilization and that again is without the Action Mode and in the iPhone 14 Pro, you have second generation of that. So, you know, it's getting pretty good.
[00:02:23] Now, if you add in Action Mode, what that does is, Action Mode actually crops into the sensor. So, it's no longer using, no longer recording the entire sensor. You're only going to be capturing part of that which means you're going to have lower resolution and we'll talk about that later but because you're using less of the sensor for the final recording, the software has a lot of extra footage that it can use to move around and stabilize the footage.
[00:02:47] So, when you combine the optical stabilization along with the sensor shift stabilization and now the new digital stabilization which is what the Action Mode is, you have some pretty darn epic stabilization. I mean, it's kind pff - so, you're going to see this in the tests.
[00:03:02] Now, there been a handful of sample shots uploaded by creators on YouTube and on Twitter that have actually created a little bit of confusion because people just aren't super aware of how this mode works. I wanna start with one that was uploaded by iJustine. Now, Justine took two iPhone 14 Pros, a regular and a Max, and recorded same thing side by side, one with Action Mode on and one with Action Mode off and she labeled those and put them up on YouTube as YouTube Short and I've linked this down below so, please be sure to check that out.
[00:03:29] In her video, a lot of people watching it commented that she had the labels backwards because the wider shot was labeled as the Action Mode and the tighter shot was not, and logically, this makes sense because we know that the Action Mode is cropping into the sensor so it must mean that the wider shot is the non-Action Mode and the crop shot is the Action Mode. Turns out that's not actually the case and when we get into how this whole thing works, you'll understand exactly why but suffice it to say, iJustine did not label her video wrong. It is absolutely correct.
[00:03:59] The other reason that people are a little bit confused is because both of the videos looked awesome. They both looked super stable and that is because the basic stabilization mode is just that good. You really gotta push it to see the difference between them.
[00:04:12] Another example that was uploaded was by Tyler Stallman and in his example, the non-stabilized footage was so shaky that people insisted that it was fake, that that was not an actual test. He then had to post a follow up to explain what he had done and in the non-stabilized footage, he wasn't comparing Action Mode to non-Action Mode. He was comparing Action Mode to completely unstabilized, which you can't do within the iPhone's own camera app. You actually have to use a third-party app to completely turn off stabilization.
[00:04:40] It's a really cool example because you see just how much even the basic stabilization does. When you turn it off completely, it's a mess. I mean, you could never shot video with your iPhone handheld without any stabilization on whatsoever.
[00:04:51] So those are the two examples that are out there that have definitely made some people think “Hold on a second what is this actually doing?” And again I've linked to all of that down below. I encourage you to check that out.
[00:05:00] Let's have a quick look at Apple's website to compare the iPhone 14 Pro to the iPhone 13 Pro to the iPhone 12 Pro. Within here you can see that that iPhone 14 Pro features second generation sensor shift optical image stabilization while the 13 Pro is the first generation.
[00:05:17] Then when you compare to the 12 pro, which only had dual optical image stabilization — whatever that actually meant — we are definitely in a whole new category here. Curiously under the video header as opposed to the camera header, the iPhone 14 Pro only says “Censor shift optical image stabilization” and not second generation. It's hard to imagine that the second generation isn't being used for video, so maybe it's just a mistake on the Apple website.
[00:05:41] For my test I'm actually comparing the iPhone 14 Pro to the iPhone 12 Pro. Why not a 13 Pro? Well, a couple of reasons. For one, I think most people who are watching this video wondering if they should upgrade are probably considering upgrading from the 12 Pro or earlier, not the 13 Pro. Most people don't upgrade every year. Most people upgrade every 2 or more. So, that's the main reason. Plus, I already own the 12 Pro which the phone I've been using for the last couple of years. So, obviously makes it a bit easier for me.
[00:06:06] So, those are the phones that we're going to be comparing. Before we dive into the comparison though, let's understand exactly what's happening with the iPhone 14 Pro as you jump between the different lenses and between the Action and the non-Action Mode.
[00:06:19] The 14 pro appears to have four focal lengths but only has three lenses. When you're at 1X, you're using this lens. Here I'll cover it to prove it. If you drop to 0.5X, now you're using this lens. If you go to 2X, you're actually using the 1X lens.
[00:06:36] This phone has a huge 48 megapixel sensor which can be cropped into to deliver that 2X view but still deliver the 12 megapixel stills or the 4K video. So, it's a single sensor that's delivering both “lenses”. And then here's 3X using this third lens.
[00:06:53] Here's the four focal lens in comparison. Now let's look at Action Mode. I'll go back to the 1X lens and once again, let's see the difference between the 1X and the 0.5X. Now watch what happens when I go back to 1X and then press the Action Mode.
[00:07:07] It actually switches to the 0.5X lens but the field of view is more like 1X. A bit wider but nowhere near as wide as 0.5X. So it's using that wider 0.5X lens and as I explained at the beginning, cropping in quite a bit to give you that image stabilization. You'll notice too that you no longer have 4K resolution. In Action Mode, your maximum resolution and frame rate is 2.8k at 60p.
[00:07:31] And if I do go back to 1X in Action Mode, that field of view is cropped even more. You can also do 2X and 3X in Action Mode. Always limited to 2.8k at 60p. Let's take a look at some test footage. Something more intense than just riding up on my fancy new desk. That opening shot may have not been very high intensity but I sure got a rise out of it. It really lifted my spirits to know that I'm replacing my old immovable desk with this new FlexiSpot.
[00:07:58] If you look at some old footage, you'll see that the white tabletop didn't even span the width of my set. This new FlexiSpot Pro Plus Standing Desk E7 is a whopping 72 inches wide and 30 inches deep giving me enough coverage to cover the entire set here.
[00:08:13] It has great range from much lower to much higher than I'd ever need. And includes a programmable keypad which is usually extra with other standing desk companies. There's tons of accessories available, some of which I'll be adding to this desk after I reattach all that stuff.
[00:08:27] It was actually really quick and easy to put together. My seven-year-old helped out and it took us less than an hour and that's with letting him screw in most of the parts. Thanks again FlexiSpot for sponsoring this video. There's a link down below with more information about the desk which will also get you $30 off of your purchase. So, don't walk, run to that link just like I did in the test footage where we did some walking and we did some running. We did some walking and running upstairs and we found this janky old beat up dirt road to bomb the Subaru down to get some really jostly good off-road footage and look, I know most people are never going to shoot that way but it was kind of fun excuse to take the car off-road and it really does show just how good this mode is.
[00:09:04] The other thing to know is how I held the cameras. I didn't use a fancy rig with a handle and both cameras mounted to it. I get that that is very very valid so you can compare more frame by frame. I didn't do that. I just held the two cameras — just held them up to do it.
[00:09:18] Now, we tried really hard to hold them in the same position as much as we could. It didn't always go to plan but you know, it's good enough. You can see the overall feel of the difference between them which I think is more important than trying to measure frame by frame. Also, in the iPhone 14 Pro, I did shoot in ProRes because I can, and the iPhone 12 Pro, I did not shoot in ProRes, because I can't.
[00:09:39] Both cameras were set to HDR, so we do have that HDR to SDR conversion for this video which means I did have to do a little bit of color tweaking for the shots that you're going to see just to make them look like they're supposed to look on your screen, but I did not do any kind of noise reduction or sharpening or anything else to the shots. Alright, enough babbling. Let's get into the test footage.
[00:09:58] First up, walking. And in my first test, I did a comparison of the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro with Action Mode off. As you can see here, the 14 is not only noticeably better, it's pretty awesome. However, if you look closely, even on the 14, you can see some jumping on each footfall resulting some pixel blurring. So, it's not perfect.
[00:10:17] Next, walking with Action Mode on. Here, the smoothness is absolutely incredible. Near gimbal-like which is really saying something. However, remember, it's only 2.8k which looks just fine on your phone but less so on a big TV. The real problem though is low light performance.
[00:10:33] This was filmed on an overcast day and you can really see a lot of noise in the shadows. Next up is running with Action Mode on. I didn't bother shooting a non-Action Mode and wow, here we really see that gimbalish experience. It's kind of ridiculous. Of course, it's still lower resolution and noisier but WOW is it smooth.
[00:10:51] The next test is stairs. First, walking, again first with Action Mode off. As you'd expect, the 14 looks considerably smoother. Then, walking upstairs with Action Mode on. Here, it's even smoother still and it was a bit brighter out here, so there's less noise in the shadows. We're really starting to see just how much a little extra light makes a big difference in Action Mode.
[00:11:11] Now, let's run up the again with Action Mode on.
[00:11:24] Finally, we get to the bumpy road. Look, I don't know how many of you make a habit of shooting video from a really bumpy car without a gimbal, so this demo is kind of silly but it's still awesome to see and it was fun. Here we had a lot more light, so there's no noise issue here and while it's still just 2.8k, it does look a lot better than the earlier tests.
[00:11:57] What have we learned here? Well, the iPhone 14 Pro is certainly a fantastic upgrade from the 12 Pro. As far as the camera's concerned, it is a huge difference. Even without the Action Mode, the camera is significantly better than the 12. So, in my mind, it's well worth the money paid to get that upgrade. Adding the Action Mode and you've got an even better experience.
[00:12:14] That whole gimbal like thing that you can get out of it is absolutely remarkable but you do need to have good light to make it look good. If you do have to shoot Action Mode in low light, I definitely recommend that you shoot in ProRes and plan to do some noise reduction in post. It's really going to help the footage look a little bit better.
[00:12:30] Also, don't forget that it is only 2.8k. So, if you're doing a 4K production, you are going to have to scale that footage up and it's not going to look quite as good on a big screen. Of course, if you're just looking at it on your iPhone, then, it's going to look incredible no matter what.
[00:12:42] What do you guys think? Is this worth an upgrade from the 12 Pro or even from the 13 to get this new Action Mode and the better camera? Is this something that you would consider upgrading for? Is the Action Mode enough of a difference to upgrade to? Let me know in the comments down below. Thanks again to FlexiSpot for sponsoring this video and we'll see you in the next one!