Apple recently launched the all-new iPhone 12 lineup with notable camera improvements across all four models. We’re still putting the new cameras through their paces, so we thought we would try capturing a rocket launch with iPhone 12 Pro.
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Covering Apple and technology at 9to5Mac has been my dream job for nearly eight years and counting. Our network that includes Electrek and many other sites expanded this year to report on NASA, SpaceX, and modern space exploration through Space Explored. We’re only a few months into the journey, and I’m extremely proud of the stories and experiences the SE team has been able to share so far.
Our latest is a dramatic crossover between the 9to5 and SE universes: an epic slow-motion rocket launch video shot on the new iPhone 12 Pro.
United Launch Alliance completed its 141st successful mission on Friday, November 13, with the launch of its Atlas V rocket on a classified mission for the National Reconnaissance Office Laboratory called NROL-101, and we have a close-up look.
Launch providers often give press the opportunity to leave cameras at the launchpad prior to a mission so their rockets can be photographed and captured remotely. No person wants to be anywhere near the launchpad during liftoff for reasons you can see in the video.
Instead, photographers program cameras to trigger at liftoff based on conditions like time, sound, and noise levels. Any number of variables can cause cameras to misfire early or miss the shot altogether. Knowing how to configure the shot’s exposure, shutter speed, and more go into overcoming the obstacle of not actually being there to fire the camera at liftoff.
Shooting with the iPhone introduces its own challenges like overheating, running out of storage, and protecting the hardware. Our video was captured with a 512GB iPhone 12 Pro in Airplane Mode so no cellular or Bluetooth radios were active (something that’s not allowed). We also relied on a mophie powerstation XXL 20K battery pack to avoid running out of power before liftoff.
The result is absolutely incredible for iPhone camera enthusiasts and rocket fans alike. Our team was surprised that this worked at all. The iPhone 12 Pro in Airplane Mode ended almost eleven hours of 1080p 240fps slow-mo capture with 100% battery and 75% left in the external battery.
The shot uses the 0.5x ultra-wide camera also found on iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12, but we relied on the 512GB storage option that only comes on iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Apple helpfully provides guidance on how much storage each video format will require in the Camera section of the Settings app. A minute of footage set to 1080p HD at 240fps uses about 480MB, and we anticipated half a day of capture.
The footage is from a 270GB video that captured footage over 10 hours. The video was cropped in the Photos app on the iPhone and the watermark was added in LumaFusion on the iPad. The iPhone was mounted on a tripod and attached with a JOBY iPhone mount adapter. Our next move is to spend time editing and adjusting the footage; for now we want to share the footage as it was captured by the iPhone 12 Pro. Let us know what you think!
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