I was at a concert yesterday and was upset that my iPhone 13 Pro couldn't record clear video for more than a split second at a time.

The conditions were dim light and zoomed in, and the quality of the video kept switching between "bad" and "good" but defaulted to "bad" without being able to do anything about it.

Sometimes, I would zoom in from a wider shot, and if I tapped the image to focus on the subjects, the quality would go from good to bad after I tapped.

Sometimes, the phone seemed confused at which lens to use, and would flip between lenses without being able to produce the best quality video in the end.

In this screenshot, the recorded footage plays twice, first at normal speed, then I slowed it down to freeze frame the very brief moment when the video was of the best ideal quality, before reverting to low resolution.

enter image description here

The phone's camera would only record in good quality (left side image) for a split second, before reverting to the low res quality (right side image).

What should I have done differently to be able to record in the best possible quality?

iPhone 13 Pro / iOS 16

  • Any phone is going to struggle here with autofocus pixels and exposure algorithms. Are you looking for advice on zooming out a bit and tripod which may be all you can do in this challenging situation? Focus lock and AE lock may be needed. Also, one niggle, the resolution doesn’t change in video but the compression, possible white balance and focus do - which caused your quality to change
    – bmike
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 20:26
  • So, I apologize if I didn't explain the camera's behavior, but the phone was able to produce correct images. Just not for a very long time. For example I film with the 1x camera, zoom in, everything is clear, I tap the screen, everything becomes blurry. Or the image would be sharp for a second then become blurry and overexposed and default to this preset. I'm trying to understand why the camera's software couldn't tell when it was doing a good or bad job, I guess? Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 20:29
  • 1
    The software made poor decisions and you may need to set things manually. Your tap prompted it to try and adjust but that scene may not ever be easy to capture. You might need a larger sensor or lens. I’ll put up an answer. Your explanation was very clear to me and let me figure out what your challenge is
    – bmike
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


Your best bet is to control the Auto Exposure and Auto Focus using the native apps and a tripod. The contrast of that scene is going to be very hard with stage lighting and distance. A proper zoom lens may help greatly with both.

If you need more controls, the two apps I prefer are Halide for stills and raw photos and Filmic Pro for video. They cost money but produce superb results if you invest some time in upping your skill level at maximizing the sensors and hardware you have. They are full of fiddly details and UI you have to study a bit and not as streamlined as Apple’s implementation (which also hides many of these controls till you know to look for them).

The problem is focus pixels alone can’t handle the scene you chose for them. Here is an old but still good article on the OIS, focus and other technical considerations. Once focus is lost, then auto white balance and auto exposure also can cause you headaches, but accurate and stable focus is the big problem you experienced.

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