Apple launches Adaptive HDR standard – backward compatible with SDR

iPhone 15 Portrait Feature

At the WWDC24 Global Developers Conference, Apple announced the launch of its new Adaptive HDR standard. This new standard is backwards compatible with SDR systems, decoders, and applications. This innovative technology allows for the storage of both SDR and HDR information in a single file and can adapt to different displays by mapping between HDR and SDR. HDR (High Dynamic Range) and SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) are two different display technologies used to enhance the visual quality of video content.

Adaptive HDR

Key Differences

1. Dynamic Range: HDR has a higher dynamic range, typically 17 stops, which is closer to the human eye’s dynamic range of 20 stops. SDR, on the other hand, has a dynamic range of 6 stops.
2. Color Accuracy: HDR uses 10-bit colour depth, which can display over 1 billion colours, whereas SDR uses 8-bit colour depth, limiting it to 16 million colours.
3. Brightness and Contrast: HDR projectors can achieve much higher peak brightness levels, often over 1,000 nits, compared to SDR projectors which typically range from 300-500 nits.
4. Metadata: HDR content uses dynamic metadata to track brightness levels and colour ranges, enhancing the viewing experience. SDR content uses static metadata, which is less effective.

Advantages of HDR

1. More Immersive Experience: HDR provides a more vivid and lifelike image with deeper blacks, brighter whites, and more detail in shadows and highlights.
2. Better Color Reproduction: HDR’s expanded colour gamut offers more accurate and nuanced colours, making them appear more realistic.
3. Enhanced Contrast: HDR’s higher dynamic range allows for a more dynamic and immersive viewing experience, especially in scenes with varying lighting conditions.


Key Features of Adaptive HDR

The Adaptive HDR standard offers several key features that enhance the overall HDR experience:

1. Backward Compatibility: Adaptive HDR is designed to work seamlessly with existing SDR systems, ensuring that users can continue to use their current devices and applications without any disruptions.

2. Single File Storage: The standard stores both SDR and HDR information in a single file, making it easier to manage and share content.

3. Dynamic Adaptation: Adaptive HDR can map between HDR and SDR to adapt to different displays, ensuring that the content displays correctly regardless of the device or screen used.

iPhone 15 Series Support

The iPhone 15 series will be the first device to utilize the Adaptive HDR standard after upgrading to iOS 18. This means that users of these devices will be able to take advantage of the enhanced HDR capabilities and enjoy a more immersive visual experience.

Adaptive HDR

Expanded HDR Support Across the Apple Ecosystem

Apple has expanded HDR support across its ecosystem, ensuring a more uniform performance in various scenarios. The Photos App, Messages, Quick View, and Preview functions now correctly render and display HDR photos after upgrading to iOS 18 or macOS 15. This enhancement provides users with a seamless experience when viewing and sharing HDR content.

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The expanded HDR support allows users to view and share high-dynamic-range images with ease in the Photo App. The Preview function now correctly renders HDR photos, providing users with a more accurate representation of their HDR content. By upgrading to iOS 18 or macOS 15, users can take full advantage of these advanced features and enjoy a more immersive and visually stunning experience with their HDR photos and videos. This expanded HDR support across the Apple ecosystem ensures consistent performance across different apps and scenarios, enhancing the overall HDR experience for users.

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Adaptive HDR

Screenshots and Screen Recordings

The new system’s screenshots and screen recordings also support HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology. This means that users can now capture and share high-quality screenshots with ease. The days where good details of the screenshot are lost are now over. This is a new era for screenshot lovers as their images will have a wider range of colours and contrast levels. This results in more vivid and detailed images.

With the ability to capture HDR screenshots and screen recordings, users can share their gaming experiences, tutorials, and other content in a more visually appealing way. This is particularly useful for content creators who rely on high-quality visuals to engage their audience. The improved quality of the screenshots and screen recordings also makes it easier for users to troubleshoot issues or document their progress, as the detailed images provide a clearer understanding of the system’s performance.

ISO HDR – The First Standard for HDR Photography

Apple highlighted that the ISO HDR launched last year was the first standard for HDR photography. Apple played an active role in its development, and the Apple ecosystem already supports ISO HDR. The ISO HDR standard is designed to ensure compatibility across different devices and platforms. Furthermore, this ensures that users can seamlessly view and share HDR images across various ecosystems.

Apple’s involvement in the development of ISO HDR reflects the company’s commitment to advancing the field of photography. The standard is built upon the principles of HDR and wide colour gamut (WCG) encoding for still images. This standard is essential for capturing the full range of colours and contrast in a scene. By supporting ISO HDR, Apple’s ecosystem can now better handle the demands of HDR photography. This also allows users to capture and view high-quality HDR images with ease.


The launch of Adaptive HDR by Apple marks a significant milestone in the development of HDR technology. With its backward compatibility with SDR systems, single file storage, and dynamic adaptation capabilities, Adaptive HDR is poised to revolutionize the way users experience high-dynamic-range content. The expanded support across the Apple ecosystem, including the iPhone 15 series, Photos App, and other apps, ensures that users can enjoy the enhanced visual experience without any disruptions.

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