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The iPhone has historically offered some of the best smartphone cameras on the market, but which iPhone has the very best camera system?
Apple's iPhone, dubbed as the "world's most popular camera," delivers one of the best consumer photography and videography experiences to date. But do you need to get the most expensive iPhone to get the best camera?
Stick around to find out which iPhone has the best camera system for your needs.
iPhone 12 Pro Max: The Best iPhone Camera System
To start, if you want the best iPhone camera from a technical standpoint, the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers the most versatility and the biggest feature-set compared to the other models.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max offers four cameras: one on the front and three on the back. All four cameras use 12MP sensors with varying focal lengths.
The main sensor is 26mm wide and the standard lens has a wider aperture of f/1.6, compared to f/1.8 on the iPhone 11 Pro. This main sensor also has dual pixel autofocus and in-body image stabilization.
The 12 Pro Max also sports a 65mm telephoto lens with 2.5x optical zoom alongside a 13mm ultrawide lens with a 120-degree field of view.
Finally, the front camera is a 23mm wide-angle lens.
The 12 Pro Max has a larger main sensor compared to the iPhone 12 Pro, allowing the device to capture better low-light photos and videos. The larger sensor also means you're going to get more natural depth-of-field (blurry background) straight from the regular shooting modes compared to using Portrait mode, which can sometimes mess up edge detection on subjects.
Read our iPhone 12 Pro Max review to discover other aspects of this phone as well as a couple of photo samples.
The iPhone 12 Pro models can also capture in ProRAW.
ProRAW is Apple's new image format that combines both the iPhone's image processing and the information of RAW photo files. This new image format allows you to get a much more detailed end result that is more flexible to edit.
From a video standpoint, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the best video you're going to get from an iPhone. Just like the rest of the iPhone 12 series, you can capture video in Dolby Vision HDR; this video format allows you to capture a wider dynamic range, which can result in better color accuracy and detail.
All three back cameras can capture 4K video up to 60 frames per second or 1080p at 240 frames per second (slow-motion video). The front camera can capture 4K at 60 frames per second or 1080p up to 120 frames per second.
Unlike the other three models released in November of 2020, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a large enough chassis to allow for sensor-shift in the camera. Sensor-shift is where the sensor of your camera physically moves inside to stabilize your image.
Sensor-shift or IBIS (in-body image stabilization) is commonly found in big DSLR or cine cameras, but the inclusion of it within the iPhone means you're going to get some of the best-looking videos out of a smartphone.
Summary of the iPhone 12 Pro Max
Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the best camera system on an iPhone right now, allowing you to capture the best quality photo and video with great control and versatility. While the 12 Pro Max is the most flexible camera system, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the best camera system for your needs.
We recommend the iPhone 12 Pro Max for content creators or amateur photographers because it offers the best creative control for both photo and video.
What About the iPhone 12 Pro?
The iPhone 12 Pro is an awkward middle-child between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Aside from an extra telephoto camera, you're better off sticking with the iPhone 12 or 12 mini, which have an identical set of the regular wide, ultrawide, and selfie camera.
Compared to the 12 Pro Max, you're losing IBIS, a larger sensor, and better telephoto capabilities. The iPhone 12 Pro doesn't give you enough to justify spending more for it compared to the iPhone 12 or 12 mini, and it lacks the main features that make the 12 Pro Max the best iPhone camera.
iPhone 12 or 12 mini: The Default iPhone Camera System
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini are great camera systems for beginners and intermediate photographers or videographers. As mentioned before, these two iPhones feature the same 12MP wide, ultrawide, and selfie cameras found on the iPhone 12 Pro.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini have a slightly faster aperture than the iPhone 11 series; all that really means is you're going to get slightly better low-light performance.
Compared to the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, all you're trading off is the telephoto lens and the ability to shoot ProRAW. ProRAW, as mentioned before, is just the combination of the iPhone's image processing and standard RAW; you are still able to capture regular RAW photos using 3rd-party apps such as VSCO or Halide.
Related: The Best Apps and Tips for Taking RAW Photos on Your iPhone
As for video capture, these two iPhones do not disappoint. The iPhone 12 and 12 mini both capture the same 4K video up to 60 frames per second, and they also capture the same Dolby Vision HDR video as the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max.
For the 12 mini specifically, this iPhone offers the most portable camera system of the iPhone 12 series, and you can confidently capture stunning photos and videos without having to worry about opting for a larger device. However, you should take into account the smaller battery of this iPhone compared to its siblings.
We would recommend the iPhone 12 and 12 mini to mostly everyone. These two devices offer an acceptable photo and video experience that can rival larger and more expensive devices.
iPhone 11 or 11 Pro: The Best Camera on a Budget
You don't need the latest and greatest to get a good camera system. The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are still great options when it comes to the camera.
The iPhone 11 features 12MP sensors for its regular wide, ultrawide, and selfie camera. From a technical standpoint, the main sensor uses slower shutter speeds with an aperture of f/1.8 compared to f/1.6 on the iPhone 12 series.
The 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max have identical camera systems which include the same wide, ultrawide, and selfie cameras as the iPhone 11, but with the addition of a 52mm telephoto on the Pro, which offers a 2x optical zoom.
All three devices are able to capture 4K video up to 60 frames per second on each camera, and the quality is still comparable to the newest iPhones today. You should note, you're not able to capture Dolby Vision video like on the iPhone 12 series.
We recommend the iPhone 11 for people who are on a budget but still want to capture consistently great photos and videos.
The notable differences between the iPhone 11 series compared to the iPhone 12 series are the faster aperture on the main sensor, the ability to record Dolby Vision HDR, and slightly better image processing.
Comparing the 11 Pro series to the 12 Pro Max, you're sacrificing a larger sensor, IBIS, and ProRAW if you opt for the iPhone 11 Pro.
That said, if you currently own an iPhone 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max, in the grand scheme of things, there isn't a good reason to upgrade your device just for these incremental camera improvements.
We recommend the iPhone 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max to people who want the versatility of a telephoto lens. However, you should only get the Pro variants if you can snatch them up at a good price.
The regular iPhone 11 offers a near-identical camera experience to the 11 Pro or Pro Max, and unless you're bound to purchase the more expensive 11 Pro for other aspects, such as the screen or design, you should stick to the regular 11, and save some money.
Which iPhone Camera Is Right for You?
Overall, all the iPhones in this article are exceptionally well-made devices that will perform very well for taking photos and videos. The 12 Pro Max offers the best camera from a technical standpoint, while the 12 and 12 mini offer a similar, but slightly more consumer-level experience for the masses.
If you're looking for a cheaper option, the iPhone 11 series offers a great camera system that is still usable today.
The iPhone 13 Pro is not just the latest and great iPhone, it's also the best iPhone for photographers right now. Its triple-lens setup boasts a standard, ultra-wide, and telephoto configuration, with 26mm, 13mm, and 78mm equivalent focal lengths respectively.Which iPhone has the best camera 11 or 12? ›
The cameras of the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 are similar. Both feature rear a dual 12MP camera system with an Ultra Wide and a Wide lens. The Ultra Wide lenses have the same apertures, while the iPhone 12 Wide lens has a slightly larger aperture (f/1.6) which offers better low-light sensitivity.Is iPhone 14 worth getting? ›
But the iPhone 14 is certainly a great phone. The iPhone 13 is still available for $699, but I'd say the 14 is better, and well-worth the extra $100 if you were considering an iPhone 13 today. If you want the best iPhone, then you need to go with the iPhone Pro or Pro Max.Which phone is better at picture quality? ›
Google Pixel 6 Pro
The Pixel 6 Pro was awarded best camera phone of the year in the Creative Bloq Awards 2022. It has a big 50MP sensor on its main camera, which takes in a lot of light, as well as a powerful telephoto and ultra-wide camera.
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 11: Cameras
This is where the iPhone 13 truly stands out against the iPhone 11. For one, the new ultrawide sensor lets in 47% more light than the iPhone 12. And the 12MP main wide-angle camera has sensor-shift image stabilization, a feature previously limited to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Apple says that the iPhone 13's camera lets in 47% more light than the iPhone 12 camera for sharper pictures. These two iPhone 13 models sport the sensor shift optical image stabilization feature Apple added to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the ultrawide lens captures more detail in the darker areas of your images.Does the iPhone 11 or 13 have a better camera? ›
The iPhone 13 also gets sensor shift stabilization for the main camera, a more advanced solution compared to the lens-based OIS on the iPhone 11. In reality, though, there is hardly any difference and video stabilization is about the same, which is to say great.What better iPhone 13 or 14? ›
Is there a big difference between iPhone 13 and 14? The quick answer to this question is no. There isn't a big difference to note here. This year's iPhone 14 and last year's model have a lot in common, coming in the same size, with the same display, the same processor and almost identical camera systems.Is it better to get iPhone 13 or iPhone 14? ›
If you can expense it and want the best of what Apple has to offer, we recommend buying iPhone 14. It offers new and advanced safety, camera, video, battery, and SIM features for a better user experience overall. You can pre-order today, and it will be available on September 16, 2022.Should you wait for iPhone 14 or buy iPhone 13 now? ›
If you're using an iPhone 11, we recommend upgrading to an iPhone 14 (or even an iPhone 13). In the last three years, Apple has made enough changes to features including battery life, performance, screen quality, cameras and durability to merit buying a new iPhone.
The Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max is one of the world's best camera phones, featuring outstanding cameras, i.e., a 48-megapixel primary sensor with huge 1.9 mm pixels, a 12MP f/1.8 ultra-wide, and a 12MP f/2.8 telephoto, with 3X optical zoom capabilities.Who has the better camera iPhone or Samsung? ›
In Portrait Mode, there's a lot of similarity. Samsung has improved the edge detection and bokeh of its portrait photos, and both the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the S22 Ultra take great images. The iPhone is of course more vibrant, and in some images, it's a little sharper.Does iPhone 13 worth buying? ›
The iPhone 13 will still be an excellent investment in 2021 partly due to the specifications it packs. Users will also be able to secure some potential discounts by going with a variant that can make it even more attractive.Whose camera is better iPhone 13 or 13 pro? ›
iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro: camera
The iPhone 13 has a dual 12MP camera system with Ultra Wide and Wide lenses, whereas the iPhone 13 Pro has a triple camera setup that adds a Telephoto lens into the mix. The iPhone 13 Pro is also able to optically zoom in ten times further than the standard iPhone 13.
We compared the iPhone 13 to the iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 8, and iPhone 6, and have come to the conclusion that if you have an older model and take a lot of pictures, the iPhone 13 is worth the upgrade.Is iPhone 13 Pro worth getting? ›
The iPhone 13 Pro is one of 2021's best smartphones, even if it doesn't quite do enough to warrant upgrading from the 12 Pro. The battery life is the best we've seen in Apple's Pro iPhone, and you're also getting top-level performance, a great camera package and a super-smooth 120Hz screen.
The iPhone 13 is a better phone when it comes to hardware and battery, but the iPhone 12 Pro is superior if we talk about cameras and build quality. These are the reason why the one to choose depends on your personal needs.Is iPhone 12 still worth buying in 2022? ›
A cheap iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, or 12 Pro Max is absolutely worth buying in 2022. In fact, here at Swappa, we'd argue that any of these four models are a better buy in 2022 than they were in late 2020 (when they were first released). The reason they are a better buy in 2022 is that they are significantly cheaper.Is iPhone 10 or 13 camera better? ›
While Apple has improved the primary camera on the iPhone 13 to perform better in low light conditions, it retains the 12MP primary sensor. Instead of a zoom lens, users now get a 12MP (f/2.4) ultra-wide lens.Which is best iPhone 11 or 12 or 13? ›
The iPhone 13 will have the best camera features, followed by the iPhone 12 and then, at last, the iPhone 11. You can play games and do almost everything on the iPhone 11 series devices than you can in the iPhone 12 series. The iPhone 13 series is the only device that features the 'Cinematic Mode' of Apple.
Battery life and processing speed
The iPhone 11 includes Apple's A13 Bionic processor, while the iPhone 12 includes Apple's A14 Bionic processor, offering faster speeds that improve the camera and browsing experience.
In our testing, the iPhone 12 lasted about one to two hours less than the iPhone 11, giving the older model an advantage for those who need longer battery life. Not only is the battery bigger, but it also seems that overall efficiency seems to be better, thanks to the lower-resolution LCD display.Which camera Is Best iPhone 12 or iPhone 11 pro? ›
Camera – As we all know that iPhone 11 Pro comes up with a triple camera setup while iPhone 12 comes up with a dual-camera setup which means the camera on the iPhone 11 Pro would result in way better shots.Is iPhone 12 or 11 worth it? ›
The iPhone 12 is a better phone than the iPhone 11 in every way bar battery life. It's faster, more compact, more attractive, and it packs a vastly superior display.Is it better to buy iPhone 12 or 13? ›
iPhone 12 vs iPhone 13: Which one should you get? Performance-wise, the iPhone 13 is undoubtedly better, and even the Geekbench benchmark shows a clear difference. In the single and multi-core tests, iPhone 12 scored 1,572 and 3,865 points, respectively. The iPhone 13 scored 1,739 and 4,702 points, respectively.Is iPhone 11 still worth buying 2022? ›
The iPhone 11 contains several features that make it a very relevant phone even in 2022. Features like Face ID, Qi wireless charging, an IP68 dust/water resistance rating, and a battery life that lasts 17 hours make it an ideal device for those who are frequently on the go.Is iPhone 11 too old? ›
Although the iPhone 11 is almost three years old, it might still be a good choice for many iPhone users, especially if the price drops considerably after Apple's "Far Out" event today. Prices for earlier iPhone models usually decrease after the official announcement of new models.What's better iPhone 11 or XR? ›
The iPhone 11 is a year newer than the iPhone XR, and in almost every single way, it is a little better. The iPhone 11 has a slightly better processor and battery capacity.Is iPhone 11 Pro better than iPhone? ›
The 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro has a significantly sharper 2,436 x 1125 display at 458ppi and the 6.5-inch Max has a 2,688 x 1,242 resolution, again at 458ppi. Also, the iPhone 11 has an LCD screen, while the iPhone 11 Pro uses OLED, which offers better contrast and more vibrant colours.Is iPhone 11 better than 12 pro? ›
The iPhone 12 Pro is clearly a better phone than the iPhone 11 Pro, but the difference is far less pronounced than between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 11, or even the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the 11 Pro Max. Its slim, squared-off, toughened design is undoubtedly a step forward over the somewhat tired iPhone 11 Pro.
The major new feature in the iPhone 11 was an upgraded dual-lens camera system. It includes an ƒ/1.8 6-element 12-megapixel wide-angle lens (26mm focal length) and an ƒ/2.4 5-element 12-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens (13mm focal length), up from a single 12-megapixel camera lens in the iPhone XR.Why is the iPhone 11 camera better than the 12? ›
While iPhone 11's colours stand out a tad bit more than the iPhone 12's, there's barely any difference noticed in the elements. However, we do find the iPhone 12 capturing light better while focusing. Both iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 have a marginal difference in the result.Is iPhone 11 waterproof? ›
These models have a rating of IP68 under IEC standard 60529 (maximum depth of 4 meters up to 30 minutes): iPhone 11 Pro.Is it worth it to upgrade to iPhone 13 from iPhone 11? ›
Apple even put the same A13 Bionic chip in its new entry-level iPad, another signal that this processor is still capable. The iPhone 13 also gets two extra hours of battery life when playing video compared to the iPhone 11, support for Apple's MagSafe accessories, and twice the storage capacity at the base level.