When it comes to smartphone requirements, a fantastic camera is usually on the top of everybody's list.
While it's easy to see how far iPhone cameras have developed since the first generation, understanding the differences between models is much more difficult. To take a closer look at what's currently available, we put the new generation of iPhones up against previous releases.
iPhone 15 Pro Max
Our top choice
There is currently no greater iPhone for capturing each and every pixel in the highest quality, than iPhone 15 Pro Max. Its camera comprises a 12MP Telephoto and Ultra-wide lens on the rear, with a 12MP TrueDepth selfie camera up front. The star of the show is the remarkable 48MP main camera, featuring an advanced quad-pixel sensor that effortlessly captures stunning photos with lifelike contrasts. This versatile device allows you to shoot in three different focal lengths: 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm.
Complementing the hardware is a suite of new software enhancements within the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The cutting-edge Photonic Engine goes to work behind the scenes, merging pixels earlier whilst taking the shot, resulting in images of higher detail and greater clarity. Portrait Mode now supports live photos, continuous zoom, and post-shot focus adjustments, all made possible by the latest updates.
Combine this with the latest Smart HDR and you have photos that look like the real thing. Delivering vibrant colours and precise skin tones effortlessly, thanks to technology that operates seamlessly in the background.
The upgraded Photonic Engine is not the sole contributor to remarkable low-light photography; Night Mode now offers an expanded dynamic range, ensuring your subjects remain visible even in darkness. Furthermore, the device boasts four times the resolution of the iPhone 14, empowering you to shoot in HEIF or ProRAW formats, granting you full control over colour, detail, and dynamic range.
When filming videos, iPhone 15 Pro Max includes Action Mode, a feature that smooths out shaky footage for steady shots, and an enhanced Cinematic Mode for recording in 4K resolution, setting a new standard for smartphone video quality. Notably, the iPhone 15 Pro range is the first to support ACES (Academy Colour Encoding System), favoured by major film productions worldwide. It introduces New Log encoding, making ProRes shooting even more effective for visual effects and colour grading enthusiasts.
Read more on the 15 Pro Max in our detailed review.
iPhone 15 Plus
Our mid-range choice
If you're in the market for an iPhone that excels in capturing highly detailed photos without the premium price tag, iPhone 15 Plus is the perfect choice.
It retains the same stunning 6.7 inch display found on the 15 Pro Max, however, without the ProMotion smoothing technology. Nevertheless, this display still delivers exceptional quality, enhanced further by the inclusion of HDR (high dynamic range) and True Tone, which ensure that images feature precise contrasts and lighting.
15 Plus boasts a camera setup that includes a 48MP main and ultrawide lens, which has a 2x Telephoto zoom. These cameras alone are more than capable of producing outstanding images, but the addition of the new Photonic Engine takes the 15 Plus's camera capabilities to the next level, resulting in even more vibrant and vivid photos. 15 Plus also comes equipped with features such as Night Mode, Portrait Mode, Smart HDR, and an impressive TrueDepth front-facing camera.
For filmmakers, the 15 Plus offers the advantage of Action Mode for shooting stabilized videos, while the improved 4K Cinematic Mode ensures exceptional detail, color accuracy, and contrast. The 15 Plus is a complete package and should be near the top of any photographers’ list.
iPhone 14 Pro Max
There is currently no greater iPhone for capturing each and every pixel in the highest quality, than iPhone 14 Pro Max. In its camera array it has a dual 12MP lens on the back and 12MP TrueDepth selfie camera up front. A superb 48MP main camera is the crowning glory here for 14 Pro Max, which can capture beautiful photographs with true-to-life contrasts.
There’s also new software in iPhone 14 Pro Max that enhances photos in the background. The new Photonic Engine combines pixels together much earlier whilst taking a shot; this results in images with higher detail and greater clarity. Combine this with Smart HDR 4 and you have photos that look like the real thing. This technology runs in the background too, so there is no input needed to get the best out of 14 Pro Max.
When filming videos, iPhone 14 Pro Max includes the new Action Mode, which can smooth erratic footage to create a stable shot, and an improved Cinematic Mode for recording videos in 4K resolution at 30 frames per second.
Read more on the 14 Pro Max in our detailed review.
iPhone 14 Plus
If you are seeking an iPhone that can take photos bursting with detail, but without the premium tag, iPhone 14 Plus has you covered.
It retains the exquisite 6.7 inch display found on the 14 Pro Max, albeit without the ProMotion smoothing technology. Regardless, the quality of this display remains extremely high, and thanks to the inclusion of HDR (high dynamic range) and True Tone, images possess accurate contrasts and lighting, boosting this quality even further.
Within the 14 Plus’ camera array are 12MP main and ultrawide lens, which have a digital zoom up to 5x. These cameras on their own are capable of producing fantastic images, but the addition of the new Photonic Engine for more vivid photos raises the 14 Plus to the next level as a camera.
Filmmakers can also take advantage of the new Action Mode to shoot stabilised videos and the improved Cinematic Mode at 4K 30 frames per second. The 14 Plus is a complete package and should be near the top of any photographers’ list.
iPhone 13 Pro
Apple’s most recent line of iPhones continues to push what cameras are capable of in the mobile space.
The 13 Pro camera shares similarities to its 12 Pro predecessor, with telephoto, wide and ultra-wide lenses. All the standard photography settings you’d expect from a premium iPhone are included – such as Night Mode, Time-Lapse, Portrait Mode, and Portrait Lighting with six different effects.
From here we can see some of the improvements Apple has made. The 13 Pro’s wide lens has a wider aperture and larger sensor than the 12 Pro, offering better low-light shots, plus faster autofocus thanks to the enhanced use of the LiDAR scanner. With these capabilities, you can take beautiful, focused headshots in darker environments.
The ultra-wide lens aperture is also wider than that of the 12 Pro, with a faster sensor and new autofocus technology, so shallow-depth-of-field photography looks its best and close-ups maintain sharp focus up to two centimetres. With 6x optical zoom range, you’ll be able to capture the whorls of a fingerprint or the precise detail of a leaf – there’s no end to the possibilities. For long-range camera shots, the 13 Pro excels with its 3x zoom telephoto lens, and distant targets will be captured in rich detail.
Alongside iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13 Pro Max, the Pro has Apple’s new Cinematic mode. Much like the standard video recording mode, this feature defaults to a 16:9 aspect ratio, but it also provides you with an aperture number in the top-right corner, which you can tap to manually alter the depth of field. This setting can also automatically identify the most important subject in the shot and change the focus accordingly.
So, if someone else in your video starts to speak, or a new person enters the frame, Cinematic Mode detects this and anticipates the necessary change to in-depth control. The 13 Pro also benefits from HDR video recording with Dolby Vision, which records more details about a specific scene, so you’ll have greater autonomy during the editing process, and be able to edit your footage at a granular level, frame by frame.
Like all phones in the 13 range, the Pro is rated IP68 water and dust resistant, so there’s no need to worry about filming in the rain, and with Cinematic video stabilisation, you can bank on getting smooth video, even when you’re on the move.
iPhone 13 Pro Max
Best premium iPhone camera
iPhone 13 Pro Max takes position as our ‘Best Premium iPhone Camera’, even though it features the same camera technology as the iPhone 13 Pro. That’s because the Pro Max is the best iPhone on the market right now for everyday use, and has some extra benefits for the slickest photography and videography, but which device you prefer will come down to your taste in smartphone size, your need for extended battery life and your budget.
With iPhone 13 Pro Max sporting a higher-resolution 1284 x 2778 display on a 6.7-inch screen, your in-device editing capabilities are much improved when it comes to tweaking shots or video footage. Combine this with a battery capable of up to 28 hours of video playback, and you have a powerful editing suite on the go. To compare against iPhone 13 Pro, the latter’s stats come in at 1170 x 2532 on a 6.1-inch display, with up to 22 hours of video playback.
iPhone 13 Mini
Best small phone camera option
iPhone 13 Mini offers similar camera hardware and software to iPhone 13, but in pocket-friendly form, with a 5.4-inch OLED display. Like iPhone 13, the Mini is equipped with a dual-lens rear camera, comprised of one 12MP wide lens and a second 12MP ultra-wide lens, to help you capture those stunning landscape shots, or get the whole family into a group photo. As a result, it’s a great choice for photographers looking for a smaller, on-the-go camera, despite lacking the telephoto lens present on the Pro and Pro Max models.
With a 2x optical zoom range, you can still experiment with close-up photography, catching small details in superb clarity. Meanwhile, when you’re filming in 4K, you’ll be able to make the most of audio zoom – a feature that focuses on the sounds that matter most, leaving out any disruptive background noise for a professional-grade cut.
As well as this, Night Mode is present on every camera in the iPhone 13 series, including the 12MP front camera on each device. These are all TrueDepth cameras, which emit thousands of infrared dots to accurately map your facial data, enabling you to unlock your phone seamlessly with Face ID.
iPhone SE (3rd generation)
Best budget iPhone camera
The next step up from the second-generation iPhone SE, which Apple called the ‘best single-camera system on an iPhone’, the third gen SE is a brilliant choice if you’d prefer to stick to a budget for your next handset. New for 2022, the latest iPhone SE has been built with a 12MP rear camera and 7MP front-facing camera - that's plenty of megapixels to snap professional-looking shots in both bright and low light.
iPhone SE shares many of the photography features found on Apple's premium handsets, including Portrait Mode with all six Portrait Lighting effects. You'll be able to get creative with the subject of your shot, and on both the front and rear cameras you can access Depth Control, which will use machine learning and monocular depth estimation to allow you to adjust the amount of background blur in each picture. Simply use the toggle to add more or less blur to a photo - you can even do this after you've taken the shot.
Next-generation Smart HDR 4, meanwhile, helps to enhance every single photo taken. It intelligently adjusts highlights and shadows to ensure your picture has the very best lighting, removing any overexposed or unnaturally dark areas. You’ll also have the option of adding customisable photographic styles: Rich Contrast, Warm, Cool, or Vibrant.
Last but not least is iPhone SE video. You can record on the rear camera at an amazing 4K up to 60fps, and with stereo audio recording, the sound will be crisp and crystal clear. You can even use the QuickTake feature to take a still photo while filming - perfect for capturing unforgettable moments to share on social.