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Camera test: iPhone 12 vs. 12 Pro vs. 11 Pro

iPhone Camera test: iPhone 12 vs. 12 Pro vs. 11 Pro

 

iPhone Camera test: The ultra-wide camera is improved on 12 Pro

The next pair in this camera comparison is the new iPhone 12 Pro and the old iPhone 11 Pro (Max).

iPhone Camera test

So, here come the daylight camera samples.

iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera - f/1.8, ISO 32, 1/5236s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera - f/1.8, ISO 32, 1/3846s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera - f/1.8, ISO 32, 1/2028s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera - f/1.8, ISO 32, 1/4808s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera

iPhone 12 main camera - f/1.6, ISO 32, 1/6897s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 main camera - f/1.6, ISO 32, 1/5051s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 main camera - f/1.6, ISO 32, 1/2681s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 main camera - f/1.6, ISO 32, 1/6135s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 12 main camera

There is only one difference between the two sets of photos – the ones coming from the iPhone 12 Pro are noticeably warmer than the iPhone 11 Pro’s. None of the phones got the colors right if we have to be honest, as the weather conditions and sun position that day made for somewhat unusually warmer look on everything. The reality is that the iPhone 11 Pro shows them cooler, while the iPhone 12 Pro paints them warmer.

Yet, this look is purely subjective and easily fixable in Photos. The color presentation aside, everything else is identical – resolved detail and mediocre foliage, excellent dynamic range and contrast.

Let’s enjoy some ultrawide photos now, shall we?

iPhone 11 Pro/Max ultrawide camera - f/2.4, ISO 20, 1/1916s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max ultrawide camera - f/2.4, ISO 20, 1/1410s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max ultrawide camera - f/2.4, ISO 20, 1/749s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max ultrawide camera - f/2.4, ISO 20, 1/1776s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro/Max ultrawide camera

iPhone 12 Pro ultrawide camera - f/2.4, ISO 25, 1/2083s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro ultrawide camera - f/2.4, ISO 25, 1/1453s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro ultrawide camera - f/2.4, ISO 25, 1/786s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro ultrawide camera - f/2.4, ISO 25, 1/1845s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 12 Pro ultrawide camera

We observed the same difference with the colors of the ultrawide photos, though once again – this isn’t an issue per se.

iPhone 11 Pro ultrawide
iPhone 12 Pro ultrawide

The ultrawide photos coming from the new iPhone 12 Pro are identical to the ones from the 11 Pro at the center, but they are more detailed and sharper around the edges and it is easily visible. Indeed, the 12 Pro, even if it should be using the same camera with the same lens, offers better processing and overall better ultrawide images.

2x zoom comparison – the newer model falls behind

The iPhone 12 Pro has a dedicated 12MP telephoto camera with 1/3.4″ sensor and f/2.0 52mm lens. That’s the same camera found on the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, sensor, lens, OIS, and all. That’s unlike the iPhone 12, which relies on its main camera for zooming, meaning it provides pure digital zoom.

As you will see, both phones do a fairly good job shooting with their telephoto snappers, but surprisingly, the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s photos turned out better. They are often a bit more detailed, especially in distant foliage or other high-frequency detail such as the decorative bricks on the castle.

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We would need to zoom in to 100% magnification to see this difference.

iPhone 12 Pro 2x
iPhone 11 Pro 2x

But even if you look at the windows’ reflections – the iPhone 11 Pro Max often captures more visible and detailed reflections than the iPhone 12 Pro. We can’t be sure if the new Smart HDR processing makes this on purpose, or the camera is simply a bit worse than the one on the previous model.

iPhone 12 Pro 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 25, 1/3690s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 25, 1/3984s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 25, 1/2994s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 12 Pro 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 25, 1/1295s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 25, 1/4348s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 32, 1/122s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 12 Pro 2x camera, 12MP

We’ve used an iPhone 11 Pro Max to take the samples below, but rest assured, the image quality is identical to the 11 Pro, and all conclusions apply to both.

iPhone 11 Pro Max 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 25, 1/2994s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro Max 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 20, 1/2519s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro Max 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 20, 1/2083s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro Max 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 20, 1/1065s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro Max 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 20, 1/2817s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro Max 2x camera, 12MP - f/2.0, ISO 25, 1/122s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro Max 2x camera, 12MP

So, the iPhone 12 Pro tele camera appears to be inferior to the 11 Pro’s, even if it’s by a tiny bit. We think both phones indeed use the same hardware, but Apple’s processing took the wrong turn somewhere as it’s losing some detail and shows warmer colors.

Low-light photography – the ultra-wide is much better again (iPhone Camera test)

Moving on to low-light, then. Surprisingly, comparing the iPhones in the controlled lighting conditions of our studio, we found out that the brighter F/1.6 aperture on the new iPhones does not make a difference in exposure – we get absolutely the same shutter speed and ISO. We don’t have any potential explanation for this but for now, we’d rather not point out the wider aperture as an advantage of the new generation.

Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Apple iPhone 12 Pro vs. Apple iPhone XS and the Apple iPhone 11 Pro in our Photo compare tool

Let’s check out the real-life camera samples next.

iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera - f/1.8, ISO 1000, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera - f/1.8, ISO 640, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera - f/1.8, ISO 800, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera - f/1.8, ISO 640, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro/Max main camera

iPhone 12 Pro main camera - f/1.6, ISO 1250, 1/14s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro main camera - f/1.6, ISO 500, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro main camera - f/1.6, ISO 640, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro main camera - f/1.6, ISO 500, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 12 Pro main camera

The Night Mode always triggers on the iPhones and it usually chooses 1s or 2s exposures. With the Auto Night Mode both iPhone Pro models shoot similar photos, and the brighter aperture doesn’t matter much here.

It does matter when we disable the Night Mode though – you can clearly see the new iPhone captures brighter images.

iPhone 11 Pro (NM off) - f/1.8, ISO 2000, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) - f/1.6, ISO 1600, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro (NM off) - f/1.8, ISO 1250, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) - f/1.6, ISO 1000, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro (NM off) • iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) • iPhone 11 Pro (NM off) • iPhone 12 Pro (NM off)

The iPhone 12 Pro has Night Mode on its ultrawide camera, which makes for a massive improvement over the iPhone 11 Pro ultrawide shooter, and its images are pretty good.

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Even without Night Mode (which we disabled only out of curiosity), the iPhone 12 Pro still snaps better photos than the 11 Pro – they are a more detailed and less noisy.

The iPhone 11 Pro ultrawide camera is no good at night, while the 12 Pro’s offer some okay photos – bright and colorful.

iPhone 11 Pro - f/2.4, ISO 2000, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) - f/2.4, ISO 2500, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode - f/2.4, ISO 1600, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro • iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) • iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode

iPhone 11 Pro - f/2.4, ISO 2000, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) - f/2.4, ISO 2500, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode - f/2.4, ISO 2000, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro • iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) • iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode

iPhone 11 Pro - f/2.4, ISO 2000, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) - f/2.4, ISO 2500, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode - f/2.4, ISO 3200, 1/8s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro • iPhone 12 Pro (NM off) • iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode

None of the Pro models supports Night Mode on the telephoto camera. Worse, none of them uses that camera at nighttime and prefers to digitally zoom. Still, we were able to capture these two scenes with the zoom snappers.

iPhone 11 Pro 2x - f/2.0, ISO 1000, 1/20s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro 2x - f/2.0, ISO 1600, 1/17s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 11 Pro 2x - f/2.0, ISO 1250, 1/25s - iPhone 12 Expansion review iPhone 12 Pro 2x - f/2.0, ISO 1600, 1/25s - iPhone 12 Expansion review
iPhone 11 Pro 2x • iPhone 12 Pro 2x • iPhone 11 Pro 2x • iPhone 12 Pro 2x

The iPhone 12 Pro tele camera offers brighter photos yet again, with better exposure, and livelier colors. The noise is higher on the iPhone 12 Pro photos, but so are the fine details, and we’d prefer them over the 11 Pro’s.


Verdict – iPhone 11 Pro is the better deal (iPhone Camera test)

The only major advantage the iPhone 12 Pro has over the 11 Pro/Max are the improvements of the ultrawide camera. In daylight, you get more detailed ultrawide photos with sharper corners. In low-light, the newly added Night mode adds an even bigger difference.

iPhone 12 Pro is considerably more expensive than the 11 Pro and in iur comparison, we’ve discovered that the telephoto camera produces photos that are a bit software. That aside, we’d advise on saving some cash by going for the outgoing model – the iPhone 11 Pro.

 

 

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