How good is the picture quality of Apple’s latest smartphone? I took a close look at the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro. Here comes the test!
A good friend of mine recently bought the Apple iPhone 12 Pro. Before it is really used in her home, she let me use it for a day. So I could test the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro extensively.
So a big thank you to Anne Hornemann for letting me use the smartphone for testing.
About my previous knowledge
I have been photographing landscapes and architecture for more than 15 years. For this, I primarily use an SLR camera and several lenses. During this time, I have held more than 20 exhibitions, received various photography awards and regularly published images and texts on photography in various professional magazines. You can read more about this on my about me page.
Technical data of the cameras
The iPhone 12 Pro has 4 cameras, including a selfie camera on the front and three cameras on the back. My review is exclusively about the cameras on the back.
These are an ultra-wide-angle, a main camera and a telephoto camera. Calculated to 35mm, the cameras correspond to these focal lengths:
- Ultra-wide angle: 13 mm focal length
- Main camera: 26 mm focal length
- Telephoto camera: 52 mm focal length
By the way, these focal lengths correspond 1:1 with the Samsung Galaxy S10, which I currently use. In this respect, I had quite a good comparison.
All three cameras have a resolution of 12 megapixels. The main camera and the telephoto camera have an image stabilizer. The apertures of the cameras range from 1.6 to 2.4.
Videos it can record at 2160p and 60fps. The battery has a capacity of 2815 mAh and should thus be enough for longer photo tours. The iPhone 12 Pro is 187 grams light. This puts it in the middle range of current smartphones of this size.
Besides the Internet connection, pictures can also be transferred via Apple Lightning, WLAN and Bluetooth. If you want to edit your photos directly on the smartphone, this also runs smoothly thanks to 6 GB Ram and the 2x 3.10GHz Firestorm and 4x 1.80GHz Icestorm processors.
Image detail with different focal lengths
To give you a feel for how these different cameras look in practice, I photographed the same subject with all three cameras. Image 1 is the ultra-wide angle, image 2 the main camera and image 3 the telephoto camera.
How did the camera test go?
I had the iPhone 12 Pro available for six hours yesterday and photographed with it almost constantly during this time.
I deliberately took pictures of different subjects and light situations. I photographed portraits, nature and architecture. I took shots that had a high dynamic range and photos in very low light.
Today I took two hours to intensively examine and evaluate the finished images.
My subjective evaluation of the image quality
On the display of the iPhone, the pictures sometimes looked a bit too color-intensive when I took them. However, when I look at the pictures on the computer now, I find the colors very natural so far.
What I noticed directly in the 100% view: Apple also sharpened the images very strongly.
With Samsung, the results also look like this. For me as a photographer, this level of re-sharpening is clearly too strong. If necessary, you can also adjust the settings yourself with the possible RAW format.
Dynamic range (HDR)
The iPhone 12 Pro’s camera compensates well for pictures with large brightness differences (dynamic range). Thus, details can be seen everywhere in the picture. In most cases, the finished images look reasonably good without the need for any post-processing.
When testing the portrait feature, which I describe below, there was one situation that was really challenging thanks to varying brightness levels in the image. Here, the model’s face looked a bit washed out. If this situation occurs, however, you can already see on the smartphone display that the image is a bit washed out in the corresponding areas. Then you can adjust the cropping of the image if necessary.
I’m not criticizing the iPhone 12 Pro’s HDR automatic for this shot because the lighting situation was extremely difficult.
The blurring of the background in portrait mode works very well. In fact, I would argue that it is the most natural recreation of blurring a large aperture that I have seen on current smartphones so far. The transition from sharpness to blur is never abrupt, but always happens in small steps.
In the test, all three cameras delivered a sharp image. Here, not only the center of the pictures was sharp, the sharpness was also present in the corners.
Night shots – low light performance
For low-light shooting, I darkened my office as much as I could. There is not too much light coming in here anyway. Additionally I darkened the room with blinds. The iPhone now switched to night mode and exposed for 2 seconds. The result was a day-bright image. I’m still amazed by these shots of modern smartphones without a tripod, because even my DSLR can’t manage that.
This image is a 100% crop of the whole photo. The subjects are recognizable, but the noise is especially noticeable in the dark areas. Also, the transitions between different brightnesses (The shadow of the plant on the wall) become a bit coarser. The sharpness decreases, but it is still okay. In my opinion, it’s enough for a souvenir picture. Nevertheless, the overall result is good so far.
iPhone 12 Pro camera sample images
To illustrate, here are some pictures I took during the test. All pictures are not post-processed, but just downsized for this post.
So you can make up your own mind about the quality of the cameras if needed.
When is it worth switching?
In my opinion, you will only notice a significant difference if your old smartphone was at least four years old. For me personally, it’s not worth having every smartphone generation because the differences between the generations are usually not very big. For example, I did not find the jump from a Samsung Galaxy S7 to an S10 incredibly serious. Of course, this assessment is very subjective, but you might be able to save some money here.
In my opinion, all smartphones from the last 4 years have all the features you need. The display is big enough, the camera’s picture quality is good. Almost all apps run smoothly and the smartphone is easy to use. The question now is what is really new here. I use the wide-angle camera of the S10 relatively little. Personally, I do not necessarily need a 120 Hz refresh rate. The 5.5-inch screen is also sufficient for me. My suggestion: Before buying, think about whether you really need a new smartphone.
My conclusion of the iPhone 12 Pro camera test
Overall, the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro give a good performance. There were hardly any weaknesses in the test. The 12 megapixels are perfectly sufficient to take a larger print of vacation photos.
All three cameras deliver sharp pictures up into the corners. As a user, you do not have to worry about exposure or HDR either because the smartphone almost always finds the right settings in automatic mode. The iPhone 12 does a particularly good job with the automatic white balance, which results in natural pictures.
Night and portrait mode deliver good results, and Apple is now on par with the competition especially in the former. Only the aggressive post-sharpening did not please me as much.
Conclusion: The iPhone 12 Pro has a good and up-to-date camera system that you can buy without hesitation.
Among Apple smartphones, only the iPhone 12 Pro Max is even better, as you can read in my recommendations for the best phone camera. Are you still undecided? Check out my iPhone 12 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 camera comparison to see how the two smartphones compare.
How did you like the test? Have you been able to try out the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro? Write me in the comments! If you want, I can also let you know about every new post so that you don’t miss anything.