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iPhone 12 Pro vs. Pro Max Camera: Differences and Which is Better?

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iPhone 12 Pro vs. Pro Max Camera: Differences and Which is Better?

The most obvious difference between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the size. The latter is 6.1 inches long, while the former boasts 6.7 inches in height. However, most features, including the triple-lens camera setup, are similar. On closer inspection, you’ll notice that these “pro” cameras do have distinct differences that affect the image and video quality.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max, for instance, has more zoom-in allowance, 87% better low-light performance, and sensor-shift optical image stabilization, all features that make its camera superior to the iPhone 12 Pro camera. 

Dive in to learn more about the differences between the cameras of these two iPhone 12 Pro models and get help choosing the best option for leisure or professional photography and videography.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Camera: Side-By-Side Comparison Table

Pro CameraPro Max Camera
Camera Setup12MP front-facing selfie camera and 3 rear 12MP camerasA 12 MP front-facing camera and 3 rear 12MP cameras
Release DateOctober 13, 2020November 13, 2020
Front Camera12MP TrueDepth sensor
f/2.2 aperture
12MP TrueDepth sensor
 f/2.2 aperture 
Wide Lens26mm 7p lens, 12MP sensor, f/1.6 aperture, Sensor shift stabilization26mm 7p lens, 12MP sensor, f/1.6 aperture, Optical shift stabilization
Ultra Wide Lens13 mm lens, 12MP
 f/2.4 aperture
13 mm lens, 12MP
f/2.4 aperture
Telephoto Lensf/2.0 aperture,
2x optical/10x digital zoom, Optical shift stabilization
f/2.2 aperture,
2.5x optical/12x digital zoom, Optical shift stabilization
Resolution 2532 x 1170 (460 ppi)2778 x 1284 (458 ppi)
Image StabilizationDual optical image stabilizationSensor-shift optical image stabilization
Video Dolby Vision HDR video recording of up to 2160p @ 60fpsDolby Vision HDR video recording of up to 2160p @ 60fps

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Camera: What’s the Difference?

The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have almost identical rear cameras and most of the same camera software features, including LiDAR, Night Mode, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR, and Apple ProRaw. However, the camera performance still varies owing to several specifications and feature differences that we discuss below.

Camera Setup and Specs

The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max have an identical camera setup that features three 12 MP rear cameras (Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto), as well as a 12 MP front-facing selfie camera. These cameras equip you with more power to capture creative, unique, and natural-looking images in any environment.

Both the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have a seven-element Wide (26 mm) camera lens that has an f/1.6 aperture. This results in improved low-light camera performance. However, the Wide camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max performs at least 87% better than that on the iPhone 12 Pro thanks to the 47% size increase of the sensor. This allows more light into the camera and translates into improved clarity and sharpness, even for images taken in low-light conditions.

The Ultra Wide camera is the same on the two models. It features an f/2.4 aperture, a 13mm focal length, and a 120-degree camera view. These features of the Ultra Wide lens ensure you capture more details inside the frame, making these two iPhone 12 models perfect for capturing superior-quality landscape images.

The Telephoto camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is what makes all the difference between the two models. It has a 65mm lens with an f/2.2 aperture that supports 5x optical zoom, which obviously performs much better than the 52 mm Telephoto camera lens with an f/2.0 aperture on the iPhone 12 Pro that supports 2x optical zoom.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro, 128GB, Graphite - Fully Unlocked (Renewed)
$369.95
  • Fully unlocked and compatible with any carrier of choice (e.g. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, US-Cellular, Cricket, Metro, etc.).
  • The device does not come with headphones or a SIM card. It does include a charger and charging cable that may be generic.
  • Inspected and guaranteed to have minimal cosmetic damage, which is not noticeable when the device is held at arm's length.
  • Successfully passed a full diagnostic test which ensures like-new functionality and removal of any prior-user personal information.
  • Tested for battery health and guaranteed to have a minimum battery capacity of 80%.
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03/02/2024 10:35 pm GMT

Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)

Apple is known to prioritize optical image stabilization (OIS) in its cameras. Optical image stabilization typically uses a gyroscope, magnets, or other motors to reduce blur and image shaking associated with camera movements.

For the iPhone 12 Pro, they used dual optical image stabilization, which counteracts shake and negates hand jitter by ensuring the lens floats or moves around to follow any hand movements. The dual OIS is included in the iPhone 12 Pro’s Wide and Telephoto lenses and it helps stabilize photos and smooth them out despite shaking.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max includes a flagship technology that was adopted from DSLRs: sensor-shift optical image stabilization. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the first smartphone to adopt sensor-shift stabilization technology in its Wide camera to prevent image blurring by stabilizing the sensor as opposed to the lens, as seen with the OIS used in the iPhone 12 Pro.

The sensor-shift optical image stabilization enables faster and more sensitive stabilization as it can allow up to 5,000 micro adjustments per second. This is significant when compared to the 1,000 micro adjustments per second that are made by regular optical image stabilization.

Image Detection and Processing

Both iPhone 12 Pro models use LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology, which uses lasers to scan the landscape before capturing deep images with more data. The LiDAR scanner on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max is a tiny black circle right below the Ultra Wide camera and parallel to the flash.

It analyzes environments by estimating the bounce rate of light on objects as well as the pixel length to activate sensors that improve focusing and image accuracy. It also improves auto-focus by up to six times, especially in low-light areas. This is an essential feature for photographers who like to capture landscapes in low-light environments or dark interior spaces.

It’s also the technology that enables Night Mode on the Ultra Wide camera and the front-facing selfie camera. Additionally, ProRAW is a unique image format available on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Max that gives you more control over the color, exposure, white balance, and other details of your photos. ProRAW supports Deep Fusion and Smart HDR 3, which ensure your images are crisp, clear, natural-looking, and full of details even before any kind of editing. 

Underwater Photography Capabilities

There’s nothing more impressive than being able to take out your iPhone and capture unforgettable moments anywhere. The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max allow you to do that whether you are in dusty terrain or in water.

The two iPhone 12 Pro models have an IP68 water and dust resistance rating, which means you can submerge your phone in up to six meters of water for no more than thirty minutes continuously. This means you can capture authentic underwater images without worrying about damaging your valued possession.

The Ultra Wide camera on the iPhone 12 Pro boasts a fish-eye effect that allows you to capture both the underwater and part of the landscape above.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, 256GB, Graphite - Unlocked (Renewed Premium)
$741.18
  • Unlocked and compatible with any carrier of choice on GSM and CDMA networks (e.g. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular, Cricket, Metro, Tracfone, Mint Mobile, etc.).
  • Tested for battery health and guaranteed to come with a battery that exceeds 90% of original capacity.
  • Inspected and guaranteed to have minimal cosmetic damage, which is not noticeable when the device is held at arm's length. Successfully passed a full diagnostic test which ensures like-new...
  • Includes a brand new, generic charging cable that is certified Mfi (Made for iPhone) and a brand new, generic wall plug that is UL certified for performance and safety. Also includes a SIM tray...
  • Backed by a one-year satisfaction guarantee.
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/02/2024 10:35 pm GMT

Night Mode

The Night Mode feature on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max cameras is one of the most distinct differences between the two phones. This feature brightens up images by merging multiple shots taken in the dark into one detailed photo.

The iPhone 12 Pro has the Night Mode feature enabled on the front-facing, Wide, and Ultra Wide cameras, which automatically activates when the phone detects a low-light scene. All four cameras also have a time-lapse for video recording. Additionally, you can adjust the Night Mode exposure time manually using a slider available under the Night Mode icon.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is faster when shooting in Night Mode because it requires a shorter exposure time. Photos taken in Night Mode on the iPhone 12 Pro Max are more detailed, more colorful, and have a more dynamic range than those taken on the iPhone 12 Pro, thanks to the larger sensor. They are also less noisy and have much cleaner edges.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Camera: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • The iPhone 12 Pro uses dual optical stabilization to counteract shake and blurring caused by camera movements.
  • The iPhone 12 Pro Max uses sensor-shift optical image stabilization to prevent image shaking or blurring.
  • Both iPhone 12 Pro models use LiDAR technology to improve image depth mapping.
  • The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have an IP68 water and dust resistance rating. This means you can submerge your phone in up to six meters of water for thirty minutes continuously.
  • The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max support Night Mode, which automatically activates when the camera detects low lighting.

iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max Camera: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Even without comparing the cameras, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the better deal, especially if you don’t mind spending an extra $100 for a state-of-the-art phone. With it, you’ll get a 6.7-inch screen that’s crystal clear, ultra-sensitive, and a delight to use when watching videos, scrolling social media, or playing games.

Even better, you get the best camera specs of the entire range of iPhone 12 devices. The iPhone 12 Pro Max will enable you to take well-zoomed-in photos even in dim light because of the automatic Night Mode feature and the 47% larger Wide lens. With a longer Telephoto lens (2.5x versus the 2x on the iPhone 12 Pro), you buy yourself a 5x optical zoom and up to 12x more digital zoom compared to the 4x optical zoom and up to 10x zoom offered by the iPhone 12 Pro. 

You can also enjoy the same level of clarity and focused imaging as a DSLR user even when the phone shakes, thanks to the advanced sensor-shift optical image stabilization. It’ll stabilize the sensor on the Wide camera when the phone moves to prevent blur.

The differences are not much for a regular iPhone user, but for a professional photographer or a keen photography enthusiast, these could mean the world. The iPhone 12 Pro Max will give these two groups of people the added advantage of capturing clearer and well-zoomed-in photos, especially in dim environments.

Frequently Asked Questions

iPhone 12 pro vs. iPhone 12 pro max: Which one has a better camera system?

The iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max camera systems are identical physically. However, the camera’s individual specs vary enough to bring about a significant difference in image and video quality. The iPhone 12 Pro Max stands out thanks to its larger main camera sensor, longer telephoto lens, and sensor-shift optical image stabilization.

iPhone 12 pro vs. iPhone 12 pro max camera: Which one zooms in better?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max zooms in better, especially when capturing photos in low-light conditions. This is made possible by the larger sensor in the main camera, the 2.5x telephoto lens, and the sensor-shift stabilization feature embedded in the main camera.
On the other hand, the iPhone 12 Pro’s main camera sensor is smaller, the telephoto lens has a 2x zoom, and the main camera has dual optical stabilization.

What’s the advantage of the LiDAR technology on the iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max?

LiDAR is a smart technology sensor that’s found right under the Ultra Wide lens. It helps with image depth mapping by measuring the bounce rate of light on objects and the pixel length. It’s also the reason you can take clear portrait mode photos on either iPhone 12 Pro model even in low light.

What’s the Smart HDR 3 feature on the iPhone 12 Pro vs. the iPhone 12 Pro Max?

Smart HDR 3 is a camera setting that allows your iPhone 12 Pro or Pro Max to capture high-dynamic-range images that expose highlights and shadows.

Are the iPhone 12 Pro vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max devices waterproof?

No, neither the iPhone 12 Pro nor the iPhone 13 Pro Max is fully waterproof. However, they have an IP68 water resistance, which makes it possible for them to be submerged up to 6 meters for no more than 30 minutes.

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