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Which iPhone Has the Best Camera Today?

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs iPhone 13 Pro Max

Which iPhone Has the Best Camera Today?

Key Points

  • Our choice for the #1 Best iPhone camera is the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
  • The iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro have comparable camera properties, but the Pro Max has better battery performance than the Pro model.
  • With an iPhone camera, you can easily capture, edit, and share images with the click of a button.
  • When the time arrives to purchase a new iPhone, there are a few items to keep in mind about the camera: resolution, cost, features, and aperture.

The best iPhone cameras perform a whole host of functions. A good iPhone camera automatically adjusts the focus and exposure, captures a live image photograph, and (should you choose) automatically shares the captured photo with pre-selected contacts.

Gone are the days of grainy and blotchy cell phone images. Today, iPhone cameras have features and functions that match professional quality digital cameras.

So, after reviewing all of the (current) iPhone camera models, our ranking for the best iPhone cameras in 2023 is as follows.

History Computer’s Top Picks for Best iPhone Camera

  1. Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max (Refurbished)
    $819.97
    • 6.7-inch Super Retina display
    • 4K Cinematic Mode with Dolby Vision
    • Dynamic Island
    • Apple's A16 Bionic processor
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 09:11 pm GMT
  2. Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    $999.00
    • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion
    • 12MP Telephoto, Wide, and Ultra Wide cameras
    • 6x optical zoom range
    • 12MP TrueDepth front camera with Night mode
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 01:01 am GMT
  3. Apple iPhone 12 Pro
    $425.00
    • IOS 14
    • 2815 mAh
    • 6.1-inch display
    • 256 GB memory storage capacity
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 01:09 am GMT
  4. Apple iPhone SE
    $129.00
    • IOS 13
    • 4.7-inch display
    • 4G cellular technology
    • 256 GB memory storage capacity
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 01:10 am GMT

#1 Best Overall iPhone Camera: iPhone 14 Pro Max

The Best Alternative
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max (Refurbished)
$819.97
  • 6.7-inch Super Retina display
  • 4K Cinematic Mode with Dolby Vision
  • Dynamic Island
  • Apple's A16 Bionic processor
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 09:11 pm GMT

The iPhone 14 Pro Max sets a new benchmark for iPhone cameras based on its vastly improved hardware, making it our choice for the #1 best overall iPhone camera. The Pro Max has the highest resolution of any iPhone camera due to the new 48MP sensor.

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max have made a significant leap forward with camera resolution. It’s been improved from a 12MP sensor to a 48MP one. iPhones have been using a 12MP sensor since the iPhone 6 and 6SE, released in 2015.

Resolution (MP)Focal Length (mm)Aperture/f-stop
Rear (Primary)4824mm1.78
Ultra Wide (Rear)1213mm2.2
Telephoto (3X, Rear)1277mm2.8
Front (Primary)12TrueDepth1.9

While the emphasis of the iPhone 14 Pro Max is on the improved resolution, not enough attention is paid to the aperture (AKA f-stop).

As the f-stop size decreases, the amount of light entering the camera increases. If the f-stop size increases, less light enters the camera. You’ll notice the difference in the images captured in a dimly lit room.

Battery Performance

We like the higher battery performance of the iPhone 14 Pro Max model over the iPhone 14 Pro model. The 14 Pro Max is expected to deliver 29 hours of video playback, and the 14 Pro should last for 23 hours.

If you are doing a lot of video editing, image editing, or general camera use, the extra battery time may be invaluable. We think so!

ProsCons
The new 48MP camera sensor improves overall image-capturing performance.This is not an inexpensive iPhone. A less expensive model may meet your photography needs.
Real-time image processing is a significant improvement over prior generations of iPhone cameras.The rear primary camera has an aperture that’s only .02 smaller than the (less expensive) iPhone 14 Pro model.
Portrait mode has multiple magnifications. (Welcome back! We missed you!)12MP is the default image resolution. If you want to shoot in 48MP, you’ll need to do so in RAW mode and then process the images. RAW image format allows you the most editing options, but that’s one big file. Plan to purchase the biggest iPhone storage option if you’ll be performing a lot of 48MP RAW image collection.

Best Previous Generation iPhone Camera: iPhone 13 Pro

Best Previous Generation
Apple iPhone 13 Pro
$999.00
  • 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion
  • 12MP Telephoto, Wide, and Ultra Wide cameras
  • 6x optical zoom range
  • 12MP TrueDepth front camera with Night mode
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 01:01 am GMT

The title of the best previous generation iPhone camera goes to the iPhone 13 Pro. The iPhone 14 Pro Max may be the best option for the discerning photographer hunting for the latest and greatest iPhone camera, but not the best choice for someone who isn’t planning to take advantage of the RAW image file format.

When the iPhone 13 cell phone platform was released, Apple standardized the Pro and Pro Max camera specifications. (This was only sometimes the case in the past.) The camera functions and features are equal between the Pro and Pro Max models.

Comparing Specs

Resolution (MP)Focal Length (mm)Aperture/f-stop
Rear (Primary)12131.8
Ultra Wide (Rear)12261.5
Telephoto (Rear)12772.8
Front (Primary)12232.2

After you’ve made a quick comparison between the performance specs of the iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro Max, we think you’ll see why we like the 13 Pro so much.

The differences between the primary optical performance of the cameras may be so slight that you won’t notice the improvements at all. You’ll see a difference between the images captured (or FaceTimed) while you’re in Selfie mode.

ProsCons
The 12MP camera resolution of the 13 Pro is precisely where most users of the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max will land. The cost savings are nothing to sneeze at!The zoom function is anemic compared to Apple’s iPhone competitors.
Improved Aperture/f-stop will allow you to capture images with less blur due to movement.The selfie camera performance could be more crisp, clean, and bright.
Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) will automatically focus the camera before capturing each new frame. PDAF is much faster than traditional autofocus.Low-light images captured in telephoto mode and on the Primary camera may have artificial noise integrated into the captured image.

Best Decent Photo-Taking iPhone Camera: iPhone 12 Pro

Best Decent Photo-Taking Option
Apple iPhone 12 Pro
$425.00
  • IOS 14
  • 2815 mAh
  • 6.1-inch display
  • 256 GB memory storage capacity
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 01:09 am GMT

The camera on the iPhone 12 Pro takes the best “decent” photos. So, if you’re looking to take a few pictures but don’t care so much about capturing the absolutely “best” images, we’ve gotcha covered!

The iPhone 12 Pro was released in October 2020. While 2020 is a while ago, Apple would sure like us to think that products that are just a few years old need to be replaced. But do they?

The Apple 12 Pro camera specifications are similar to those of the Apple iPhone 13, which are pretty much the same as the Apple iPhone 13 Pro specifications. Let’s take a quick look at them.

Resolution (MP)Focal Length (mm)Aperture/f-stop
Rear (Primary)12261.6
Ultra Wide (Rear)12132.4 
Telephoto (Rear)12522.0
Front (Primary)12232.2

We see a performance degradation between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro imaging capability. We suspect that you’ll be pretty pleased with indoor and outdoor photography when capturing images with regular (not dim) illumination.

ProsCons
COST! The iPhone 12 Pro is hundreds of dollars cheaper than the iPhone 13 Pro.The camera lens configuration adds a “belly bump” on the rear of the iPhone. (Get used to it!)
The triple camera array is a new feature that vastly improves images when they’re compared to previous generation iPhones.The camera tends to pick up noise from night photography. The competitor’s products have cleaner, crisper night images.
The newly introduced Light Detecting and Ranging (LIDAR) sensor allows for robust autofocus in dimly lit situations.There is a slight optical defocus when the digital zoom is applied against moving objects.

Best Budget iPhone Camera: iPhone SE

Best Budget Option
Apple iPhone SE
$129.00
  • IOS 13
  • 4.7-inch display
  • 4G cellular technology
  • 256 GB memory storage capacity
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 01:10 am GMT

The best budget iPhone camera can be found on the iPhone SE. After all, there’s quite a distance between “We want the best iPhone Camera” and “We’re broke; we just need a camera!” (We understand. We’re still rocking our iPhone XS!)

The SE iPhone model was released in 2022, and it’s Apple’s answer to budget cell phones. Let’s see how the SE stacks up against its siblings.

Resolution (MP)Focal Length (mm)Aperture/f-stop
Rear (Primary)12281.8
Ultra Wide (Rear)N/AN/AN/A
Telephoto (Rear)N/AN/AN/A
Front (Primary)7322.2

The SE lacks a Telephoto and Ultra Wide Lens that we’ll find on the iPhone 12, 13, and 14 models. Yet, the Rear camera resolution is 12MP, the same as the 12 and 13 models. The Front (Selfie) camera has less resolution (7MP versus 12MP) of the 12, 13, and 14 models.

Overall, the SE camera doesn’t technically compete with newer models. Keep in mind the SE model is all about budget. The SE typically costs less than half ($429 versus $999+) of the price of the 14 Pro Max.

Plan Before You Purchase!

The SE is all about determining your use case first and buying an iPhone second. If you are taking a picture here and there — nothing serious, no photographs where the image needs to be perfect — an SE might be an excellent choice for you.

If you’re looking for some assurance that you’ve got a bit of flexibility, the SE is not the dog to take on this hunt.

ProsCons
The SE is Apple’s most inexpensive iPhone model. Take the extra cash in your pocket and do something else with it.The SE lacks the bells and whistles of the iPhone 12, 13, and 14 platforms.
The Rear Facing camera resolution is the same as the iPhone 12 and 13.The front-facing camera resolution is 7MP, which is much lower than the other iPhone models.
Apple released the Gen 3 SE in 2022. Apple plans to support the SE Gen 3 for years (and years). Apple has recently concluded software updates for models 6, 6SE, SE (2016, Gen 1), and 7. This phone has an inexpensive price tag and a long product life ahead of it.Unlike newer models, the SE has one camera facing forward and one facing the rear.

How to Pick the Best iPhone Cameras: Step by Step

When choosing the best iPhone camera and basing your selection on the camera performance, there are four critical factors to consider.

  • Resolution
  • Aperture
  • Cost
  • Features

Let’s briefly examine each factor.

Resolution

The resolution values that we discussed so far, 7MP, 12MP, or 24MP, define how many pixels a camera sensor can capture. The higher the resolution value (say, 24MP versus 7MP), the better the image quality (in theory!) More pixels equates to more information; more information equals sharper image definition.

So, shouldn’t you purchase the iPhone camera with the highest resolution? (That would be the iPhone 14 Pro Max!) Well, honestly (don’t tell Apple we told you this!), it depends.

What are you going to “do” with your images? Are you going to only look at them on your phone? You may not need the iPhone camera with the highest resolution.

Do you plan to print the pictures and hang them on a wall (literally)? More resolution may be your friend. If we look at the sizes below, we see the correlation between resolution and maximum print size.

  • 12MP @ 240DPI = approximate max print size of 12.6″ X 8″
  • 48MP @ 240DPI = about 25.2″ X 33″ maximum print size

We recommend taking a hard look at what you plan to do with the iPhone images after you’ve captured them before spending too much money on an iPhone with enormous resolution numbers. You may be just as happy with 12MP as with 48MP.

Aperture

Smaller aperture values (f-stop) reward you by allowing more light to shine onto the camera sensor. Not too interesting during daylight hours, but a big deal at dusk!

If you plan to shoot most images in twilight or dark environments, you want a camera with smaller apertures. We’re fans of nighttime astronomy and want every ounce of illumination we can capture!

Cost

We’d be silly not to acknowledge that cost plays into the discussion of which iPhone has the best camera. The more you’re willing to pay, the higher resolution you’ll be able to capture.

Take a hard look at the totality of what you want to do with the iPhone before making a purchase. Will you have years of service ahead of you, or is the phone you’re considering purchasing about to run out of development roadway? (Like the 6, 6SE, 7, and Generation 1 SE!)

As you consider the latest and greatest (iPhone 14 Pro Max), remember that the iPhone will cost more to purchase and even more to store the images. Images stored in RAW format are approximately ten to twelve times larger (taking up space on your phone) than images captured as a .jpg.

A 12MP RAW file is around 25M, and a 48M RAW file is approximately 75MB. You may need more storage on your iPhone.

Features

The nature of the beast is that Apple works hard to develop new features that we want so much as consumers that we’ll pay more money to acquire them. (As does every other cell phone manufacturing company!)

The bottom line truth may be determining which features are “nice to have” and which are “must have”:

  • Lens: The SE has two lenses, and the 14 Pro Max has four lenses.
    • Ultra-wide: Very wide image; some cameras will list the angle.
    • Standard: The most common lens to capture images.
    • Telephoto: Zoom on in and zoom on out. Some iPhones have both features!
    • Depth: Blur the background in the image while the object close to the lens is in focus.
    • Monochrome: Images that are captured in monochrome and displayed in different shades of one color. Primarily we capture images in polychrome (like with the iPhone and then use software to convert them to monochrome.)
  • Screen size: How small is too small? If you’re taking a lot of pictures, this might be important! 
  • Image Stabilization: It’s nice to have a bit of image stabilization on the days when we’ve drank too much caffeine!
  • RAW Image: A RAW image will allow you to adjust it on your computer (brightness, contrast, intensity, etc.) with far more ease than a .jpg image.
  • LIDAR: A nice feature found on newer iPhones that assists with focus in lower-light environments.

Determining which features are essential to you will help you eliminate cell phones that don’t meet your needs.

What to Know Before Buying the Best iPhone Camera

Before you pick up an iPhone camera (attached to an iPhone!), you should have a good idea of your typical camera use case scenario. If you plan to take images that will be published, inserted into documentation, or printed and hung on a wall, you want more than less resolution.

The higher priced iPhones (iPhone 14 Pro Max or iPhone 14 Pro) deliver the best resolution available in an iPhone. If you plan to shoot images of your toes and share them back and forth with your dear aunt Sally, you’ll be OK with less expensive models (SE and the iPhone 12 Pro) that have fewer frills but still deliver solid, crisp, and clean images.

Using the Best iPhone Camera: What it’s Like

Using an iPhone camera has become integral to our lives. We carry the iPhone in our pocket and take it out when it’s time to snap a picture. We’ve found great success in using an iPhone to capture random images, like meals, strangers behaving impolitely, informal family get-togethers, and tourist activities.

We’ve yet to find iPhone cameras particularly effective for long-distance photography, like shooting images of buffalo at Yellowstone, sporting events (kids soccer, football, etc.), or nighttime photography.

As the iPhoto camera technology continues to improve, we suspect that sooner or later, we’ll ditch our DLSR camera and only use an iPhone camera! We can’t wait!

Summary Table

iPhone ModelKey FeaturesDrawbacks
iPhone 14 Pro Max48MP camera sensor, Real-time image processing, Portrait mode with multiple magnifications, Higher battery performanceExpensive, 12MP is the default image resolution, Requires RAW mode for 48MP
iPhone 13 Pro12MP camera resolution, Improved Aperture/f-stop, Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF)Anemic zoom function, Less crisp selfie camera performance, Artificial noise in low-light images
iPhone 12 ProCost-effective, Triple camera array, LIDAR sensor for robust autofocusCamera lens configuration adds a “belly bump”, Noise from night photography, Slight optical defocus with digital zoom
iPhone SEMost inexpensive iPhone model, 12MP Rear Facing camera resolution, Long product lifeLacks the bells and whistles of newer models, Lower front-facing camera resolution, Only one camera facing forward and one facing the rear

Frequently Asked Questions

Which iPhone has the best camera quality?

The iPhone 14 Pro Max and the iPhone 14 Pro have 48MP resolution. 48MP is the highest resolution available on an Apple iPhone.

Is iPhone 14 camera better than iPhone 13?

There are four different iPhone 14 models: the 14 Pro Max, 14 Pro, 14 Plus, and the 14.
There are three different iPhone 13 models: the 13 Pro Max, 13 Pro, 13 Mini, and the 13.
The 14 Pro Max has a better camera sensor than the 13 Pro Max.
The 14 Pro has a better camera sensor than the 13 Pro.
The 14 Plus and 14 have 12MP camera sensors that are the same as the 13 Mini and the 13.

Does iPhone 14 take good photos?

Yes. The three-lens configuration allows for eye-popping image capture. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is Apple’s best iPhone Camera to date.

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