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The best iPhone for photography in 2022

Best iPhone for photography
(Image credit: Burak Kebapci via Pexels)

Using the best iPhone for photography among even professional photographers is no longer a novelty. Packing the kind of versatility that could once only be found in a professional DSLRs or mirrorless camera, iPhones can now capture really quite impressive imagery in all kinds of situations, including low lighting, plus they're light, portable, inconspicuous, and we tend to carry our phones with us at all times.

Whether you’re an enthusiast looking to snap great-looking photos for social media or a professional looking for an additional tool for on-the-fly shots when you're not carrying your full professional kit, an iPhone for photography makes good sense.

The most recent iPhones boast several cameras to offer a lot of shooting options. Flagship models like the iPhone 13 Pro have a triple-camera array with a wide lens, an ultra-wide lens and a telephoto lens, and you can quickly and easily switch between as you please to use the best lens for any shot (no screwing lenses on and off like with a camera!)

But you don’t necessarily need to go to the expense of buying the newest iPhone Pro to get yourself a decent snapper. Apple's been packing great cameras onto its phones for some time, and previous generation phones can be good buys if you're looking for a bargain. In the guide below, we've made our pick of the best iPhones for photography available now. When we reviewed each phone, we tested their cameras in a variety of situations, including for portraits, landscapes, action photos and night shots to see how they perform. In this guide, we've also taken into account price in order to include a mix of new models to cover all budgets.

For each model, we outline its camera specs, with their pros and cons, and you'll find a link to the best current price where you are. For the best prices on Apple gear in general, see our guide to the best Apple deals. We also have dedicated pages for the best iPhone 12 deals and the best iPhone 13 deals. Still unsure about whether to go for an iPhone or an Android option for photography? Then see our guide to the best camera phones overall.

The best iPhone for photography 

iPhone 13 ProCB

(Image credit: Future)
The best iPhone for photography overall

Specifications

Cameras: Ultra wide, wide and telephoto
Lens apertures: f/1.8 (ultra wide), f/1.5 (wide), f/2.8 (telephoto)
Zoom: 3x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, 15x digital zoom in
Screen size: 6.1-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
Huge colour and detail improvements
+
Excellent Night Mode
+
Built-in super-smooth stabilisation

Reasons to avoid

-
Could use a microSD slot

The iPhone 13 Pro is unarguably the best iPhone for photography to date. Not one to rest on its laurels, the 13 Pro is a big step up from the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max (more on the latter below) in terms of camera specs, and they already had pretty astounding camera arrays. Physically, the cameras are actually very similar to those on the previous generation: a three-lens array with a wide-, super-wide and telephoto. The difference comes in their performance, with improved maximum apertures and increased optical zoom.

When we reviewed the iPhone 13 Pro, we found general image quality to be much improved across the board. And we're not talking subtle differences that only a trained eye would notice. We've compared shots from an iPhone 13 next to shots from an iPhone 12, and the difference is clear immediately – the colours pop more, there’s more detail and better contrast (see our example below) That's even more the case for the improved Night Mode on the Pro 13, which we found now has greater contrast for darker skies while retaining detail in the subject.

iPhone 13 Pro photo samples

We took image on the left on an iPhone 13 Pro and the image on the right on a iPhone 12 Pro. The dynamic range and colour are all improved (Image credit: Future)

Another big plus with the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max is the addition of a new macro mode, which can capture incredible detail in close-up shops. Meanwhile, the makers of iPhone gimbals should also be worried because the latest iPhone Pro's in-built stabilisation system is best-in-class. In fact, there really isn’t much to fault here at all. Apple’s insistence on not including a microSD slot is starting to get annoying now that its phones can shoot ProRaw images and 4K 60p video, which takes up a lot of space. You can see why they do it – other than the space issue, they want you to buy the iPhone 13 Pro configuration that offers 1TB of storage – but it still grates.

Still, if you want the best iPhone camera, this is it. If you want a bigger screen, the iPhone 13 Pro Max sports the same camera and a 6.7-inch display. And if you want to save money, there's the vanilla iPhone 13, though it only has a dual camera array, and for better camera specs at a cheaper price than the 13 Pro, you're probably better to look for a deal on the iPhone 12 Pro Max (see below).

Read our iPhone 13 Pro review for more details, and see our iPhone 13 Pro camera tips to get the most out of the device's cameras.

The Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max rangeCB endorsed

(Image credit: Apple)

02. iPhone 12 Pro Max

The biggest Apple phone has the best iPhone camera overall

Specifications

Cameras: Ultra wide, wide and telephoto
Lens apertures: f/2.4 ultra wide), f/1.6 (wide), f/2.2 (telephoto)
Zoom: 2.5x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, 12x digital zoom in
Screen size: 6.7-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
All the best tech
+
Large screen for editing photos

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
Size can be unwieldy

The iPhone 12 Pro Max was the king of iPhone cameras for some time, and still represents a sound investment now, even with the advent of the iPhone 13 Pro. Apple squeezed all its best camera tech into what at the time was its largest and most expensive phone, and unlike the 13 Pro Max, which sports exactly the same camera as the smaller 13 Pro, there are a lot of differences between the 12 Pro Max and 12 Pro cameras.

Its ultra-wide lens is the same, but the 12 Pro Max has better wide and telephoto cameras than the 12 Pro. The wide lens has a sensor that's 47 per cent larger than the smaller model's, making its night mode function much quicker and more powerful, and it also has a longer telephoto lenses (2.5x vs 2x) with better optical zoom (5x vs 4x) and digital zoom (up to 12x rather than 10x). There’s also Apple’s sensor-shift optical image stabilisation, which stabilises the sensor itself rather than the lens to improve your photo quality.

The iPhone 11 rangeCB endorsed

(Image credit: Apple)

03. iPhone 11

The best iPhone for photography for those on a budget

Specifications

Cameras: Ultra wide, wide
Lens apertures: f/2.4 (ultra wide), f/1.8 (wide)
Zoom: 2x optical zoom out, 5x digital zoom in
Screen size: 6.1-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of fantastic features
+
Decent price

Reasons to avoid

-
No telephoto lens
-
No LiDAR scanner

On a smaller budget? You can still get a very decent iPhone camera. Apple’s iPhone range has been packed with excellent lens tech for years now, and the iPhone 11 is no exception. If the eye-watering prices of the iPhone 13 Pro or the 12 Pro Max prove to be too much, the iPhone 11 offers the best iPhone camera at a budget price. You get two lenses: an ultra wide and a wide lens, with apertures of f/2.4 and f/1.8 respectively, so you still some good flexibility shooting, and best of all, there are still a heap of the usual iPhone camera features like Portrait mode, Focus Pixels, Smart HDR, optical image stabilisation, and more. The difference in colour, contrast and detail achieved with the newer phones' cameras is very notable, but we find this camera can still produce very nice shots.

The iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)
The best iPhone for photos in the dark

Specifications

Cameras: Ultra wide, wide, telephoto
Lens apertures: f/2.4 (ultra wide), f/1.6 (wide), f/2.0 (telephoto)
Zoom: 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, 10x digital zoom in
Screen size: 6.1-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
Top-notch specs
+
LiDAR scanner

Reasons to avoid

-
Not quite the best
-
Expensive

The iPhone 12 Pro Max might be the second-best iPhone for photography, but its smaller sibling, the iPhone 12 Pro, can go blow-for-blow with it in almost every area. If you want a superb iPhone camera while saving a little money, it’s the one to go for.

As we outlined in our entry for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the 12 Pro is only marginally different in what it can do. Its zoom range is a little lower (4x against 5x) and its apertures vary slightly. But other than that, you get a brilliant photography setup, including beautiful night mode portraits enhanced by the device’s LiDAR scanner. See our full iPhone 12 Pro review for more details.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)
A great iPhone for video recording and slow motion

Specifications

Cameras: Ultra wide, wide, telephoto
Lens apertures: f/2.4 (ultra wide), f/1.8 (wide), f/2.0 (telephoto)
Zoom: 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, 10x digital zoom in
Screen size: 6.5-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
Triple-lens setup
+
Great video recording

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Not the latest hardware

After seeing the iPhone 12 Pro Max scoring so well in this article, it should come as no surprise to see its predecessor, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, also high up the rankings, although in this case, you may also consider the smaller iPhone 11 Pro since the two devices have the same camera. These are the iPhones that introduced the now-ubiquitous triple-lens system, so you still get tons of control over shooting modes. And it’s no slouch for video either, and can record video at 4K 60fps or 1080p 240fps slow motion. 

When we reviewed the iPhone 12 Pro on release, we found it to have one of the best cameras available on a smartphone at the time, both for stills and video, with its main competitor in the department being the Huawei P30 Pro. See our full iPhone 11 Pro review for more details. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is no longer officially sold by Apple, but you can still pick it up for a good price elsewhere. See the link above or check our Apple deals roundup to see if you can grab a bargain.

The iPhone 12 in purple

(Image credit: Apple)

06. iPhone 12

A great iPhone for photography with mass appeal

Specifications

Cameras: Ultra wide, wide
Lens apertures: f/2.4 (ultra wide), f/1.6 (wide)
Zoom: 2x optical zoom out, 5x digital zoom in
Screen size: 6.1-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
Great balance of features
+
Dolby Vision HDR video

Reasons to avoid

-
Only two lenses
-
No LiDAR scanner

Either phone in Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro range is a serious investment, and they’re not for everyone. The iPhone that is for everyone? The iPhone 12, and that extends to its photography capabilities, which comprise all the features most people really need while keeping the price relatively affordable.

It’s a step up over the iPhone 11, with an f/1.6 aperture on the wide lens versus f/1.8, while its Smart HDR tech is improved, and while it can't compete with the iPhone 13's night mode, we found it could handle challenging lighting conditions with aplomb. Oh, and it supports Dolby Vision HDR video, which looks utterly stunning. It might not quite be the absolute best iPhone for photography, but it is an excellent device that does everything most casual snappers will need from an iPhone camera.

iPhone 11 Pro camera

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
A triple-array camera system for less

Specifications

Cameras: Ultra wide, wide, telephoto
Lens apertures: f/2.4 (ultra wide), f/1.8 (wide), f/2.0 (telephoto)
Zoom: 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, 10x digital zoom in
Screen size: 5.8-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
Triple-lens camera array
+
Good price

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the latest tech
-
No 5G capability

With each new iPhone release, it’s easy to assume the best iPhone for photography is simply the latest one, but that obscures the fact that even slightly older Apple phones still possess some of the best iPhone cameras. The iPhone 11 Pro is a case in point. It was the first iPhone to sport a triple lens system with excellent zoom, Portrait mode, Smart HDR, plus 4K video recording at 60fps. Despite all these top-notch features, it costs a fraction of the price of the iPhone 12 Pro (and even less if you get it refurbished). When we reviewed the iPhone 11 Pro, we found it to be a super flexible all-rounder, and it remains that today, with the added plus that it won’t break the bank.

See our full iPhone 11 Pro review for more details.

iPhone 12 mini

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
A great option if you don’t want a huge phone

Specifications

Cameras: Ultra wide, wide
Lens apertures: f/2.4 (ultra wide), f/1.6 (wide)
Zoom: 2x optical zoom out, 5x digital zoom in
Screen size: 5.4-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
Latest upgrades and features
+
Great for small hands

Reasons to avoid

-
No telephoto lens
-
Lacklustre battery life

If you’ve been reading this and wondering where all the smaller iPhones are, here you are. The 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini is an excellent device sporting the same cameras as the larger iPhone 12 (see number 6), but in a handy, more palm-friendly format. That makes it more portable than many entries in this article – especially the Pro Max variants, and also much more affordable. Whether you want a smaller iPhone for photography or are just looking to save some cash, it’s a great option (of course, for a little more cash, you might also consider the iPhone 13 mini).

See our full iPhone 12 mini review for more details.

Apple iPhone SE 2022 review

(Image credit: Future)
A super affordable shooter with some neat features

Specifications

Camera: Wide
Lens aperture: f/1.8
Zoom: 5x digital zoom
Screen size: 4.7-inch display

Reasons to buy

+
Good performance
+
Very affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one lens on the back
-
No full-screen display

Apple’s iPhones have long been characterised as premium and, some would say, overpriced. Apple sought to combat this perception with the budget iPhone SE in 2020, and that was great news for anyone looking for an affordable iPhone for photography. The new 2022 model sports the same lens specs as the 2020 original: just the one 12MP rear camera with a f/1.8 wide-angle lens, plus an 7MP front camera with f/2.2 wide-angle lens.

So it only has the one lens on the back (wide angle, with no ultra wide or telephoto lens), so it can’t compete with the best iPhones for photography, above. But if all you need is a rock-solid point-and-shoot iPhone at the cheapest price in the entire range, the iPhone SE does hold its own. The upgrade offered by the 2022 iPhone SE camera when compared to the 2020 model is the A15 chip, which delivers improved processing power. 

There's no Night Mode, Dolby Vision HDR or Cinematic Mode for video but you do get the vital smarts like Portrait Mode here. When we reviewed the iPhone SE (2022), we tested its camera against that of the top-end iPhone 13 Pro and found that while photos compared side by side have less vibrant colours and a less expansive dynamic range, the level of detail is actually on a par. The iPhone SE lightens its shadows more than the iPhone 13 Pro, something that some users may actually prefer if they don't intend on doing any editing. See our full iPhone SE (2022) review for more details.

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Alex Blake is a freelance tech journalist who writes for Creative Bloq, TechRadar, Digital Trends, and others. Before going freelance he was commissioning editor at MacFormat magazine, focusing on the world of Apple products. His interests include web design, typography, and video games.