The best iPhone for photography gives you the level of versatility that could once only be found in a professional DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. You can now take professional quality photos quite easily with iPhones, even in low lighting. Plus they're much handier than a camera, because we tend to carry them everywhere as a matter of course. So whether you're a pro shooter or an enthusiastic amateur, an iPhone is a great choice for on-the-fly photography.
But what is the best iPhone for photography these days? Well, depending on what you're willing to spend, there are actually quite a few. Apple's been packing great cameras onto its phones for some time, and so you can still get great photographic quality, even if you look beyond the latest generation of iPhones.
In the guide below, we've picked 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 how much they cost, so we can offer you a wide range of iPhones to suit different budgets.
Still not sure if you can afford one? Then check out our guides to the best iPhone 14 deals, as well as the best iPhone 12 deals and the best iPhone 13 deals. (Also, for the best prices on Apple gear in general, see our guide to the best Apple Black Friday deals available now). Or, if you'd rather check out cheaper alternatives, read our roundup of the best camera phones from all manufacturers.
The best iPhone for photography
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The iPhone 14 Max was launched in September 2022, along with the iPhone 14, the iPhone 14 Plus, the iPhone 14 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro Max. And it's our pick as the best iPhone for photography, not to mention the best iPhone in general, to date.
For starters, the iPhone 14 Pro Max has a 48MP main sensor: a huge leap from the 12MP sensor in the 13 series. That means full-resolution, 48MP RAW files that are packed with detail.
Even more exciting than the iPhone 14 Pro Max's resolution is its sensor size, bringing more light flooding in to your lens, which is particularly handy when night shooting. The camera also boasts a wider than usual, 24mm angle of view, and an f/1.78 aperture lens with OIS.
Besides the main camera is an ultra-wide, 12MP sensor with a 13mm, expansive angle of view, matched with an f/2.2 aperture. There's also a 12MP telephoto sensor, which creates a roughly three-times zoom equivalent, with a 77mm angle of view, OIS and an f/2.8 aperture
The result is pictures that are packed with detail, even in dimly lit environments, and that also have a warmth and depth to them. On the downside, it's quite expensive, so you may prefer some of the other phones on our list, which should cost less now they're a bit older. To learn more about this phone, read our full iPhone 14 Pro Max review.
The iPhone 13 Pro is now last year's model, and its 12MP main sensor is a step down from the 48MP sensor in the new iPhone 14 Pro Max. But it's still pretty great for photography.
The 13 Pro was a big step up from the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max (featured below) in terms of camera specs, and they already had pretty astounding camera arrays. Physically, its sensors are actually similar to those of the previous generation: a three-lens array with a wide-, super-wide and telephoto. But 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 compared shots from an iPhone 13 next to shots from an iPhone 12, and the difference was clear immediately – the colours pop more, there’s more detail and better contrast. The in-built stablisation is pretty amazing too, meaning you don't really need a gimbal. For more details, see our Apple iPhone 13 Pro review and read our iPhone 13 Pro camera tips to get the most out of it.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max was the king of iPhone cameras for some time, and still represents a sound investment now. 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.
On a 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. So right now, it offers the best iPhone for photography 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.
If you want a superb iPhone camera while saving a little money, 2020's iPhone 12 Pro Max is a good one to go for. It's only marginally different from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (number 3 on our list) in what it can do. Its zoom range is a little lower, at 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.
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. See our full iPhone 11 Pro review for more details. Note that 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.
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.
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.
Is size an issue for you? If you want a smaller phone that's more portable and easier to shoot with, the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini is an excellent choice. It sports 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.
In short, 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’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, 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.