iPhone cameras get better each year. The company’s flagship Pro devices have a three-camera system for taking shots in any environment. This system makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max our most recommended iPhone for smartphone photographers this year. In addition, we’ve gathered other noteworthy models to help you choose the one that fits your needs best.
Here are the best iPhones for the photo-savvy
The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are identical except for their sizes: 6.1 inches vs. 6.7 inches. In turn, the Pro models are nearly the same as the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini internally, although key differences on the outside remain. For example, all four iPhone 13 models have an A15 Bionic chip with a next-generation Neural Engine, Face ID, 5G capabilities, Ultra and Wide camera lenses, and MagSafe support. In addition, the entire iPhone 13 series also offers Cinematic mode in 1080p at 30 frames per second (FPS) and Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 4K at 60FPS.
Turning to the iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 13 Pro specifically, these models are the only ones that offer a Telephoto lens, which provides a 3x optical zoom-in that gives photographers new framing options, including closer close-ups. These models also provide a 6x optical zoom range, digital zoom up to 15x, a LiDAR scanner for night mode portraits, quick autofocus in low light, and improved AR experiences versus older models. And the iPhone 13 Pro series handsets are the only ones with ProMotion technology, which offers adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz.
The Pro models come in five colors: Alpine Green, silver, gold, Graphite, and Sierra Blue. Each offers a Ceramic Shield front and surgical-grade stainless steel.
This year’s Pro Max iPhone model also offers up to 28 hours of video playback and a whopping 95 hours of audio playback between charges. Its 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion provides a 2778×1284 resolution at 458 PPI.
There are two apparent negatives about the iPhone 13 Pro Max. First, it’s costly at every storage level. In addition, while the 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion is terrific, those with smaller hands might have a tougher time holding it.
The regular Pro and Pro Max iPhone models have included significant differences over the past few generations. That isn’t the case with the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. These models are the same except for screen size and battery life.
In this case, the iPhone 13 Pro offers a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion, which translates into a 2532×1170 resolution at 460 PPI. Battery life is up to 22 hours for video playback and 75 hours for audio. It’s still reasonable for a phone like this, but it’s slightly weaker than what you’ll get with the Pro Max.
Like the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the iPhone 13 Pro is expensive at all price points. However, if you’re serious about being a mobile photographer, your best bet is either of these two models.
The flagship iPhone 13 is the best iPhone for most folks. However, if you’re looking to take your photography to new levels and money is less of an object, selecting a Pro model is probably best.
There are five areas where the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 compares unfavorably with the much higher-priced iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. First, only the Pro models feature a Telephoto camera and a LiDAR Scanner for night mode portraits, faster autofocus in low light, and next-level AR experiences. Second, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are also the only two 2021 models to include surgical-grade stainless steel. By contrast, the iPhone 13 is made from slightly-less-strong aerospace-grade aluminum. Third, the iPhone 13 offers a 4-core GPU versus the Pro’s 5-core GPU. And finally, only the Pro models come with up to 1TB of storage, as the iPhone 13 maxes out at 512GB.
With the negatives out of the way, there are still reasons even as a photographer to consider the iPhone 13. First is its lower price. You’ll save at least $200 versus the Pro and $300 versus the Pro Max. Additionally, only the iPhone 13 (and iPhone 13 mini) come in pink, blue, Starlight, and PRODUCT(RED). The iPhone 13 offers up to 19 hours of video streaming between charges and 75 hours of audio play.
And then there’s what all iPhone 13 models have in common, which was discussed above. These include the same A15 Bionic chip with a 6-core CPU with two performance and four efficiency cores, 16-core Neural Engine, Face ID, and much more.
The well-received iPhone 12 Pro Max was an easy choice for the best iPhone for photographers last year. We’re still recommending it this year for photographers who want a large iPhone (it offers a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display) but might be on a smaller budget.
With the iPhone 12 Pro Max, you get Wide, Ultra Wide, and Telephoto lenses. These translate into a 2.5x optical zoom-in, 5x optical zoom range, and digital zoom of up to 12x. In addition, the machine’s hefty Telephoto lens means less distortion and more compression, making it ideal for taking portraits and product shots.
On the video front, the iPhone 12 Pro Max includes sensor-shift optical image stabilization (OIS), plus 2.5x optical zoom-in and 2x optical zoom-out. Digital zoom is measured up to 7x.
Battery-wise, the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers up to 20 hours of video playback and 80 hours of audio playback between charges.
Like previous iPhone Pro models, the iPhone 12 Pro Max was only officially on the market for one year. That means you should find excellent discounts on the handset. And if you’re worried Apple doesn’t support this model, don’t be. On average, Apple supports iPhones up to five years after they are no longer sold directly by the mother ship.
We highly recommend the four iPhones listed here if you’re a photographer. When money is no object, and you want the biggest phone possible, certainly go with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. If you like everything on the Max but have a smaller handset, the iPhone 13 Pro is your choice. Budget photographers should get the iPhone 13 or last year’s largest model, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The latter is almost just as good at this year’s Max, but you should be able to get one at a lower price.
Just remember: there isn’t a wrong choice. It just comes down to matching your needs with your budget. Happy shopping.