If you expect impressive photos of the wilderness in Canada, New Zealand or Iceland in this article, you will unfortunately be disappointed. As much as I read Austin Mann's photo reviews (here to the iPhone 12 Pro and for iPhone 12 Pro Max) I guess too, but most of my photos are more likely to be taken in Northern Hesse and unfortunately I can't come up with 500 meter high rock faces, blizzards (not yet), deep blue mountain lakes or rivers through a canyon. The photos in this post were mainly taken to compare the results between iPhone Xs and iPhone 12 Pro. So prepare yourself for boring motifs. ;-)

A comparison between the photo performance of the iPhone XS and the iPhone 12 Pro makes sense from my point of view, as many people skip an iPhone generation when buying (Photos: Sir Apfelot)

A comparison between the photo performance of the iPhone Xs and the iPhone 12 Pro makes sense from my point of view, as many people skip an iPhone generation when buying (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

Why iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone Xs?

This decision for this review was made because I still have an iPhone Xs and briefly got my hands on the new iPhone 12 Pro. I then sent it back and am now waiting for my iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Aside from the fact that I didn't have any other models available, I think a lot of people do it like me and like to abandon an iPhone model and then get the model after that. Often the differences from generation to generation are so small that one can easily skip a year.

I therefore hope that there will be a certain number of readers who are considering whether to switch from the iPhone Xs to the iPhone 12 Pro. In that case, my article can surely help you decide.

Camera: main reason for the upgrade?

I don't know about you guys, but for years the camera has been the only reason I'm buying a new iPhone. Even with the iPhone 7 Pro, the processor was fast enough for my needs, the display sharp enough and the battery power was completely sufficient - except for that factory battery problemthat back then with a Exchange program has been fixed. For this reason, I would like to focus on the photos here and not compare battery life, CPU benchmarks or the like.

Photos in the dark with "Night mode" - not on the iPhone Xs

One point where the iPhone 11 Pro was significantly better than the iPhone Xs is the photo quality in poor lighting conditions. The differences between iPhone Xs and iPhone 12 Pro have become even more significant, so that I only want to give the night mode feature a photo (ok, and one more below!) That more than clearly shows the difference.

Note: All photos have only been cropped and scaled down, not further edited.

Left iPhone Xs and right iPhone 12 Pro: Even the photo of the iPhone Xs is quite good considering that it was quite dark, but what the iPhone 12 Pro brings out is really impressive. The photo is already a 1/3 crop of the main photo.

Left iPhone Xs and right iPhone 12 Pro: Even the photo of the iPhone Xs is quite good considering that it was quite dark, but what the iPhone 12 Pro brings out is really impressive. The photo is already a 1/3 crop of the main photo, as it went up and down. But I wanted to cut away the uninteresting areas.

 

The 100% zoom shows the differences even more clearly: The iPhone 12 Pro brings many details into the trees thanks to the improved image processor.

The differences become even clearer in the zoom: The iPhone 12 Pro brings many details into the trees thanks to the improved image processes.

Photo examples in comparison

I tried to take a few photos of different motifs with the iPhone Xs and the iPhone 12 Pro and then pull the trigger at the same time so that you have the best possible comparison. Unfortunately, I am missing a great rail on which I could mount both iPhones and then hold them both with one hand. So it was a bit of a balancing act at times so that neither of the two smartphones falls out of hand.

Since you can often hardly see any differences with the low resolution on the Internet, I have made an enlargement for each example so that you can see what I am talking about.

Color balance of the 12 Pro is not always right ...

In this photo of our dog Henry you can see that the iPhone 12 Pro has chosen a slightly lighter and bluish color. Most of the time, the color balance is right, but in this case I find the photo of the iPhone Xs much more appropriate.

Believe it or not, the photo on the left was taken with the 12 Pro while the one on the right was taken with the Xs. In this case the Xs is more correct with the colors.

Believe it or not, the photo on the left was taken with the 12 Pro, while the one on the right was taken with the Xs. In this case the Xs is more right with the colors.

 

If you look at the details, you can also see. that the portrait mode on the 12 Pro had problems with sharpness. The photo that was taken with the iPhone Xs (right) shows significantly more structure in the fur.

If you look at the details, you can also see that the portrait mode on the 12 Pro had problems with sharpness. The photo that was taken with the iPhone Xs (right) shows significantly more structure in the fur and on the eye.

More drawing in dark areas on the iPhone Xs

The title sounds strange, because the dark areas in particular should actually be a playing field in which the 12 Pro scores. This is certainly the case normally when Smart HDR 3 "works" or night mode is active. In the lower picture I took a photo of a tree against the light and in the enlargement (further below!) You can see that the dark trunk in the photo of the iPhone Xs actually still suggests some light bark with structures, while on the iPhone 12 Pro almost everything is dark.

Basically, the iPhone 12 Pro has an advantage when it comes to backlit shots, as the sun outshines the image significantly less (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

Basically, the iPhone 12 Pro has an advantage when it comes to backlit shots, as the sun outshines the image significantly less (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

The lens flare is still present

The green lens flare has unfortunately not yet been "fixed" by Apple, although from my amateur point of view, something like this should be easy to remove with the subsequent image optimization. The spot does not appear in random places, but usually on the opposite side of the picture if the light source is viewed as the starting point.

In a direct comparison of the image area, you can see that more structures can be seen on the tree trunk when taking the iPhone Xs.

In a direct comparison of the image area you can see that more structures can be seen on the tree trunk when taking the iPhone Xs.

 

In this section you can clearly see that the iPhone Xs shows more structures in the forest. At the same time, however, the lower left wall of the house also shows more image noise. I assume that the iPhone 12 Pro works with the image processing against the image noise and thereby makes dark areas slightly spongy.

In this section you can clearly see that the iPhone Xs shows more structures in the forest. At the same time, however, the lower left wall of the house also shows more image noise. I assume that the iPhone 12 Pro works with the image processing against the image noise and thereby makes dark areas slightly spongy.

Low light close-up: iPhone 12 Pro wins

In the following shot you can see the enormous strength of the iPhone 12 Pro in situations with poor light - especially when you still have a tripod available. The motif is a small AT-AT metal kit that is approx. 5-6 cm tall. I took the photos in a room that got very little light through the window in the evening. With the iPhone Xs picture you can see how little light was actually available.

The iPhone 12 Pro produced a picture from this situation that is very sharp and does not show any image noise. It seems to me as if it was made in broad daylight.

I find this recording of the AT-AT (from Star Wars) very impressive. The iPhone 12 Pro really got the maximum out of this (automatic) thanks to the tripod and 3 seconds exposure time.

I find this recording of the AT-AT (from Star Wars) very impressive. The iPhone 12 Pro really got the maximum out of its automatic system thanks to its tripod and 3 seconds exposure time.

 

On the left you can see the picture taken with the iPhone 12 Pro and on the right the picture taken with the iPhone Xs. An extreme difference ...

On the left you can see the picture taken with the iPhone 12 Pro and on the right the picture taken with the iPhone Xs. An extreme difference that becomes apparent both in the details and in the overall impression of the photo.

Close-up with enough light: this is where the iPhone Xs scores

I took the picture again with the studio lighting switched on and found that even the iPhone Xs is ahead. Although you can hardly see any differences in the overall view, the enlarged section below clearly shows the better performance of the iPhone Xs.

At first glance you can see little differences between the photos that fell out of the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone Xs.

At first glance, there are few differences between the photos that fell out of the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone Xs.

 

If you take a look at the section showing the feet of the AT-AT, you can see more details and more contrast on the iPhone Xs (right). The color of the background, on the other hand, hit the iPhone 12 Pro better.

If you take a look at the section showing the feet of the AT-AT, you can see more details and more contrast on the iPhone Xs (right). The color of the background, on the other hand, hit the iPhone 12 Pro better.

More bokeh in close-ups?

I was a bit surprised about the following recordings. Here you can see a section that I made of the head area of ​​the AT-AT in the sunshine. Basically, both cameras deliver a good photo, but you can see in the areas marked with the arrows that the image taken by the Xs (right) is a little sharper than the image taken with the 12 Pro.

In these photos, the one on the left was taken with the iPhone 12 Pro and the one on the right with the iPhone Xs. You can see where the arrows indicate that the image of the 12 Pro is more blurred. Perhaps it is also the shallower depth of field that creates a "bokeh effect".

In these photos, the one on the left was taken with the iPhone 12 Pro and the one on the right with the iPhone Xs. You can see where the arrows indicate that the image of the 12 Pro is more blurred. Perhaps it is also the shallower depth of field that creates a "bokeh effect".

Hardly any differences in good lighting conditions

Last but not least, I would like to show you the following photos. Here you can see that with reasonable illumination of the subject (here by shining sun) there are hardly any differences between the recordings of the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone Xs.

With these photo details you can see clearly: you don't see any difference. Both cameras deliver a good picture. In good lighting conditions, the iPhone Xs is by no means worse than the iPhone 12 Pro (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

With these photo details you can see clearly: You don't see any difference. Both cameras deliver a good picture. In good lighting conditions, the iPhone Xs is by no means worse than the iPhone 12 Pro (Photos: Sir Apfelot).

If you are mainly out and about with your iPhone in the sunshine and take fewer party shots at night, you should consider upgrading to an iPhone 12 Pro. The 12 Pro mainly shows its strengths in poor lighting conditions, but then you can see massive differences.

Personally, the iPhone 12 Pro camera was not "superior" enough to me, which is why I returned the iPhone 12 Pro and swapped it for an iPhone 12 Pro Max. I think the larger sensor and the new lens system show a bigger leap in terms of image quality here. Whether this is also the case, I'll let you know in another post where I'll compare the iPhone Xs with the 12 Pro Max (when it finally arrives).

What is your experience with the iPhone cameras? Are you satisfied with the photo quality or do you prefer to snap with the DSLR? Let me know in the comments.

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22 comments

  1. Robert says:

    Like me: from the XS Max to the 12 Pro Max, although for the first time I only skipped one generation. I was just looking forward to LIDAR and I also find the new / old design more successful.
    Unfortunately, I'm a bit disappointed when it comes to the quality of the camera. Sure, amazing things happened in the night mode, although the naturalness suffers, but especially with the warmth of the photos, which plays a role in the beautiful autumnal moods in the forest, the 12er often strikes me as excessively cool, analytical, sharp .
    When enlarging photos, especially with the 2.5x zoom lens, I often find "muddy" spots, and with panoramas with the zoom lens, I have not yet succeeded in completely sharp photos.
    I still have to get used to it, also play around with the settings, I'm probably also very critical about the price, but the first impression is "not so happy" at first.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Robert! I also had that with the cool colors in a few photos. The muddy spots are of course not nice, but the 12 Pro Max has to be superior in terms of optical performance. I suppose they need to do a few more updates to iron out issues like this.

  2. Sven says:

    Hallo,
    that's a really great comparison because I have the same models.
    Keep it up.
    I'm looking forward to the addition of the Max model.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen

    Sven

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Sven! Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I will also deliver the iPhone Xs vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max test. : D But first I have to test the MacBook Pro with the M1 chip that came out today ... that seems to be quite a rocket when I watch the videos on Youtube. I am already very excited…

  3. Michael says:

    I went from the XS Max to the 12 Pro Max because I also like to take pictures in the evening (twilight) when on vacation - and the increase in quality with the 12 Pro Max is enormous.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Great, I'm looking forward to the tests! : D

    • Christmas says:

      Hello and thanks for the article! However, this has now totally unsettled me :-( I just (today) bought an iPhone 12 Pro from the Apple retailer (I wasn't sure whether Max or not, in the end the Max was too big for my small hands) and I am but only now stumbled across your article even though I actually did a lot of research on the Internet. My spontaneous reaction was “such a bummer.” Sure, I take a lot of photos of the children, in winter more often at dusk. But the image warmth and the details suffer too, I would not have thought. And then I would probably have had to reach for the Max so that the differences are more noticeable, because I also believe that larger improvements should justify the price of a new iPhone.

      Can you possibly estimate how long it will take you to publish your test? I wonder if I should not part again after all. I'm kind of disappointed right now.

      • Jens Kleinholz says:

        Hello Jule! The 12 Pro is a great iPhone, and the camera is good too. The things I highlighted in the article are really trifles. It didn't often happen to me that the color was wrong. I took all my blog photos with the iPhone Xs and that also has massive problems when you have several light sources with different color temperatures. So the Xs also has weak points. My iPhone 12 Pro Max has been in use since today, but I haven't gotten around to taking comparison photos yet. But I'll do a few days a day. Then I am smarter and can tell how big the difference is. Regarding the size of the 12 Pro Max: Yes, it is big, but I already like it! You can watch films while feeding without putting on the magnifying glasses. : D I like the huge display. And it's just uncomfortable in your pocket when you sit down. I am totally happy with the exchange ...

        • Christmas says:

          Hello and thanks for the quick answer! So the new cell phone is still in the box together with the protective film that has not been removed. I have decided to wait for your evaluation. I hope it comes soon so that I can still exchange it if necessary (if the differences are not too marginal). Do you think you can do this within two weeks (please, please) ?? :-)

          • Jens Kleinholz says:

            Hello Jule! You can still use the iPhone and still return it if you bought it online. It's definitely hard to have it wrapped up there. I'm trying to make a report quickly, but at the moment the work is piling up and unfortunately I also have to do bookkeeping ... uargs. :(

  4. Klaus says:

    Interesting article, I'm already looking forward to the comparison with the Max. Maybe even in the new Apple Raw format?

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hi Klaus! Yes, my Max was sent today. They probably also work on Sundays ... as soon as it is there and I have been able to take a few pictures, I'll finish the article!

  5. Christmas says:

    Hi Jens,

    no, unfortunately I didn't buy it online but from an "Apple store", so a reseller :-( Sorry didn't want to annoy you.

  6. Christoph says:

    Hi

    Do you have the link to compare? Nowhere to find this: /

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Christoph! What comparison are you looking for? iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max? Unfortunately I didn't write that anymore. But I can tell you so much: The camera of the 12 Pro Max is perhaps slightly better for photos in low-light conditions, but otherwise both cameras do not do much in "normal" lighting conditions. Even when comparing two photos, I could not say which is from the 12 Pro and which from the 12 Pro Max. So the extra charge for the Pro Max is not worth it. However, I also took it because more fits on the display. I hope you meant this comparison. : D

  7. Christoph says:

    Hi
    Thanks for the fast respond. Thought of XS and Pro Max. Got the XS myself and am now wondering whether I should buy it now or wait another year. The only thing missing is night mode and if you're out with the kids for a while in autumn, the photos should look like something. But the XS camera isn't all that bad ...

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Christoph! So you will clearly notice the difference. With the Xs, the recordings - especially of kids and pets - tended to be blurred. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has significantly more capacity. The photos are still good in the semi-darkness when the kids are moving. And if everyone keeps still, you can also take pictures during the night, so to speak.

  8. Christoph says:

    So take 13 Pro Max and enjoy the next four years. Otherwise the jumps are fortunately not so "blatant" that you "have to" buy one every year;)

    Thank you.

  9. Alexander says:

    Your contribution is a bit older, but as an Xs to 13 per switch, I made very similar findings to yours and was therefore looking for comparative tests. I didn't trust my own photos. The Xs even does well against Apple's current flagship. Sometimes more details can be seen in the photos of the Xs. I suspect that the less noisy and sharper impression is due to algorithms that smooth out details. I'm a little disappointed. The photos of the 13 pro only look better overall in very little light. And the Ultra WW is, of course, a significant improvement. Otherwise the Xs is still doing well, especially since I don't find the 120 Hz as impressive as many influencers.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Alexander! I'm looking forward to my photo comparison. I have not yet been able to test the iPhone 13 properly because there was too much going on at the weekend. But I hope I'll be able to give a short report in the next few days. But I already have 120 Hz on the iPad Pro and I have to say: I can pick up my old iPad without any problems and I won't get eye cancer. I don't even notice the difference in normal use. Let's see if I notice it more with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. : D

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