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. ;-)
Chapter in this post:
- 1 Why iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone Xs?
- 2 camera: main reason for the upgrade?
- 3 photos in the dark with "Night mode" - not on the iPhone Xs
- 4 photo examples in comparison
- 5 Color balance of the 12 Pro is not always accurate ...
- 6 More drawing in dark areas on the iPhone Xs
- 7 The lens flare still exists
- 8 Low Light close-up: iPhone 12 Pro wins
- 9 Close-up with enough light: this is where the iPhone Xs scores
- 10 More bokeh in close-ups?
- 11 Hardly any differences in good lighting conditions
- 12 Similar posts
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.
- Read more: iPhone Xs (Max) Specifications
- Read more: iPhone 12 Pro Max specifications
- Read more: The best iPhone 12 Pro Max cases
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.
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.
More drawing in dark areas on the iPhone Xs
The headline sounds strange, because the dark areas in particular should actually be a playing field in which the 12 Pro scores. Normally, this is certainly also the case when Smart HDR 3 is “working” or the night mode is active. In the picture below, I photographed a tree against the light and in the enlargement (even further down!) you can see that the dark trunk in the photo of the iPhone Xs actually allows some light bark with structures to be guessed, while in the iPhone 12 Pro almost everything is dark.
The lens flare is still present
Unfortunately, the green lens flare has not yet been "fixed" by Apple, although from my layman's point of view, something like this should be easy to remove with subsequent image optimization. After all, the spot does not appear in random places, but usually on the opposite side of the image, if you consider the light source as the starting point.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 for me, which is why I sent the iPhone 12 Pro back and exchanged it for an iPhone 12 Pro Max. I think the larger sensor and the new lens system show a bigger leap in image quality here. I'll let you know if this is the case in another post comparing the iPhone Xs to 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.
Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He appears as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with problems of a technical nature. In his free time he drives electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with his iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions for current bugs.
24 comments on “Photos of iPhone XS and iPhone 12 Pro in comparison”
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" areas, and with panoramas with the zoom lens, I have not yet managed to get completely sharp photos.
I still have to get used to it, also play around with the settings, I'm probably also very critical because of the price, but the first impression is "not so happy".
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.
Have a normal xs unfortunately 64 gb but still not full 😅 I had the battery replaced for 40 € for a short time had the 13 pro in green awesome color and the matt was great, battery clearly much better. But in general I sent it back, the notch is much too ugly because the xs is narrower and the edges on the 13 pro i found thicker than the xs resolution i find the xs a little sharper and brighter. I was disappointed thought wow my first Pro device. But my xs is still top fast good shots my personal opinion. Maybe I'm not that demanding. In that sense, happy with my xs 😊🙂
Hi Isa! The Xs is definitely sufficient in terms of computing power. I just get a new iPhone almost every year for "work" reasons and because that's my main camera and it just gets better every year.
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.
With kind regards,
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…
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.
Great, I'm looking forward to the tests! : D
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.
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 ...
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) ?? :-)
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. :(
Interesting article, I'm already looking forward to the comparison with the Max. Maybe even in the new Apple Raw format?
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!
no, unfortunately I didn't buy it online but from an "Apple store", so a reseller :-( Sorry didn't want to annoy you.
Ah, then of course don't unpack. : D
I'm going to try my best…
Do you have the link to compare? Nowhere to find this: /
Hello Christoph! What comparison are you looking for? iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max? Unfortunately, I didn't write that at all. But I can tell you this much: The camera of the 12 Pro Max may be slightly better for photos in low-light conditions, but otherwise both cameras don't do much in "normal" light conditions. Even when comparing two photos, I couldn't tell which was from the 12 Pro and which was from the 12 Pro Max. So the surcharge 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
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 ...
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.
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;)
Your post 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.
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