The iPhone 12 is a compelling device and perhaps the best one in the new iPhone lineup if you consider the price-to-value ratio. There’s a lot to love about the device, from its OLED display to its blazing-fast performance and solid battery life, all of which have talked about in detail in our full review. On paper, the iPhone 12 comes with noticeable upgrades over last year’s iPhone 11, except for the cameras – with both the models offering a similar dual 12MP camera system. But does that mean the two iPhones offer a similar camera performance?
The iPhone 12 may feature the same 12MP primary, wide-angle, and TrueDepth front cameras as the iPhone 11, but the newer iPhone also gets the all-new A14 Bionic chipset’s improved image processing combined with improvements to Apple’s Smart HDR and Night mode. In conclusion, newer might just equal better. But seeing is believing, so here are some side-by-side comparisons between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 under different lighting conditions and scenarios.
When it comes to daytime photography, both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 perform almost identically. You won’t be able to tell the difference between the two photos in most situations, which is not a bad thing. Both are capable daylight shooters that are able to capture true-to-life colours with balanced exposure, so everything in the frame looks well-lit, including the sky. Photos look contrasty at times and details are good, but both the iPhones don’t offer a wide dynamic range.
Again, the ultra-wide cameras on both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 will offer a similar wide-angle photo with decent dynamic range and colour reproduction. However, the important aspect for any ultra-wide camera on a phone is the amount of detail it is able to retain, and I found the iPhone 12 does a better job at that. In this cropped ultra-wide shot, you can see the bricks and trees more defined on the iPhone 12.
With plenty of natural light indoors, both the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 will get you good-looking photos with pleasing colours and contrast. The iPhone 12 does tend to saturate the colours ever so little and does a better job at noise reduction compared to the iPhone 11. You probably won’t see a significant difference in most scenarios, but it’s there. The iPhone 12 also does better at white balance correction as well, which results in better colour contrast.
Low light outdoor
The improvements to the Night mode on the iPhone 12 are subtle but significant. In outdoor low light conditions, the iPhone 12’s Night mode is able to control the extremely bright areas so that they are visible – such as the Kings Kulfi sign as seen below. We also noticed better exposure control in general, so the sky looks darker as it should while the store signs and lights are clearly visible. There is decent noise reduction on both photos, but overall the iPhone 12 captures a better low light photograph.
Low light portrait
I was quite pleased with the low light portrait shots the iPhone 12 was able to deliver. The difference between the two iPhones is probably the greatest and most noticeable in these shots. As you can see below, the iPhone 12’s low light portrait looks brighter and more colourful, while the iPhone 11 looks dull in comparison. Colours on the clothes look saturated and the background looks well-exposed and there are no flaring issues on the iPhone 12.
In both daylight and low light situations, the iPhone 12 delivers better-looking selfies. Compared to the iPhone 11, selfies on the iPhone 12 look brighter and sharper. Daylight shots on the iPhone 12 can border on overexposure at times, but the camera does well for the most part in making sure the subject is well lit without blowing out the background.
Apple has added Night mode to the front camera on the iPhone 12, which naturally means brighter and clearer selfies in low light compared to the iPhone 11. In the shot below, you can see the iPhone 12’s selfie appears better exposed, clearer, and with minimal noise.
The iPhone has always been a reliable device for video recording and the iPhone 12 just builds on that reputation. Both the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 deliver excellent videos in daylight with good stability and dynamic range. Exposure is better on the iPhone 12 thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Vision HDR, though both the iPhone models do show noise. To really enjoy Dolby Vision HDR videos, you will need to view it on a display that supports the standard.
The iPhone 12 nails the basics. It offers a balanced exposure, true-to-life colours, and fast autofocus, which means you’re likely to get reliable shots more often than not. The iPhone 12 is mostly at par with the iPhone 11 in daylight photography, but it’s the little improvements here and there that are enough for the iPhone 12 to deliver better-looking photos in most other scenarios. It’s in the darker conditions where the iPhone 12 truly shines. Apple has made some subtle upgrades to Night Mode and bringing the support to the front camera means better selfies no matter the time of the day. When it comes to simple point-and-shoot, the iPhone 12 is one of the best phones out there, and it takes the lead in video recording as well.