Having the best iPhone for photography in 2023 means you can take high-quality photographs and videos, quickly and easily, all with a device that fits in your pocket. You'll also benefit from the leading image tech and camera features that make Apple's iPhone one of the best camera phones (opens in new tab) today.
But which is the best iPhone for photography for you? The Apple iPhone 14 lineup (opens in new tab) is the most recent, having been released in 2022, but it's also the most expensive – and will offer too many advanced features for some.
Sometimes an older model can be the smarter choice, especially when you're mainly looking at the camera. Apple tends to focus on upgrading different things with each generation of iPhone (see iPhone generations (opens in new tab) to see the whole range). That means that sometimes the camera on one generation is much like the camera on the previous model, but the screen is much larger or of a higher quality. If you can live with a smaller, lower-res screen, you can get the same great camera for a cheaper price.
If you've got an unlimited budget and want the best that money can buy, the best iPhone for photography overall has to be either the iPhone 14 Pro (opens in new tab) or the iPhone 14 Pro Max (opens in new tab), Apple's latest flagships. With 48MP main camera sensors, Raw photos (opens in new tab) and selfie cameras with autofocus – among many other smart camera features – these devices are redefining the limits of what camera phones can do.
Apple's iPhones hold their value and potential for many years after their release, and the iPhone 12 Pro (opens in new tab) and iPhone 12 Pro Max (opens in new tab) are still great. With rear triple-camera arrays, they're capable of capturing dazzling images, and the launch of the iPhone 13 series has meant that they can be picked up for cheaper than at launch.
This increased affordability continues as you go back through the range – though you'll also start to compromise on camera functionality. For instance, the iPhone 11 only has two rear-facing cameras. There's also the recently-revamped iPhone SE (2022), an iPhone with an iconic design and a far lower price than flagship iPhones. Essentially, then, it's about balancing your needs and your budget.
To help you find the right balance, we've listed the best iPhones for photography, and the best prices you can get them for right now.
The best iPhone for photography in 2023
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The iPhone 14 Pro Max checks all the boxes you'd expect from a flagship Apple smartphone – a big, immersive screen; fancy styling; stacks of power. Like the iPhone 14 Pro, there's a larger, 1/1.28-inch, 48MP sensor, and the front camera, which now has autofocus, handles depth perception more effectively.
The largest and heaviest iPhone of the pack, the 14 Pro Max weighs the same (240g) as the iPhone 13 Pro Max (opens in new tab) but is thicker than its predecessor thanks to that new, larger camera sensor. Powering the iPhone 14 Pro Max (and Pro) is the new A16 Bionic chip, which Apple claims is the most powerful of any smartphone – and we're inclined to believe them, which means you'll get plenty of performance for video editing on the device.
The main difference between the iPhone 14 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the screen size. If you need the larger 6.7-inch screen for reviewing and editing images, shooting videos, or even playing games, then the Pro Max is definitely one to go for – as long as you can afford the high price point, that is.
The iPhone 14 Pro is a relatively compact smartphone with a mighty camera mix. In short, it's the best iPhone you can buy for photography if you want something manageable in size. The iPhone Pro Max below features exactly the same camera specs but offers a larger 6.7-inch screen than the Pro's 6.1-inches.
Apple has bumped up the resolution on the main camera from 12MP to 48MP – making it the best-specced ever featured on an iPhone. The selfie camera also has autofocus for better depth recognition and close-up shots.
For 2022, Apple introduced a large 1/1.28-inch sensor that out-sizes the Galaxy S22 Ultra (opens in new tab), and it's matched with an f/1.78 aperture lens with a 23mm focal length, second-generation sensor-shift optical image stabilization, a seven-element lens, and 100% focus pixels. Adding a digital lens, the iPhone 14 Pro crops into the inner 12MP of the main camera sensor to create a native 12MP two-times telephoto image. This punches into 48mm – perfect for portraits.
The cameras benefit from sapphire crystal lens cover protection, and there's also a LiDAR scanner, which helps with night mode portraits. The iPhone 14 Pro also features an action mode, which adds GoPro-style stabilization to 2.7K video content for high-motion shooting.(opens in new tab)
The iPhone 13 Pro Max (opens in new tab) is the biggest and best of Apple’s new-generation iPhones, with the same cameras and tech as the iPhone 13 Pro, but with a bigger screen (6.7 inches versus 6.1 inches). The Pro Max also boasts a slightly longer battery life of up to 28hrs video playback versus up to 22 hours on the smaller '13 Pro.
It might be tempting, then, to pick the Pro Max over the regular Pro model just to get the best of everything. The regular Pro costs enough, so why not take that last step and get the bigger screen? Some may simply find it too big to be comfortable to use every day. So it's really a judgment call based on what you want to spend.
Overall, there's no doubt the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a truly stunning camera phone, whether you shoot stills or video. However, the regular iPhone 13 Pro boasts the same photographic performance in a more ergonomic and cheaper package, hence why it's higher up this list.
If you do choose this super-sized model, make sure you've got an iPhone 13 Pro Max case (opens in new tab) to protect it.(opens in new tab)
The iPhone 13 Pro is not just the latest and great iPhone, it's also the best iPhone for photographers right now. Its triple-lens setup boasts a standard, ultra-wide, and telephoto configuration, with 26mm, 13mm, and 78mm equivalent focal lengths respectively. In terms of improvements over the iPhone 12 Pro, there's a new Cinematic video mode for movie shooters, as well as a new macro mode and improvements to the camera's low-light capabilities. The telephoto module is also improved, with a 3x range rather than 2x.
While the iPhone 13 Pro Max (number 2 on our list) is technically the best phone Apple offers right now, there's no real difference in camera tech between it and the 13 Pro; the main advantage of the Max is its better battery life.
This means, for us, the iPhone 13 Pro is the best iPhone for photographers as it doesn't cost quite the astronomical price tag of the Pro Max. Note that if you've already got a 12 Pro then it's probably not enough of a jump to be worth an instant upgrade, but it is better. Head to our iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro (opens in new tab) comparison article to make the right buying decision.(opens in new tab)
However you slice it, the iPhone 12 Pro is still a photography phone to be reckoned with. It's not the newest anymore and has faced stiff competition from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (opens in new tab), and its 108MP sensor. Though when you're dealing with small smartphone sensors, having loads of pixels is not necessarily an advantage, and the iPhone 12 Pro accounts for itself in other ways.
The triple-camera unit on this phone consists of an ultra-wide f/2.4 camera, a wide f/1.6 camera, and a telephoto f/2 camera, with similar focal lengths to those of the iPhone 13 Pro above (save for a shorter telephoto). This gives you a good array of shooting options that will cover the majority of situations you'll find yourself in.
So why is the 12 Pro worth getting over the vanilla iPhone 12? It has a few tricks up its sleeve to justify its price tag; for one, it has a LiDAR scanner, which allows it to focus faster in low-light shooting situations. It can also use the new Apple ProRAW file format (opens in new tab), giving you much more latitude and editing control over your images.
What about the iPhone 12 Pro vs Max (opens in new tab)? The sensor on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is 47% larger and boasts sensor-shift optical image stabilization, making it more adept at low-light shooting.(opens in new tab)
The iPhone 13 Mini does exactly what it says on the tin: gives you the same functions and firepower as the iPhone 13 (opens in new tab), in a more svelte form factor and with a smaller price tag to match.
The iPhone 13 Mini squeezes the raw power of the standard 6.1-inch iPhone 13 into a 5.4-inch handset. If a small phone is important to you, this is the one to go for. It takes superb photos, 4K 60p video, up to 240fps slow-mo (in 1080p), and its portrait functions now power the brilliant Cinematic mode for shallow depth of field in video. If you own the 12 Mini, there's not much reason to upgrade, but if you've skipped a generation, you'll fall in love with it!
Want the photography smarts of a modern iPhone, but on a tight budget? Then we recommend the latest update to the iPhone SE. At a surprisingly affordable price, you get an impressive camera setup, with a 12MP f/1.8 aperture wide camera on the rear. The new, fast A15 Bionic chip makes everything works smoothly and beautifully, with AI-enhanced software such as Portrait mode and the same Smart HDR 4 tech as the iPhone 13 giving you lots of great shooting options. The rear camera (7 MP, f/2.2) is pretty decent too.
Elsewhere, the iPhone SE (2022) offers 5G, longer battery life, and improved durability. It's rated IP67 for water and dust resistance, features the Home button, and supports Touch ID and Apple Pay.
On the downside, the screen is pretty small, at 4.7 inches, you're not getting zoom or ultra-wide lenses, and it's not as powerful as the iPhone 13 series (opens in new tab). But overall you're getting a very nice phone indeed, for not a lot of money.(opens in new tab)
You can't judge camera phones purely on specs. The iPhone 11 Pro (opens in new tab)'s triple-camera array is hardly cutting edge by today's camera phone standards, but it works brilliantly. The colors, tones, and exposures are consistent across all three cameras, and the image processing is perfectly judged to produce natural-looking detail and not the usual over-sharpened, over-smoothed smartphone 'look'.
The ultrawide camera is just brilliant for travel photography, landmarks, and spectacular interiors, and while it can't quite match the edge-to-edge image quality of the other lenses, it still produces sharp, distortion-free ultra-wide images that widen your horizons in every possible way. We like the regular iPhone 11 Pro best – the iPhone 11 Pro Max has the same cameras but it's just a bit big, while the regular plain-vanilla iPhone 11 is cheaper but doesn't have the 52mm telephoto lens.
The iPhone 12 Mini of a pleasing trend of Apple filling out the smaller end of its mobile offering, as well as putting out big flagship phones with more features, cameras, and pixels than ever. This means it's much more affordable than its contemporaries like the iPhone 12 Pro, as well as being a good deal easier to hold and carry around.
Despite the reduction in size, Apple hasn't skimped on tech for the iPhone 12 Mini. it boasts a beefy dual camera array, with a 12MP 26mm f/1.6 and a 12MP 13mm f/2.4. There's no telephoto like you get on the Pro, but it's still very impressive, and with the capacity to shoot 4K video as well, any content creator is going to have a whale of a time with it.
The only real disappointment is the battery life. Granted, things had to give somewhere, but still, having a 2227mAh battery to work with is really going to curtail your ability to get a full day's use out of the thing, at least without carting around a separate iPhone power bank (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
If you're looking for the best bang for your buck when it comes to a new iPhone, then we'd argue that the iPhone 11 might just be it. While we love newer iPhone models, the price difference can be hard to justify when the older iPhone 11 still delivers such respectable image quality.
The iPhone 11 does have a few downsides though, namely its lack of a telephoto lens and OLED screen, but you can pick it up for such a great price now, that you have to ask yourself how important these features are to you. If you're looking for the very best iPhone for photography, then we'd recommend going with a Pro Max model. However, if you want a great iPhone for taking pictures that won't break the bank, then the iPhone 11 is a natural choice. Got an iPhone 11? Get the best iPhone 11 cases (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The iPhone 12 might not have quite the same wow factor as the iPhone 12 Pro, but it's certainly no slouch when it comes to its photographic capabilities. The iPhone 12 has a dual camera system featuring an ultra-wide f/2.4 camera and a wide f/1.6 camera.
While the iPhone 12 doesn't have a dedicated telephoto camera, users can achieve a digital zoom of up to 5x. All of the iPhone 12 models are now capable of HDR video recording with Dolby Vision, although on the iPhone 12 this is only up to 30fps as compared to the iPhone 12 Pro's 60fps.
The iPhone 12's front-facing camera is capable of both Night mode and Deep Fusion, which weren't available on the base iPhone 11's selfie camera. The iPhone 12 is also now capable of Night mode Time-lapse. One of the most exciting upgrades for the iPhone 12 family is the new Ceramic Shield display, which features a 4x better drop performance. The iPhone 12 is also compatible with new MagSafe accessories and wireless chargers (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The regular iPhone XS has the same cameras as the Max version. The rears offer two 12-megapixel cameras, one for standard wide-angle shots, and the other for 2x zoom images. Apple offers a very natural and faithful image preview, which shows a good estimate of the benefits of image processing before that processing has even taken place. The color balance and the character of Apple’s processing are also very pleasant.
Other highlights include 240fps slo-mo at 1080p and X-series-only additional modes in the background blur portrait mode, such as Stage Lighting. This blacks out the background, for an image that looks a little like an actor’s headshot. The 2x zoom is also useful, particularly as it has optical image stabilization just like the main camera. Many people might find this more useful than the new ultra-wide lens on the iPhone 11, so the iPhone XS is still a good option, even though it's now last year's model. Protect your phone with the best iPhone XS cases (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The iPhone XS Max has the same camera setup as the iPhone Xs. So what benefit is there here? It’s pretty obvious, really. The Max has a larger screen, which helps when composing images. This is a particularly bright OLED display with a max power of around 650 nits. It copes remarkably well outdoors and goes into a ‘turbo’ mode when required, to make sure you can see the image preview even when it’s sunny.
Both X-series phones also have dual front-facing cameras. The imaging sensor is a 7-megapixel chip just like the recent older iPhones, and the second is a “time of flight” camera. This is used solely for depth mapping. Its primary function is to make the Face ID unlock feature work well, but it also improves “bokeh” images. You can alter the blur effect level, effectively changing the virtual aperture, after shooting the image. Check out the best phablets (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is technically superior to a lot of iPhones higher up this list. However, there is a reason this handset is so far down. While the iPhone 12 Pro Max features a more powerful battery life than the other iPhone 12 handsets – and even a slightly better rear camera than the iPhone 12 Pro – it has two major cons.
The first is that the 6.7" screen is so large that users with smaller hands might struggle to use it effectively. Secondly, despite it no loner being the latest iPhone flagship, prices are still quite high.
However, if you don't mind big handsets and you're happy to splash the cash, then there's still plenty of exciting features to write home about with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. With its blazing-fast chipset, quality camera set-up, battery and screen, it's no surprise that the 12 Pro Max is a great iPhone for photography.(opens in new tab)
The iPhone XR is one of the most interesting phones in the 2019 line-up from an Apple fan’s perspective. It’s now an older, cheaper iPhone so bargains are out there, although the lack of a zoom camera is its biggest loss.
The iPhone XR has only the one rear camera, the same 12-megapixel stabilised get-up as the iPhone XS. You get great images, sure, but a zoom is handy for gigs and other situations when you can’t simply move closer. Here you have to use a compromised digital zoom.
Other differences? While the iPhone XR has the same processor as the pricier iPhone X models, it uses an LCD screen rather than an OLED. This screen is larger than the iPhone Xs’s, though, and battery life is far better than that of the smaller, fancier iPhone Xs too.(opens in new tab)
The iPhone SE (2020) is a brilliant proposition: a cut-price iPhone that takes the form factor and camera of the iPhone 8, and pairs it with the processor and software magic of the iPhone 11 Pro. The result is a pocket-friendly handset in terms of both size and price, with fusion technology that delivers highly respectable photographs and 4K video.
Its smaller 4.7-inch 720p screen isn't as bright and doesn't refresh as fast as the flagship models, but that also means that its battery doesn't get gobbled up as fast either. It sticks with Touch ID instead of Face ID, and boasts Qi wireless charging. It's IP67 water and dust resistant, and features image stabilization for rock-solid 4K 60fps video. Between the A13 Bionic chip and Apple-standard software updates, the iPhone SE is one of the best value handsets out there.
The best iPhone accessories
If you've got an iPhone, then there are plenty of brilliant accessories to keep it safe or improve your photography. For example, these are the best microphones for iPhone, the best add-on lenses for phones, and the best iPhone power banks. Don't forget about the best phone cases (opens in new tab).