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The best iPhone for photography in 2022: from the iPhone XR to iPhone 14 Pro Max

Best iPhone for photography
(Image credit: Apple)

The best iPhone for photography allows you to take stunning photographs and videos, quickly and easily. You'll benefit from high-class image technology that makes the iPhone one of the best camera phones (opens in new tab) of today. But which is the best iPhone for photography for you? It's not necessarily the most recent and expensive one...

If you're mainly looking at the camera, sometimes an older model can be the smarter choice. This is because Apple tends to focus on upgrading different things with each generation of iPhone (see iPhone generations (opens in new tab) to find out more). So, 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. 

That said, if money's no object then the best iPhone for photography overall has been either the iPhone 14 Pro (opens in new tab) or the iPhone 14 Pro Max (opens in new tab), the latest flagships. With 48MP main camera sensors and selfie cameras with autofocus – among many other smart camera features – these models truly are redefining the limits of what smartphones can do. The newly-announced iPhone 14 (opens in new tab) range takes the best iPhone crown, so check out our iPhone 14 vs iPhone 14 Pro (opens in new tab) guide for comparison.

Before these phones came along, though, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max were the best smartphones on the block for photography. And you know what? They're 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), a powerful new iPhone with an iconic design, with exceptional capabilities and performance at 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 2022

best iPhone for photography: iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)
The best iPhone camera phone to date, with a big 6.7-inch screen

Specifications

Release Date: September 2022
Rear cameras: 48MP (24mm, f/1.78), 12MP Ultra Wide (13mm, f/2.2), 12MP 3x Telephoto (77mm f/2.8)
Front camera: 12MP TrueDepth camera (f/1.9)
OIS: Yes
Weight: 240g
Dimensions: 160.7 x 77.6 x 7.85mm
Screen: 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Larger camera sensor than 13 Pro series
+
Rich styling with IP68 certification
+
New selfie camera has autofocus

Reasons to avoid

-
No SIM slot for US customers
-
Price increase over 13 Pro in the UK
-
Telephoto reach isn't class-leading

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.

best iPhone for photography: iPhone 14 Pro

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)
The best iPhone camera ever (same as 14 Pro Max) in a smaller size

Specifications

Release Date: September 2022
Rear cameras: 48MP (24mm, f/1.78), 12MP Ultra Wide (13mm, f/2.2), 12MP 3x Telephoto (77mm f/2.8)
Front camera: 12MP TrueDepth camera (f/1.9)
OIS: Yes
Weight: 240g
Dimensions: 160.7 x 77.6 x 7.85mm
Screen: 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Large 48MP camera sensor
+
The selfie camera now has autofocus
+
Elegant new deep purple color

Reasons to avoid

-
No SIM slot for US customers
-
Telephoto camera isn't class-leading
-
Very expensive

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.

(Image credit: Apple)
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A great iPhone for photography overall, but cheaper than iPhone 14 models

Specifications

Release date: September 2021
Rear cameras: 12MP f/1.5, 12MP f/1.8 ultrawide, 12MP f/2.8 telephoto
Front camera: 12MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 204g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.7mm
Screen: 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Extensively upgraded cameras
+
120Hz screen refresh rate

Reasons to avoid

-
Still 'only' 3x optical zoom

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.

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.

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
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Still a good iPhone for photography with more deals than previously

Specifications

Release date: October 2021
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/1.8 Ultra Wide, 12MP 26mm f/1.5 Wide, 12MP 77mm f/2.8 telephoto
Front camera: 12MP f/2.2 TrueDepth
OIS: Yes
Weight: 240g
Dimensions: 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65mm
Screen: 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display
Storage: 128 / 256 / 512GB / 1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Automatic macro mode
+
Superb Cinematic mode
+
77mm telephoto lens
+
RAW capture

Reasons to avoid

-
More of a phablet than a phone
-
Expensive, even by Apple standards

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.

(Image credit: Apple)
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2020's model is still a great choice for photographers

Specifications

Release date: October 2020
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.6, 12MP 52mm f/2
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
Dual OIS: Yes
Weight: 189 g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Triple-camera unit
+
New Apple ProRAW file format
+
LiDAR scanner
+
5G

Reasons to avoid

-
'Only' 12MP camera sensors

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.

(Image credit: James Artaius)
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The best small iPhone for photography

Specifications

Release date: October 2021
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.6
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
Dual OIS: Yes
Weight: 140g
Dimensions: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.65 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Upgraded cameras
+
Cinematic video mode
+
Better battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Incremental updates
-
No telephoto lens
-
No ProRes / ProRaw

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!

iPhone SE 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPhone SE (2022)

The best cheap iPhone for photography

Specifications

Release date: March 2022
Rear cameras: 12 MP, f/1.8 (wide), PDAF, OIS
Front camera: 7 MP, f/2.2
Dual OIS: No
Weight: 144g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
Storage: 64/128/256GB

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Fast performer
+
Supports 5G

Reasons to avoid

-
No Zoom or ultrawide

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.

(Image credit: Apple)
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The iPhone 11 Pro still has some great features to offer

Specifications

Release date: September 2019
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.8, 12MP 52mm f/2
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
OIS: Yes
Weight: 188 g
Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1 mm
Storage: 64/256/512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Triple-camera array
+
Consistent image quality
+
Brilliant 'slofies'
+
Portrait effects

Reasons to avoid

-
No 5G 
-
Unambitious specs, on paper

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.

Best iPhones for photography: Apple iPhone 12 Mini

(Image credit: Apple)
A fantastic mini-shooter with cutting-edge tech

Specifications

Release date: April 2021
Rear cameras: 12MP 26mm f/1.6, 12MP 13mm f/2.4
Front camera: 12MP, 23mm f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
OIS: Yes
Weight: 133 g
Dimensions: 131 x 64.2 x 7.4 mm
Storage: 64/256/512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Top-notch image quality
+
Small but powerful

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor battery life
-
No telephoto camera

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)

(Image credit: Apple)
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10. Apple iPhone 11

Cheaper than the iPhone 11 Pro, but without the 'telephoto' lens

Specifications

Release date: September 2019
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.8
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
OIS: Yes
Weight: 194 g
Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm
Storage: 64/128/256GB

Reasons to buy

+
Twin-camera array
+
Consistent image quality
+
Ultra-wide 13mm lens

Reasons to avoid

-
No 5G 
-
No 56mm 'telephoto' lens

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).

(Image credit: Apple)
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11. Apple iPhone 12

No telephoto, but still a great buy

Specifications

Release date: October 2020
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.6
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
OIS: Yes
Weight: 164 g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm
Storage: 64/128/256GB

Reasons to buy

+
Dual-camera unit
+
5G
+
New Ceramic Shield screen

Reasons to avoid

-
No telephoto camera
-
No LiDAR scanner

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).

(Image credit: Apple)
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Oncesthe best iPhone, and still good even now

Specifications

Release date: September 2018
Rear cameras: 12MP (Wide angle lens, f/1.8), 12MP (2x zoom lens)
Front camera: 7MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 177 g
Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm
Storage: 64/256/512 GB)

Reasons to buy

+
Same camera hardware as the Max
+
Very good image quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks ultra-low light ability of some Androids

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).

(Image credit: Apple)
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13. iPhone XS Max

Bigger than the iPhone XS, though not necessarily better

Specifications

Release date: September 2018
Rear cameras: 12MP (Wide angle lens, f/1.8), 12MP (2x zoom lens)
Front camera: 7MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 208 g
Dimensions: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm
Storage: 64/256/512 GB)

Reasons to buy

+
Big screen for composing shots
+
Excellent general image quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Very high price

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).

(Image credit: Apple)
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Still one of the best iPhones, and prices are starting to drop

Specifications

Release date: September 2020
Rear cameras: 12MP (Wide angle lens, f/1.8)
Front camera: 7MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 194 g
Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
Storage: 64/256/512 GB)

Reasons to buy

+
Long battery life
+
Features Apple ProRaw

Reasons to avoid

-
Still quite expensive
-
Feels large in the hand

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.

(Image credit: Apple)
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