One of the most important parts of any smartphone these days is the camera, as chances are it's the only one you'll own.
The iPhone has a long tradition of excellence in this department, but with so many options currently available, it can be hard to know which model is best suited to your particular needs. Well, help is at hand, with our quick guide to the best iPhone for photography, whether you want a simple shooter for snaps or optics suitable for the serious enthusiast.
If you want a perspective that goes beyond just the photographic capabilities, then there's also our best iPhone guide.
Best iPhone for everyday photos
For the majority of people, all we want is a classic point-and-shoot camera that launches quickly so we can capture those moments that are gone in a flash. There isn't a bad camera in the current iPhone line-up (well, there pretty much never is), so you can take your pick and know that it will deliver great results.
The iPhone SE (2020) camera is a fine option, as not only does it take great photographs, it's also built into the cheapest iPhone around. The single 12MP Wide camera has a f/1.8 aperture, so it's a good all-rounder, with Optical Image Stabilisation keeping things sharp and the 5x digital zoom a useful tool in a pinch.
Here are the lowest prices currently available for the iPhone SE:
It's actually the same camera as the one found in the iPhone XR, but the SE version features improved Smart HDR for more impressive colours and contrast, plus three additional Portrait Lighting modes, presumably thanks to the assistance of the A13 Bionic chip.
If you want an Ultra-Wide camera as well, for landscapes and capturing more of a scene without having to keep walking backwards, then the iPhone 11 adds a F/2.4 aperture lens alongside the Wide camera of the iPhone SE and XR. You'll also get Night Mode, for low-light photography, and a 2x optical zoom (much better than digital).
Best iPhone for selfies
Should selfies be a high priority, then you'll probably want to rule out the iPhone SE, as the lack of the TrueDepth camera array used for Face ID means that it can't really keep up with its more expensive brethren. The iPhone XR also starts to fall from favour, as it's the only Face ID model still to feature the older 7MP sensor, whereas the iPhone 11 and above all come with the 12MP f/2.2 version.
In this case, the iPhone 12 is best of the bunch when you consider features and price. Not only does it have the same sensor as the iPhone 11 (not to mention all the models up to the iPhone 12 Pro Max), but you also get Smart HDR 3, HDR video recording, Night Mode, plus the Deep Fusion photo processing that adds extra levels of quality to the shots.
There's Portrait mode, for those professional-looking selfies, with six different lighting effects that can make it look like you're in a studio rather than your bedroom. Selfie heaven.
Best iPhone for recording video
Videography is its own thing these days, and iPhones come ably equipped to capture high-definition footage easily and with impressive results.
Even the iPhone SE will record 4K video at up to 60fps, with Optical Image Stabilisation as standard. There's also support for Slo-Mo up to 1080p at 120 or 240fps, Time-lapse recording (again with stabilisation), and Stereo. So, if you're on a budget but want solid footage, the iPhone SE is again a strong contender.
Of course, if you want more advanced features, then you'll need to move further up the chain. The iPhone 11 has all the features of the SE, plus Extended Dynamic Range up to 60fps (the SE maxes out at 30fps), a 2x optical zoom thanks to the additional camera, and Audio Zoom for improved sound quality when people are speaking. Move up to the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 mini and you'll also get HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 30fps and Night-mode Time-lapse for those moody midnight cityscapes.
The Pro range brings a few bells and whistles of their own, though, with the iPhone 12 Pro featuring 2x optical zoom in (to accompany the 2x optical zoom out of the iPhone 12), as well as boosting the HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 60fps.
This is bested by the iPhone 12 Pro Max, though, which adds sensor-shift optical image stabilisation for rock-solid footage, alongside a 2.5x optical zoom in. Whether you'd really need these is dependent on your aspirations as a filmmaker.
For our money, the iPhone 12 Pro is probably the best blend of features and price, especially as we'd recommend buying a higher storage capacity than the 128GB that comes with the base model, as shooting 4K video will soon use up that space.
Best iPhone for photography enthusiasts
As you can already see, the iPhone range has some excellent camera options, but if you're someone who takes your photography seriously, and don't want to go down the DSLR route, then enthusiastic iPhoneographers will know that the one to buy is the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Here you get the triple lens compliment of Ultra Wide (f/2.4), Wide (f/1.6), and Telephoto (f/2.2) that comes on both Pro models, as well as Night Mode, Deep Fusion and the Apple ProRAW feature that means you can edit RAW files rather than HEIC or JPGs. There's also Smart HDR 3, various Portrait modes and the video capabilities outlined in the previous section.
The real advantage of the iPhone 12 Pro Max over the iPhone 12 Pro is that shift-sensor optical image stabilisation that could be the difference between a pin-sharp focused shot and a slight blur due to any motion. This is even more essential when you consider the increased optical zoom-in range of 2.5x as opposed to 2x.
Yes, these are fine margins, but that's nearly always the difference between dabblers and pros. Either of the iPhone 12 Pro models will get you amazing results, but if you want the best, then the iPhone 12 Pro Max is it.
Once you've captured your photos, you'll want to ensure that you can make the most of them, so take a look at our best photo editing software for Mac roundup as well our guide on how to edit photos on a Mac.