Portrait mode on the iPhone 12 has been improved to capture even more stunning detail.
Portrait mode on the iPhone 12 has been improved to capture even more stunning detail. Mark Furler

iPhone 12 camera review: Is it a big step up?

SEEING is believing when it comes to how good the cameras are on the latest iPhone 12.

The extra details in photos, more capability in video shooting and editing and some very smart technology when it comes to dealing with variable light sources are some of the standouts.

They all add up to far better photographs and videos - and a stunning display that really brings out the very best of what you have shot.

Throw in 5G, a tougher 'ceramic shield' shell, and some nice mag safe wireless charging options and the package is a decent step up, particularly if you are upgrading from a phone that might be three or four years old.

The 6.1 inch size is probably as small as I would want to go after using the iPhone 11 Pro Max for most of the past year.

The Super Retina XDR display is certainly better for viewing your content, particularly if it is higher production stuff from Apple TV.

The 12 offers nearly twice the peak in brightness, blacker blacks and that HDR experience for photos and videos.

The camera setup is particularly good.

iPhone 12 camera put to the test.
iPhone 12 camera put to the test. Mark Furler

The wide capture sucks in 27% more light, while the extra detail in photos, even in harsher light conditions, will be appreciated by snappers taking family portraits to nature lovers capturing beautiful landscapes.

The portrait mode, which allows you to take bokeh effect photos with blurred backgrounds - and then change the look of the photo afterwards - still remains one of my favourite features.

I take a lot of photos of my beloved pooch and other cameras I've tested are not fast enough to keep up with Ava on the run.

But the iPhone misses very little and when you put it into portrait mode, and you have a dog that is keen to pose, you can achieve some stunning shots.

Some of the upgrades to the iPhone 12 include Night Mode and Deep Fusion being available on all cameras.
Deep Fusion fuses nine separate exposures together into a single image.


iPhone 12 put to the test.
iPhone 12 put to the test. Mark Furler

The end result is a far more beautiful and realistic image of what is in front of you.

Live Mode, which is not new, is still one of my favourite features for capturing things like long exposures. After you take a photo you click on it and swipe up and then you can choose from live, loop, bounce or long exposure.

It's great for if you are shooting a group shot and someone might close their eyes. You just select a better shot in the series where they have their eyes upon.

I haven't had a decent chance to play with the iPhone 12 at night much but on the shoots I've done so far, the phone has managed to pull in a lot of detail and produce a reasonably sharp shot even shooting handheld.

Video recording has been improved to shoot in lower light while you can also do night mode time-lapses.

The big selling point is that the iPhone 12 is the first camera to record in 4K Dolby Vision HDR.

For selfies, the 12MP TrueDepth camera now offers night mode and deep fusion.

You can also shoot HDR video with Dolby Vision at up to 30 frames per second with great stabilisation.

The iPhone 12 has the same A14 Bionic chip as the iPhone 12 Pro.

In fact, this year, the differences between the two phones is probably as small as it has ever been.

Apple says there has been a big leap in processing power, graphics and it is 80% faster in machine learning.

The MagSafe wireless charging option, which allows for easy attachment of magnetic accessories, is great, particularly if you are stumbling in the dark trying to connect your phone to the charger at night.

The new iOS 14, which includes a major update to the home screen and redesigned widgets makes for a much cleaner, and more organised experience, particularly if you have lots of apps.

Apple Pay still works better than any of the other phone pay systems, while Siri seems to understand me more quickly than Google more times than not.

When teamed up with the Apple Watch and other devices at home, the Apple ecosystem is still arguably better than any other because of the way everything works together.

So what's so good about the cameras?

Wide camera features a new ƒ/1.6 aperture. It's powered by Apple's first-7-element lens. There are some 5000 micro-adjustments per second for night mode shots and steady video. I'll have to take Apple's word for this, I didn't count them.

The ultra wide camera offers a 120-degree field of view, allowing iPhone 12 to zoom out 2x. Definitely one of my favourite features.

Night mode is now available on all cameras of iPhone 12. If you are taking a late-night landscape shot or your latest selfie in low light, these photos are now beautifully lit. Some of the samples provided by Apple are stunning.

Night mode is particularly good on the iPhone 12, as shown in this supplied image.
Night mode is particularly good on the iPhone 12, as shown in this supplied image.

Deep Fusion is now available on all cameras. It leverages the power of the iPhone's Neural Engine to drastically improve texture and detail in mid- and low-light photos. This is  undoubtedly one of the the big parts of Apple's magic.

Smart HDR 3 uses machine learning to understand scenes and apply selective adjustments to distinct parts of the photo, delivering more true-to-life images, even in complex scenes. You notice this particularly in shots where a sky or clouds might otherwise be 'washed out'.

The new iPhone 12 is seriously good looking – but has it cursed your current mobile?
The new iPhone 12 is seriously good looking – but has it cursed your current mobile?

Portrait mode offers improved segmentation for your subjects, including enhanced glass and hair segmentation.

Lens Correction When shooting with the Ultra Wide camera and the front TrueDepth camera, iPhone will now intelligently correct the edges of the photo for more natural-looking results, like the correct architectural lines.

Better video With larger aperture, iPhone 12 offers big improvements in low light videos. The new temporal noise reduction process ensures videos have less noise and more detail. With a tripod, you can now enable Night mode Time-lapse, creating a much brighter result with longer exposure frames and smoother tone curves.

HDR recording with Dolby Vision iPhone 12 is the first in the world to directly record in Dolby Vision. The 10-bit HDR video captures 60x more colours, now up to 700 million. iPhone can also edit encoded Dolby Vision videos right on device, which is pretty incredible.


Prices for the iPhone 12 start at $1699 in Australia.

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