Apple has announced its iPhone 12 lineup, and as ever, the phones’ camera systems were the focus of much of the company’s presentation. This year, though, there’s more to differentiate each model than ever before. The iPhone range is getting improvements across the board, but Apple appears to be reserving the biggest advances for its biggest phone. The 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max has some serious hardware improvements that set its camera apart from every other iPhone.
Hardware-wise, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the iPhone 12, 12 mini, and 12 Pro when compared to the 11 and 11 Pro. All of these phones use the same-sized 12 megapixel sensors for wide, ultrawide, and the Pro model’s telephoto cameras, and the shape and size of the camera bump remains essentially the same.
The biggest hardware change is a new seven-element f/1.6 lens for the primary wide camera. That’s a modest aperture increase on the iPhone 11’s six-element f/1.8 lens; Apple says it improves the lens’ light-gathering ability by 27 percent, which should enable slightly faster shutter speeds or less grainy ISO settings in low light. There are often compromises to sharpness and performance when designing lenses with larger apertures, but the new seven-element structure will “maintain sharp detail in your photo from edge to edge,” according to Apple.
New glass is always nice, but the bigger improvements are likely to be in how Apple’s software makes use of the new A14 Bionic processor. The iPhone 12 cameras use Smart HDR 3, the latest generation of Apple’s computational photography pipeline; it’s previously identified and optimized for people’s faces, but now it uses machine learning to apply adjustments to a wider variety of elements in a scene. Apple is also claiming improved performance in night mode, which can now