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Analysis of three new camera systems for Apple’s iPhone 12

Apple just announced its iPhone 12 lineup, and as part of today’s announcements, the company has introduced a dizzying amount of camera technology scattered among the new iPhones. If you’re coming from an iPhone that currently has a single camera, or even a pair, you might find some serious updates here.

But first, let’s establish the baseline.

The iPhone SE camera.

One camera: iPhone SE (2020) and iPhone XR

The iPhone SE turned heads earlier this year at a price of $ 399 and the iPhone XR is now $ 499. Both have a single 12-megapixel f / 1.8 “wide” camera, although not. are exactly the same: the XR has a larger sensor, while the iPhone SE appears to be a smaller one similar to the 2017 iPhone 8. Neither has ultrawide or telephoto lenses, nor fancy Deep Fusion techniques; your portrait mode shots are also limited to what Apple’s machine learning algorithms can guess about depth, as there’s no second camera to check.

However, each offers a six-element lens with optical image stabilization, 4K60 video recording, and a basic portrait mode.

Two cameras: iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini come with two cameras each, but perhaps more importantly, that single main camera has changed. While it still offers 12 megapixels like previous phones, the lens now has 7 elements and a larger f / 1.6 aperture that allows 27% more light to hit that sensor than the previous generation, which should mean more images. bright, less noisy and / or blurry in low light and with a slightly shallower depth of field.

You also get:

  • A second 12-megapixel f / 2.4 ultrawide camera with a 120-degree field of view, a 5-element lens and a 13mm equivalent focal length, which sounds like the same ultrawide we have on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro
  • Apple’s Deep Fusion Computational Photography System, which can now be used on both cameras (instead of just the main one) and which Apple says runs faster on the iPhone 12
  • Night mode, which you won’t find on the iPhone SE, can be used on both the ultrawide and front TrueDepth cameras here, meaning you’ll be able to take night mode photos no matter which iPhone 12 camera you’re using. (The iPhone 11 did not support night mode with ultrawide.)
  • A new time-lapse function in night mode
  • Apple’s Smart HDR 3 system, which automatically adjusts things like white balance and contrast in photos to make them more natural, according to the company
  • The ability to shoot HDR video with Dolby Vision at 30 fps

Three cameras + LIDAR: iPhone 12 Pro

Like the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro adds a third telephoto lens to the package, and as far as we know, it’s the same f / 2.0, 52mm telephoto lens from last year except you can now also use it to take Deep Fusion photos. But perhaps most interestingly, the iPhone 12 Pro also has a LIDAR sensor, which could have a big advantage in low-light situations: Apple says the LIDAR sensor can autofocus up to 6x faster in low light conditions and let you take portrait photos in night mode.

You also get:

  • The same main and ultrawide cameras found in the iPhone 12 and the same new modes
  • 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom, thanks to that 52mm equivalent telephoto lens
  • HDR video with Dolby Vision, like the iPhone 12, but up to 60fps instead of being limited to 30

iPhone 12 Pro Max

The main camera in the iPhone 12 Pro Max looks like it will be a major upgrade over the main camera in the other iPhone 12 models – and that camera was already an improvement over the SE and iPhone 11 range. The 12 Pro Max’s 12-megapixel f / 1.6 wide aperture camera has a 47% larger sensor, which Apple says translates to an 87% improvement in photos in condition low light. The main camera also has optical image stabilization with sensor shift, which means that the camera sensor moves inside the camera to compensate for any movement. This, in theory, should make photos and videos more stable.

Here’s what else you get:

  • A 2.5x longer optical zoom than the iPhone 12 Pro, thanks to a longer 65mm equivalent focal length lens, but with a slower f / 2.2 aperture
  • The same ultrawide camera as the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro
  • The same LIDAR sensor found on the iPhone 12 Pro
  • 12x digital zoom: higher than that of the iPhone 12 Pro
  • All the same software features as the iPhone 12 Pro, including Dolby Vision HDR at 60 fps

Both iPhone 12 Pro models will also receive additional software functionality at some point later this year: support for Apple’s ProRAW format, which combines Apple’s computational photography with RAW. Until it’s available, however, it’s hard to know exactly how it might improve your photos or how much control it will give you when editing.

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