iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

Camera Comparison
When it comes to cameras of any kind, the size of the sensor is king. The bigger the sensor, the better quality pictures it will produce across all types of lighting situations. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the biggest sensor to date in an iPhone. Interestingly, the biggest sensor of all time in a smartphone is the Panasonic Lumix CM1, but that’s a story for another time.

Sensor size isn’t the only advantage of the iPhone 12 Pro Max over the smaller iPhone 12 Pro, but is it enough to justify the price and size?

Here are the differences between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 12 Pro:

Sensor Size
47% larger sensor. Again, the headline is that the iPhone Pro Max has a 47 % larger sensor than the iPhone 12 Pro.

This means that the Pro Max should perform 47% better across all light situations, but especially in low light. Based on most testing, the larger sensor only has a negligible difference in daylight, or well lit scenes. At night however, there is a slight advantage, but based on most testing it’s only a subtle difference. This is due to the addition of LiDAR technology in the Pro series, which drastically improves low light images in both Pro phones.

Image stabilization. The iPhone Pro Max uses the new Sensor-shift optical image stabilization. Which is essentially the same technology that mirrorless cameras use with IBIS. All other iPhone models use optical image stabilization which moves the lens to compensate for hand-shake. Sensor-shift on the other hand, detects shaking, and moves the camera sensor five thousand times per second to stabilize the shot.

This is particularly helpful to smooth out and sharpen photos and videos shot in low light conditions.

Zoom & Aperature
Longer Zoom. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has an advantage in its zoom abilities, or zoomability, if you will. The Pro Max has a maximum optical zoom of 2.5x versus 2x found on the regular Pro model. Additionally, it has a maximum digital zoom of 12x versus 10x. For videos the zoom is also longer on the Pro Max as well.

The longer optical zoom on the Pro Max has one very important function — it’s used in portrait mode to take tighter, and richer portraits. The difference isn’t huge, but it definitely gives you a noticeable advantage if you’re a portrait photographer.

One quick note on aperture. The Pro Max Telephoto lens has an aperture of ƒ/2.2 versus the ƒ/2.0 on the regular Pro. It’s a very slight variation and won’t have any discernible difference in the field. It’s not exactly clear why Apple did this.

Which Should You Buy?
If you’re deciding between iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max strictly based on cameras, the iPhone 12 Pro Max does technically have a better camera, and in some situations the difference is noticeable, but it’s subtle. Based on all our tests, and other testing in the industry, the marginal advantage may not be worth the additional cost and size of the Pro Max. On the other hand, if you’re a portrait shooter, you may want every advantage you can get.