I decided to upgrade to the iPhone 12 Pro Max around mid December 2020 after having my iPhone 8 Plus for a few years. I pre-ordered it as soon as it was available but the shipping times were kind of crazy due to the pandemic. I wanted to do some testing as soon as I got it but I ended up just taking a break most of December and early January. Now with some of that new year motivation, I finally went out to do some testing.
The main goal was just to take natural lighting motorcycle photos during golden hour at my main shooting locations like how I would normally do with my Sony A7RIII. Everything mentioned in this test will be toward that environment so if you shoot other subjects like people or nature at different times/environments, your results may vary. This test is also not super scientific like on other camera dedicated websites as all of the shots were shot in that weird auto mode with small adjustments on the native iOS camera app.
I used the phone in a Quadlock Case with a makeshift tripod attachment, Sirui 3T-35 Table Top Tripod and my Apple Watch for the remote control shooting app. The native camera was the app I used to take the photos in Apple’s new ProRAW .DNG format introduced in iOS 14.3. The editing program used was Adobe Lightroom Classic on the PC to edit and color grade the final images. I would have used the iOS Lightroom app but I was getting frustrated with the touch controls. I compared test edits to the iOS app and the results were very similar.
Garage Test Shot
I will say this upfront, I do not like using the main 1x wide lens for motorcycle photography. Most angles gives a distorted look to the bike. 35mm lens and below on a DSLR will look distorted. 50mm and above is usually what I shoot with and the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 2.5x telephoto lens is a 65mm equivalent which I think looked good. While I liked that focal length the most, it does have some issues that I will mention later. This garage test shot with the 2.5x telephoto lens came out great though, look at those headers! 😍 This was taken with the natural light coming from the window.
1x Main Wide Angle Lens
If I were to use the main wide lens for motorcycle shots, it would probably be with the bike in this position. As much I as I love to rag on the main lens’ focal length for motorcycle shots, I think this was the best shot I took with the phone! The colors came out vivid and the dynamic range was on point due to the better camera sensor.
Another issue I have with the main lens (in fact all the iPhone lenses), is there is no subject separation unless you are very close to your subject or using “portrait mode” which at the time of this test, does not support ProRAW. With a back drop like this fence covered with ferns, it totally works.
x2.5 Telephoto Lens
One issue I found with the 2.5x telephoto lens is that it does not do well in low light and recovering shadows in post production editing. It was a common complaint I saw and read in other reviews. The sensor on the telephoto and ultrawide angle lens isn’t as good as the main wide lens. Your lighting needs to be good if you want some less noisy shots and even if you try to recover the shadows, there are noticeable artifacts. On a smartphone screen, you can’t really tell unless you really zoom in.
.5x Ultrawide Angle Lens
Th ultrawide lens is ok and it’s and it is there if you need it. I did notice the banding and chromatic aberration, a magenta fringing on one of the bands on the left side of the photo. At first I thought the lens was dirty but after a quick wipe, that problem still persisted. I admit I don’t use ultrawide angle lenses as much but for times I do, it would be for shots like this. The lens I normally use is a 35mm prime for rear shots like this where I like to exaggerate the rear low shots.
Golden Hour Sunset Shots
This is probably the time everyone wants to shoot, during a nice golden hour sunset. I was trying to set the auto-exposure kind of midway between the blacks of my bike and the sun so it wouldn’t over expose the sky. While the shot turned out alright and probably Instagram worthy, the banding problems persisted around the sun. I am impressed at the dynamic range capabilities to recover the some of the shadows and blacks but again, there were some noticeable artifacts.
To be fair, my A7RIII can get some over exposing and banding issues during sunset if there are no clouds in the sky.
Up Close Detailed Shots
These detailed shots using the main wide lens was very good. What I liked the most was the subject separation on the tail lights and clutch shots. It is not crazy blurry with bokeh as what you would get on a DSLR or mirroless camera prime lens but I’d say it did a pretty great job and was probably thanks to the bigger sensor on the main lens.
Was I impressed? Yes!
Will it replace my A7RIII? Nope!
What I can say is that in a pinch, the camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max will work very well if I need to shoot a motorcycle to post on social media. Depending on the shooting environment and lighting, I can probably use the images for my compositing work but it will be pushing it if I have to use the photos for the paid work I do. As a regular camera for everything else, yes, its very good. I will probably test more with other times of the day including night shots.
If Apple can get the sensor that is on the main lens to every lens, I think that would be a great achievement! With smartphone cameras getting more and more advanced, most people will probably never need a DSLR/Mirrorless camera for their social media fixes and yea, it seems that way now. 😎
Disclaimer: I was not paid for this test/review, all opinions are all mines. Apple did not send me an iPhone 12 Pro Max and I used my own money to pay for it. This was a non-scientific test of the ProRAW mode. Also I am by no means want to call myself a “pro photographer” but rather an enthusiast/hobbyist photographer. Not sure but I don’t really make a majority of my income just taking photos so I don’t consider myself into the pro photographer category.