Comparing the cameras on iPhones 6, SE, XS, 11, and 12 Pro

I upgraded my daily carry computer, or what us old people call a phone, to an iPhone 12 Pro this week. Upon clicking the shutter a few times I could see there was a big difference in the new camera, but I wanted to compare photos to former iPhone cameras. So I pulled out all the old iPhones in the house and took the same photo on each one. It worked out pretty good as the four cameras were each mostly two years apart in release dates.

Control notes

All photos were taken on the iPhone with a fresh install, no apps, or settings changed, no iCloud logged in. I simply tapped to focus and expose inside the default camera app, and turned off flash for consistency. All phones were held in a Peak Design Travel Tripod with the phone attachement. I tried to keep the framing consistent, but if it’s not, either the iPhone lens placement changed, or this free blog post doesn’t live up to even my standards. The iPhone SE is the first generation SE, the 12 is a 12 Pro. Taken with default settings including HDR/Smart HDR/HDR 3, on the 1x lens. The only edits made are to the HEIC files taken on cameras which save HEIC, those files have been converted to JPG using MacOS Automator.

You may want to right click on images and open in a new window to see full resolution, and honestly, I’m unsure if micro.blog actually compresses and/or resizes files so if you can still read this line I haven’t edited with original uploads to somewhere else.

Cameras used

  • iPhone 6, released September 19, 2014, 8MP f/2.2
  • iPhone SE, released March 31, 2016, 12.2 MP f/2.2
  • iPhone XS, released September 21, 2018, 12MP ƒ/1.8 lens
  • iPhone 11 (for one Night Mode photo), released September 20, 2019, 12MP ƒ/1.8 lens
  • iPhone 12 Pro, released October 16, 2020, 12MP ƒ/1.6 lens

Here’s a comparison of the four cameras as Apple sees fit.

Let’s look at the photos…

Landscape photo

iPhone 6 Landscape photo

iPhone SE Landscape photo

iPhone XS Landscape photo

iPhone 12 Pro Landscape photo

Sunset photo

iPhone 6 Sunset photo

iPhone SE Sunset photo

iPhone XS Sunset photo

iPhone 12 Pro Sunset photo

Self-portrait

iPhone 6 Self-portrait

iPhone SE Self-portrait

iPhone XS Self-portrait

iPhone 12 Pro Self-portrait

Selfie camera

iPhone 6 Selfie camera photo

iPhone SE Selfie camera photo

iPhone XS Selfie camera photo

iPhone 12 Pro Selfie camera photo

A detail photo

iPhone 6 detail photo

iPhone SE detail photo

iPhone XS detail photo

iPhone 12 Pro detail photo

Portrait mode

iPhone 6 Portrait

iPhone SE Portrait

iPhone XS Portrait mode

iPhone 12 Pro Portrait mode

Blue light

iPhone 6 Blue light photo

iPhone SE Blue light photo

iPhone XS Blue light photo

iPhone 12 Pro Blue light photo

Maximum digital zoom in blue light

iPhone 6 zoomed to maximum digital zoom

iPhone SE zoomed to maximum digital zoom

iPhone XS zoomed to maximum digital zoom

iPhone 12 Pro zoomed to maximum digital zoom

Night Mode, or a night photo for cameras without Night Mode

iPhone 6 Night photo

iPhone SE Night photo

iPhone XS Night photo

iPhone 11 (not Pro) Night Mode photo

iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode photo

Video

iPhone 6 video

iPhone SE video

iPhone XS video

iPhone 12 video

Josh Withers @joshua