Best iPhone for Photography: Quick Menu
The best iPhone for photographers changes every year, depending on the new models that Apple announces and also how much you can spend.
While the latest iPhone 15 Pro Max introduces a new lens for a more detailed zoom, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 13 are available if you’re looking for a cheaper upgrade.
iPhone cameras have come a long way in the past five years, from being able to shoot at night thanks to Night Mode, to shooting a 4K-resolution video in a Cinematic mode where it blurs almost everything out but focuses on the main subject.
So, if you have an iPhone X and it’s starting to show its age, it might be best to look into one of the more recent iPhones to take advantage of what some of these cameras can offer you. From nighttime photography to shooting a video, there’s plenty you can do with the iPhone lineup currently available in 2023.
With this in mind, we’ve listed the best iPhones to buy in 2023 to help you take the best shot wherever you may be.
The quick list
Here’s a quick look at the iPhones we’ve picked to take the best photos with. There are a bunch of choices below to fit almost every need. If you want to find out more about any of the iPhones, just click to jump down to our in-depth impressions.
The best overall iPhone for photography
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best iPhone you can buy that has all the new features of the latest iPhone, including an exclusive 5x zoom.
The best regular iPhone for shooting photos and videos
The regular iPhone 15 still packs a punch with features lifted from last year’s iPhone 14 Pro, such as the 48MP main camera, which ups the resolution by 4x for photos. You can also now take photos in 24MP, which is double the amount from iPhone 14.
Best Pro on a budget
The best Pro iPhone on a budget
Released in 2021, the iPhone 13 Pro comes with Cinematic Mode, which is essentially Portrait Mode bokeh for video. There’s an improved Night Mode from the iPhone 12 series, too.
Best mini iPhone
The best mini iPhone on a budget
The last of the mini iPhone, but it came with all the features that a regular iPhone 13 did, just enclosed with a 5.4-inch display. You get the A15 Bionic chip which can help with photos taken in Night Mode, alongside a Sensor-shift optical image stabilization feature that can help for those shaky moments.
The best iPhone for the photo-savvy
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best iPhone Apple has ever made — and that’s not just because of its new design. Apple introduced USB-C data transfer and charging, a 5x optical zoom camera, a customizable Action button, and a weight-saving titanium design to its ultra-high-end model this year. It’s the ultimate upgrade, even if you currently own a model as recent as the iPhone 13 Pro.
The Action button is one of the two big standouts this year. Replacing the mute switch above the volume buttons, you can customize it to launch a Shortcut, an Accessibility feature, and much more.
But one important option is to open the Camera app. So, no matter what you’re doing, one long press of the Action button will launch the Camera app instantly.
This leads to improvements in the Camera system for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The new 5x optical zoom is a step up from the 3x that’s been present since the iPhone 7 Plus, so you can get crisper photos as you try to snap the right shot of that squirrel or airplane in the distance.
But it goes more than that. Using the new 48MP main lens, you can take photos in JPEG or ProRAW, but also in HEIF (High-Efficiency Image Files). This means that you can use apps like Adobe Photoshop to edit them how you like, as photos in these formats are taken without the post-processing effects that the A17 Pro chip does.
24MM, 28MM, and 35MM can be toggled in the Camera app, too, to frame the right shot. Night Mode feels faster, too, and the 24MP shots are a big jump from the 12MP we’ve become accustomed to for many years on iPhone, which goes as far back as the iPhone 6S in 2015.
Plus, there’s a new ‘nanoscale’ coating that aims to reduce lens flare, so there’s less chance of seeing those dots in some photos.
Overall, it’s the ultimate iPhone for photos in 2023. From the new 5x optical zoom lens to many improvements to the other lenses, it’s the phone that Android devices will attempt to overtake for the next year.
Best regular iPhone
The iPhone 15 redesigns the top-end regular iPhone design into a streamlined handset this year. It adds USB-C for charging and now has a bunch of camera features taken from last year’s iPhone 14 Pro.
This year, the iPhone 15 offers a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with Dynamic Island for the first time. Battery life is now up to 20 hours for video playback and 80 hours for audio. It’s still reasonable for a phone like this, and if you’re going to be mainly using the camera, expect to get at least a day out of using it before you reach for the charger.
All of this factors into the camera, which gets a big boost this year, mainly thanks to inheriting features from the iPhone 14 Pro. For the first time in a dual-lens camera system, you can now take photos in 0.5x, 1x, and 2x modes.
You can also take photos in Portrait Mode without having to choose the option. Now, iPhone 15 will take these automatically, and you can switch the effect off when editing a photo if you wish.
Camera-wise, the iPhone 15 is a great step up from the iPhone 14. If you don’t want to spend more for the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, this is still a fantastic camera to use for most moments.
The best budget Pro iPhone
The iPhone 13 Pro is the best iPhone on a budget for most users out there in 2023.
Released in 2021, the iPhone 13 series came with a new, less-rounded design that also features a 120Hz ProMotion display. This was something brand new for iPhones, while iPad Pro had this since 2018.
But it was the cameras that made the biggest impact here. Sensor-shifting would arrive to help stabilize those moments when you couldn’t hold the iPhone steady when taking a shot. Before it was stabilized with software in iOS – here, it’s all done with the camera system directly.
A 44mm Sensor also means that the iPhone 13 Pro can take in a lot more light than previous iPhones could. This would result in more detailed images of certain objects.
All in all, you’re still getting a great camera here, regardless of the iPhone 13 Pro’s age.
The best, mini iPhone on a budget
If you want something compact and affordable, much like a cheap camera, then iPhone 13 mini will be the best iPhone on a budget for avid photographers. However, if you’re looking to take your photography to new levels and money is less of an object, selecting a Pro model is probably the better option at this point.
Released in 2021 alongside the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max, this model was the last ‘mini’ phone to be released by Apple. Allegedly due to poor sales, this was scrapped in favor of the iPhone 14 Plus in 2022.
Being the smaller phone of the lineup, it has a bright 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display. This also has a Ceramic Shield, which offers four times the drop performance of older iPhones.
Being given the same A15 Bionic chip as the rest of the iPhone 13s, meant that the dual-lens camera system was just as good as its bigger iPhone 13 model. There’s a 12MP wide and 12MP ultra-wide camera here, with a Sensor-shift optical image stabilization taken from iPhone 12 Pro Max. This means that any shaky moments as you’re trying to take a photo will be stabilized by the sensor, resulting in clearer photos for those moments.
Alongside these new features, you get an improved Night Mode, HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60 fps, and Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control.
For a mini iPhone, it packs a powerful camera, even for 2023. If you’re planning on taking a backup camera for a vacation, the iPhone 13 mini will be able to fill that need for you easily.
If money is no object, and you want the biggest and best iPhone possible, then go with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. From its great camera to the bigger battery life, it has it all.
But if you want (almost) everything that the Pro Max has but want a smaller design, the iPhone 15 Pro is your choice. But you won’t get the 5x zoom with this slight downgrade.
If you’re on a budget, the iPhone 13 Pro is the next best choice. You still get a great camera for a two-year-old iPhone, and for $644 on Amazon, especially as we approach Black Friday in November, it’s a great deal on a great iPhone.
But do keep in mind, that there isn’t a wrong choice here. It simply comes down to how much you have to spend, and which iPhone you’re upgrading from.