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Apple iPhone 12 Camera test: Pro-level video, amateur zoom

This device has been retested in the latest version of our protocol. Overall, sub-scores and attributes are up to date. For detailed information, check the What’s New article
OTHER AVAILABLE TESTS FOR THIS DEVICE

The iPhone 12 is a mainstream offering from Apple, situated below the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. It features a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR screen covered by the company’s new ceramic-reinforced glass and the same fast A14 processor used across the iPhone 12 line, and comes with 4 GB of RAM and 64, 128, or 256 GB of storage depending on configuration.

There are two cameras on the back. The main wide module has a 12 MP sensor behind a 26 mm-equivalent f/1.6 lens with optical image stabilization and phase detection autofocus— apparently the same camera used in the iPhone 12 Pro and the 12 Mini. There’s also an ultra-wide camera with a 12 MP 1/3.6-inch sensor and a 13 mm-equivalent f/2.4 lens. The iPhone 12 does without the tele-modules and LiDAR sensor found in the Pro and Pro Max versions.

The iPhone 12 shoots 4K video at 24, 30 or 60 frames per second, and can encode 4K Dolby Vision HDR video at up to 30 fps for wider dynamic range and an improved viewing experience on displays that support the standard. Read on to find out how the iPhone 12’s imaging performance compares against the competition.

Key camera specifications:

  • Dual-camera setup
  • Primary: 12 MP sensor with 1.4µm pixels and 26 mm-equivalent f/1.6 lens, OIS, PDAF
  • Ultra-wide: 12 MP 1/3.6-inch sensor and 13 mm-equivalent (14 mm measured) f/2.4 lens
  • Dual-LED flash
  • 4K video at 24/30/60 fps, 1080p video at 30/60/120/240 fps, Dolby Vision HDR (up to 30 fps), gyro-EIS

About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 3000 test images and more than 2.5 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary

Scoring

Sub-scores and attributes included in the calculations of the global score.


Apple iPhone 12
117
camera
127
Photo
101

123

107

125

110

123

101

124

81

116

71

82

55
Bokeh
55

80

74
Preview
74

91

60
Zoom
27

118

90

121

130
Video
96

116

104

119

105

119

100

118

106

119

78

86

111

118

Use cases & Conditions

Use case scores indicate the product performance in specific situations. They are not included in the overall score calculations.

BEST 175

Outdoor

Photos & videos shot in bright light conditions (≥1000 lux)

BEST 160

Indoor

Photos & videos shot in good lighting conditions (≥100lux)

BEST 132

Lowlight

Photos & videos shot in low lighting conditions (<100 lux)

BEST 149

Friends & Family

Portrait and group photo & videos

Please be aware that beyond this point, we have not modified the initial test results. While data and products remain fully comparable, you might encounter mentions and references to the previous scores.
CAMERA
Position in Global Ranking
84th
1. Huawei Mate 60 Pro+
157
2. Huawei P60 Pro
156
3. Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
154
3. Apple iPhone 15 Pro
154
5. Google Pixel 8 Pro
153
5. Oppo Find X6 Pro
153
7. Honor Magic5 Pro
152
8. Oppo Find X6
150
8. Vivo X100 Pro
150
10. Huawei Mate 50 Pro
149
11. Google Pixel 8
148
12. Google Pixel 7 Pro
147
12. Honor Magic4 Ultimate
147
14. Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
146
14. Apple iPhone 14 Pro
146
16. Apple iPhone 15 Plus
145
16. Apple iPhone 15
145
18. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
144
19. Huawei P50 Pro
143
20. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
141
20. Apple iPhone 13 Pro
141
20. Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
141
23. Google Pixel 7
140
23. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (Snapdragon)
140
23. Vivo X90 Pro+
140
23. Xiaomi 13 Ultra
140
27. Huawei Mate 40 Pro+
139
28. Vivo X80 Pro (Snapdragon)
137
29. Vivo X90 Pro
136
29. Xiaomi 13 Pro
136
29. Xiaomi 12S Ultra
136
32. Huawei Mate 40 Pro
135
32. Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (Snapdragon)
135
32. Vivo X80 Pro (MediaTek)
135
35. Google Pixel 6 Pro
134
35. Vivo X70 Pro+
134
37. Apple iPhone 14 Plus
133
37. Apple iPhone 14
133
37. Google Pixel Fold
133
37. Google Pixel 7a
133
37. Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus (Snapdragon)
133
37. Samsung Galaxy S23 (Snapdragon)
133
43. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
131
43. Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (Exynos)
131
43. Xiaomi 13T Pro
131
46. Motorola Edge 40 Pro
130
46. Oppo Find X5 Pro
130
46. Xiaomi 13
130
49. Huawei P40 Pro
129
49. Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra
129
49. Xiaomi 12T Pro
129
49. Xiaomi 12 Pro
129
53. Oppo Find X3 Pro
128
53. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5
128
55. Apple iPhone 12 Pro
127
55. Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders
127
55. OnePlus 11
127
55. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip5
127
55. Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
127
60. Google Pixel 6
126
60. Honor Magic4 Pro
126
60. Vivo X70 Pro (MediaTek)
126
60. Vivo X60 Pro+
126
64. Apple iPhone 13 mini
125
64. Apple iPhone 13
125
64. Samsung Galaxy S22+ (Exynos)
125
64. Vivo X50 Pro+
125
68. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4
124
68. Xiaomi Mi 11 Pro
124
70. Xiaomi 13T
123
71. Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
122
71. Google Pixel 6a
122
71. Honor 90
122
71. OnePlus 10 Pro
122
71. OnePlus 9 Pro
122
76. Xiaomi Redmi Note 13 Pro Plus 5G
121
77. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
120
77. Samsung Galaxy S22 (Exynos)
120
77. Xiaomi Redmi Note 13 Pro 5G
120
80. Honor Magic Vs
119
80. Sony Xperia 5 IV
119
82. Sony Xperia 5 V
118
82. Sony Xperia 1 IV
118
84. Apple iPhone 12
117
84. Apple iPhone 12 mini
117
84. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
117
84. Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon)
117
84. Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)
117
89. Apple iPhone 11
116
89. Asus Zenfone 8
116
89. Vivo X60 Pro 5G (Snapdragon)
116
92. Honor 70
115
92. Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon)
115
92. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos)
115
92. Xiaomi 12T
115
96. Nothing Phone(1)
114
96. OnePlus Nord 2T 5G
114
96. Oppo Reno8 Pro 5G
114
96. Oppo Find X5
114
96. Oppo Find N2 Flip
114
101. OnePlus 8 Pro
113
101. Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G
113
101. Xiaomi 12
113
104. Oppo Reno8 5G
112
104. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4
112
106. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G
111
106. Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos)
111
106. Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)
111
109. Google Pixel 5
109
109. Xiaomi 12 Lite 5G
109
111. Asus ROG Phone 7
108
111. Fairphone 5
108
111. Vivo X60 Pro 5G (Exynos)
108
111. Xiaomi 11T Pro
108
115. Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
107
116. Oppo Find X3 Neo
106
117. Sony Xperia 1 III
105
118. Motorola Edge 40 Neo
103
119. Huawei P40
102
119. Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro 5G
102
121. Black Shark 5 Pro
101
121. Motorola Edge 30 Pro
101
123. Apple iPhone SE (2022)
100
123. Google Pixel 4a
100
125. ZTE Axon 30 Ultra
96
126. Oppo Find X5 Lite
95
127. Oppo Reno4 5G
94
128. Oppo A94 5G
93
128. Vivo X80 Lite 5G
93
130. Samsung Galaxy A72
92
130. Samsung Galaxy A34 5G
92
130. Samsung Galaxy A25 5G
92
133. Xiaomi Redmi Note 13 5G
91
134. Oppo Reno6 5G
89
135. Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
88
135. Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
88
137. Samsung Galaxy A33 5G
85
138. OnePlus Nord CE 5G
84
139. Samsung Galaxy A15 5G
83
139. Vivo Y76 5G
83
141. Samsung Galaxy A15 LTE
81
142. Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
79
143. Sony Xperia 10 V
78
143. Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G
78
145. TCL 40R 5G
76
146. Realme 9i 5G
75
146. Xiaomi Redmi Note 13
75
148. Honor Magic5 Lite 5G
74
149. Honor 90 Lite
73
150. Honor Magic6 Lite (5300 mAh)
70
150. Samsung Galaxy A23 5G
70
152. Fairphone 4
69
152. Oppo A78 5G
69
152. Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 5G
69
155. Samsung Galaxy A14 5G
67
156. Motorola Moto G62 5G
66
157. Xiaomi Redmi Note 11S 5G
65
158. Oppo Reno8 Lite 5G
64
159. Sony Xperia 10 IV
63
159. Xiaomi Redmi Note 12
63
159. Xiaomi Redmi 13C
63
159. Xiaomi Redmi 12 5G
63
163. Honor X7
61
163. Honor Magic4 Lite 5G
61
165. Xiaomi Redmi Note 11
60
166. Honor 70 Lite
58
167. Motorola Moto G23
54
168. Oppo A77 5G
53
169. Honor X8 5G
52
169. TCL 406
52
171. Xiaomi Redmi 10 2022
51
172. Crosscall Action-X5
50
173. Samsung Galaxy A22 5G
48
174. Crosscall Core-Z5
47
175. Oppo A57
46
175. Oppo A16s 5G
46
177. Samsung Galaxy A05s
45
177. Xiaomi Redmi 12C
45
CAMERA
Position in Premium Ranking
14th
1. Google Pixel 8
148
2. Apple iPhone 15
145
3. Apple iPhone 14
133
3. Samsung Galaxy S23 (Snapdragon)
133
5. Xiaomi 13T Pro
131
6. Xiaomi 13
130
7. Xiaomi 12T Pro
129
8. OnePlus 11
127
9. Vivo X70 Pro (MediaTek)
126
10. Apple iPhone 13 mini
125
10. Apple iPhone 13
125
12. Xiaomi 13T
123
13. Samsung Galaxy S22 (Exynos)
120
14. Apple iPhone 12
117
14. Apple iPhone 12 mini
117
14. Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon)
117
14. Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)
117
18. Apple iPhone 11
116
18. Asus Zenfone 8
116
18. Vivo X60 Pro 5G (Snapdragon)
116
21. Oppo Reno8 Pro 5G
114
22. Xiaomi 12
113
23. Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)
111
24. Google Pixel 5
109
25. Fairphone 5
108
25. Vivo X60 Pro 5G (Exynos)
108
25. Xiaomi 11T Pro
108
28. Oppo Find X3 Neo
106
29. Huawei P40
102
30. Black Shark 5 Pro
101
30. Motorola Edge 30 Pro
101
32. ZTE Axon 30 Ultra
96
33. Crosscall Core-Z5
47

Pros

  • Accurate and consistent autofocus
  • Accurate exposure
  • Accurate color indoors
  • High detail outdoors and indoors
  • Video dynamic range is wide.
  • Color and skin tones generally pleasant in video
  • Stabilization effective when still or walking

Cons

  • Limited dynamic range in stills
  • White balance casts outdoors in stills
  • Noise often visible in stills, especially in lower light
  • Color quantization, hue shift, ringing artifacts often visible in stills
  • Medium- and long-range zoom detail is very low.
  • Slight white balance casts in videos
  • Fine detail is lost in lower-light videos.

The iPhone 12 earned a DXOMARK Camera score of 122, landing just outside the top ten in our database. It’s a respectable performance but behind flagships from Huawei, Xiaomi, Samsung, and Oppo. It’s also behind Apple’s latest Pro devices, and it trails last year’s iPhone 11 Pro Max by two points.

As things currently stand, its score of 132 places is just within the top ten for Photo. The iPhone 12 handles the basics well. Exposure is generally accurate, though dynamic range could be wider. Colors are pleasant and usually accurate, despite the occasional cast. Autofocus is a strength for the iPhone 12 (as it is across the family line), with focus locking quickly and accurately in any lighting condition. Photos contain plenty of detail in bright to moderate light levels.

On the downside, noise is more present than we like to see, the simulated bokeh portrait mode is disappointing, and the lack of a dedicated tele-module really hampers zoom performance on the long end.

The Apple iPhone 12 captures pleasant, accurate color and plenty of detail in good light.

The iPhone 12 achieves an excellent Video score of 112, tying the iPhone 12 Pro for third place in our database (and just one point behind the 12 Pro Max in second place). Its performance characteristics are almost identical to those of the iPhone 12 Pro— unsurprisingly, since the main camera hardware appears to be the same. Exposure is accurate and dynamic range is wide, thanks in part to the inclusion of Dolby Vision HDR. Color is pleasant despite occasional cold casts when shooting outdoors. Autofocus is fast and accurate, working well even in scenes with lots of movement. Detail is high in bright light, though fine detail diminishes indoors and at lower light levels. Noise is the weakest link here, with noise visible even in bright light. Stabilization is effective at countering shake and motion.

Let’s take a more detailed look at the strengths and weaknesses of the iPhone 12, with some sample image comparisons for illustration.

The iPhone 12 exposes accurately under most conditions, and it holds the line all the way down to a near-dark 1 lux, helping it achieve a respectable exposure sub-score. However, dynamic range is fairly limited compared to the best of the competition, with highlights often blowing out in situations where more capable phones do better.

In the example below we see that that iPhone 12 nails the target exposure on the subjects’ faces, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max lets them go a bit dark. The Huawei is also accurate, though the low-contrast tonal rendition is arguably not as appealing. However, the P40 Pro’s dynamic range advantage is obvious in the background, where both iPhones allows the buildings and sky to clip.

Apple iPhone 12, accurate exposure with limited dynamic range
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, slightly low exposure with limited dynamic range
Huawei P40 Pro, accurate exposure with wide dynamic range

The iPhone 12 generally renders pleasant colors, though it occasionally stumbles: outdoor scenes sometimes have a very obvious blue cast (a fault we’ve noted in other members of this iPhone generation), and things sometimes look a little more orange than they should indoors. But mostly it’s good news, as seen in the examples below. Both iPhones handle the color in this scene nicely. The Huawei reference device also does a pretty good job for most of the image, but the skin tones go a little yellow.

Apple iPhone 12, pleasant colors and skin tone
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, pleasant colors and skin tone
Huawei P40 Pro, yellowish skin tone

The iPhone 12’s top-ten texture score indicates that the smartphone camera captures plenty of detail. This is especially true in bright light and normal indoor lighting, but when things get dimmer, detail drops, explaining the difference between the iPhone and the highest-scoring devices in this category. In the examples below we see that both iPhones and the Huawei capture a lot of detail in this scene (the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Huawei have larger sensors, but with plenty of light here, that advantage doesn’t really come into play).

Apple iPhone 12, outdoor detail and texture
Apple iPhone 12, crop, very good detail and texture
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, outdoor detail and texture
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, crop, very good detail and texture
Huawei P40 Pro, outdoor detail and texture
Huawei P40 Pro, crop, very good detail and texture

Of course, we can’t discuss detail without addressing noise, and here the iPhone 12 is less impressive. Noise is more visible than ideal under moderate to dim lighting conditions, explaining the device’s depressed sub-score (though it improves over the iPhone 11 Pro Max by two points). Quite a few high-end phones handle the balance of detail and noise more effectively. In the low-light example below, it’s clear that the Huawei is keeping noise in check without too much penalty against detail, while the iPhones take a more hands-off approach to noise reduction.

Apple iPhone 12, low light
Apple iPhone 12, crop, high noise
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, low light
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, crop, high noise
Huawei P40 Pro, low light
Huawei P40 Pro, crop, low noise

Autofocus is a strong point for the iPhone 12. Focus is fast and accurate under essentially any lighting condition. Our new testing protocol tests AF against targets with wide brightness ranges, revealing weaknesses in some phones that were undetected before, but the iPhone 12 is unfazed: bright, dim, narrow or wide dynamic range, AF remains confident. In the chart below we see that all three iPhones have tightly clustered results a few milliseconds before the shutter button press (many phones do this to offset human reaction lag). The Huawei is much slower under these conditions, although under more uniform brightness conditions it’s also fast.

Autofocus performance in 1000 lux daylight with 7 EV brightness range

Images shot in portrait mode to create a simulated bokeh effect show more separation errors than we see on the Pro iPhones, which might be due to the lack of a LiDAR scanner on the iPhone 12. The lack of a tele-camera also means that the iPhone 12 uses its main wide module for portraits, which isn’t ideal. The blur effect is a somewhat abrupt, and background highlights are less contrasty than they should be.

Apple iPhone 12, portrait mode
Apple iPhone 12, crop, poor subject seperation
Apple iPhone 12 Pro, portrait mode
Apple iPhone 12 Pro, crop, better subject separation
Huawei P40 Pro, portrait mode
Huawei P40 Pro, crop, better subject separation

The iPhone 12 just squeezes into the top five night sub-scores as of this writing, tying its Pro sibling. The best phones in this category are quite a bit better, but there aren’t many of them. The iPhone 12 manages an acceptable exposure in the example below, though it could be slightly brighter; noise is quite high and detail is fairly low. The iPhone 12 Pro Max does a little better, its larger sensor helping some with noise levels. The Huawei opts for flash in this situation, producing a very different image, with much more detail and less noise, but also a darker background.

Apple iPhone 12, flash-auto
Apple iPhone 12, crop, high noise, low detail
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, flash-auto
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, crop, high noise, low detail
Huawei P40 Pro, flash-auto
Huawei P40 Pro, crop, less noise, more detail (flash fired)

Apple devices have been cleaning up in our new Preview testing: it’s clear that the company has been paying closer attention to this aspect of performance than most. The iPhone 12 image preview presents a very close approximation of what the final image will look like. Exposure in the preview is pretty much spot on. Dynamic range is a bit more restricted in the preview than the final image, but better than much of the competition. Zooming is smooth (even smoother than in the Pro models, since there’s no tele-module to complicate things). Our testers did notice more errors in the portrait mode preview— not surprising, given the iPhone 12’s reduced abilities in subject separation.

Apple iPhone 12 preview: good exposure approximation, slightly reduced dynamic range
Apple iPhone 12 final image

We deduct points for obvious artifacts or image quality flaws visible in images. The main penalties against the iPhone 12 are ringing (caused by oversharpening) and color quantization. Our testers also noticed hue shift, flare, and ghosting.

Apple iPhone 12, artifacts
Apple iPhone 12, crop, ringing

The Zoom score is a combination of a device’s wide and tele sub-scores, and the iPhone 12 falls short of most devices in its class. This is because it joins a very small club of current flagship-class phones that don’t have a dedicated tele-module (the only other club member we’ve met so far is the Google Pixel 5).

It does well on the wide end: the iPhone’s 14 mm-equivalent (measured— Apple claims 13 mm) ultra-wide camera squeezes more into the frame than many phones, and image quality is generally good, though detail could be a little higher. That wide coverage comes with some anamorphic distortion at the edges of the frame, visible in the example below, so you’ll want to keep people more towards the center of your compositions. The image also gets a little soft into the corners, and we see a slight green cast to the color below. The Huawei has better color and less distortion, but also a narrower field of view.

Apple iPhone 12, wide-angle: anamorphic distortion, green cast
Apple iPhone 12 Pro, wide-angle: anamorphic distortion, green cast
Huawei P40 Pro, wide-angle: better color, less distortion, but narrower coverage

At close zoom ranges the iPhone 12 delivers acceptable quality by cropping from its main wide camera. It easily bests the iPhone 11 Pro Max at a 40 mm-equivalent field of view, for example, capturing more detailed, less noisy images. However, without a dedicated tele-camera module, there’s only so much the iPhone 12 can do as the zoom extends to medium and longer ranges. Details drops precipitously, with staircase artifacts showing up as the tight crop is mercilessly upsampled to 12 MP. In the examples below, it’s clear that the iPhone 12 Pro’s tele-module does a better job and that the Huawei’s longer dedicated tele-camera captures even more detail.

Apple iPhone 12, 110 mm-equivalent zoom
Apple iPhone 12, poor detail
Apple iPhone 12 Pro, 110 mm-equivalent zoom
Apple iPhone 12 Pro, crop, better detail
Huawei P40 Pro, 110 mm-equivalent zoom
Huawei P40 Pro, crop, good detail

The iPhone 12 delivers a very good video performance that is almost identical to the iPhone 12 Pro’s. Exposure is accurate and the iPhone 12 hangs on even when things get extremely dim, producing usable videos at very low light levels (though in the chart below we see that the Huawei P40 Pro does even better at the dark end of the scale). Dynamic range is very good thanks to the Dolby Vision HDR feature, which we used in testing. Even in challenging scenes with a wide brightness range, the HDR processing usually keeps highlights from blowing out.

Video exposure comparison

Color is pleasant and skin tones look natural under most conditions, though our testers observed some cold color casts when shooting outdoors.

Detail is high in bright light, but tails off as light levels drop. That said, in the chart below we see that in our dimmest test conditions the iPhone 12 matches the 12 Pro and does better than the other reference devices.

Video texture comparison

As with stills, noise is more present than ideal, though it’s generally better than on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Noise can be visible even when recording in bright light, though in the chart below we see that noise levels remain quite steady until shooting in near-darkness at 1 lux.

Video noise comparison

Autofocus performance remains a strength in video mode, locking quickly and accurately on subjects.

Video artifacts include flare and color quantization, though marginally less than on the iPhone 12 Pro. Testers also noted some judder effect. Video stabilization is quite effective, and residual motion isn’t a problem unless you’re running with the phone.

Apple iPhone 12, outdoor video
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, outdoor video
Huawei P40 Pro, outdoor video

Conclusion

The iPhone 12 delivers solid photo performance and impressive video capabilities, especially for those who can take full advantage of the phone’s Dolby Vision HDR processing.

In terms of pure imaging performance, there are a few competitors that offer similar or better output quality, sometimes at lower prices. However, users drawn to other parts of Apple’s value proposition or who are committed to iOS could find the iPhone 12 interesting. If zoom and portrait mode performance aren’t priorities for you, the iPhone 12 gives essentially all the bang of the iPhone 12 Pro for fewer bucks.


In the Press

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