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Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max First Photo Samples and Quality Impressions!

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A week back, Apple formally launched the entire iPhone 12 family with the new 5nm Bionic A14 chip with a 16-core Neural Engine and advanced ISP (image signal processor) in the Philippines. One of them is the iPhone 12 Pro Max with PHP 69,990 Beyond the Box starting price. Based on specs, it is the very best iPhone today in terms of cameras.
iPhone 12 Pro Max back cam setup

To recall, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is equipped with a larger 1.7µm 12MP f/1.6 camera main camera. According to Apple, it is 47 percent bigger than the versus the 12MP f/1.6 main shooter of the regular iPhone 12 Pro.

This means that it should be able to let more light in the lens for better overall photos especially in low light.

It also has a sensor-shift image stabilization instead of the traditional moving optic lens. 

For the wide cam, the same. You'll see a 12MP f/2.4 120-degree ultra-wide-angle shooter.

Apple also highlights that it uses a better 12MP f/2.2 zoom camera with up to 2.5x zoom and OIS.

This enabled, the iPhone 12 Pro Max achieve up to 12x digital zoom instead up to 10x only.

The last sensor is the 
LiDAR Scanner for immersive augmented reality (AR) experiences and improved low light focusing, shooting speed, and portrait effect.

For selfies, it has a 12MP f/2.2 selfie shooter with a Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control, Night mode, Deep Fusion, and Smart HDR 3 on its large notch.
Apple's simple camera UI

It also has a True Tone flash with Slow Sync and a Sapphire crystal lens cover.

Luckily, we were able to try the handset for a few days. So, these are the first few shots we took using Apple's top-of-the-line camera phone.

Rear Camera Samples

Main cam daylight
Main cam daylight

Apple is proud of the focusing speed of the new iPhones. And for me, they did an excellent job. In this shot, there moving cars. But as you can see, they are not blurred in this shot.
Ultra-wide daylight
Ultra-wide daylight

The same applies to for its secondary ultra-wide-angle camera. We are impressed.

Imaging in daylight is obviously top notch. Dynamic range is one of the best. Colors are super close to accurate. Grain and artifacts are not noticable.

As you can see, Apple did an excellent job in keeping the color profile of its main camera to the wide camera identical.
From ultra-wide to 12x zoom
From ultra-wide to 12x zoom

Of course, we tried its zoom lens. While it doesn't have the 50x to 120z super-zoom from the flagship Android phones, it has a really good 12x digital zoom. We loved that it retained its colors and dynamic range. Grain is visible, but its details are far from bad.
Mi 10T Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, Huawei Mate 40 Pro 12x zoom
Mi 10T Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, Huawei Mate 40 Pro 12x zoom

But of course, it will fall short against the 12x zoom other phones with higher max zoom range.
Ultra-wide indoor
2.5x zoom
2.5x zoom

Using its 2.5x optical zoom, the result is impressive even in conditions with artifical lighting light the above mentioned shot. We just noticed that its tone is slightly warmer versus the wide shot. But, that's just nitpicking on our end.
Main cam indoor
Main cam indoor

As long as you have proper lighting. Shots using the main cam will look very good. As you can see, our subject here is very detailed and appealing.
Ultra-wide indoor
Ultra-wide indoor

This ultra-wide shot is also very good. We just noticed that it has a visible pinchushion distortion.
Portrait mode
Portrait mode

By default, its Portait mode has 2.5x magnification. But even when we switched to the 1x mode, it has class-leading edge detection. Our guess, its new LiDAR sensor works.
Normal vs Night mode
Normal vs Night mode

In low light, even on point and shoot mode, it shoots close to natural-looking shots with fewer noise. With the help of the Night mode, exposure will be better and your shots will look brighter and slightly crisper.

Oh by the way, Apple's Night mode is fast. It'll only 1 to 2 seconds to capture a crisp image in the dark.
Ultra-wide vs ultra-wide Night mode
Ultra-wide vs ultra-wide Night mode

Using the ultra-wide cam, picture quality will degrade a little in low light. This is where the Night mode will really help.
Main cam night mode
Ultra-wide Night mode
Ultra-wide Night mode

Against one of the best low light shooters, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro with 1/1.28-inch 50MP RYYB sensor, we think that the 12MP f/1.6 held its ground, period.
Both failed to get the correct color in this scenario. iPhone 12 Pro Max lacks a bit of blue while the Mate 40 Pro made the shot bluer. But, the colors on the 12 Pro Max is closer to the actual scene. It is also nearly as sharp as the Mate 40 Pro shot.

We won't blame you if you will choose the iPhone 12 Pro Max night shot in this scene.

Selfie Camera Samples

Portrait mode selfie
Portrait mode selfie

We all know that iPhones produces some of the truest skin tones around and that remains a fact with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. What we find not that pleasing is the noticable grain even in daylight. 

How about the Portrait effect? Superb. It has an excellent edge detection. But unlike the Photo mode with an option to take with the full field of view of the lens for wider-looking selfies, shots on Portrait mode are cropped.
Indoor dim selfie

In this indoor selfie using its default Photo mode, you can see that the shot is wider. Picture quality is lesser due to the lack of light though. It is decent for selfies, but not the best so far.

Quick thoughts

The back cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is definitely the best from Apple yet. It is also very consistent across different lighting conditions with great to superb picture quality for a smartphone camera system. We also loved that it has an improved low light performance coming from the older 

Selfies are alright and the skin tone it produced ranks among the very best in the market. But, it falls short in low light even if you use the Night mode. There are some Android phones with sharper selfies. It would have been nicer if it has an ultra-wide function for selfies as well.

But overall, there's no denying that this phone offers a legit flagship mobile photography experience.

Many are saying that this shoots the best videos on mobile phones as well and we are excited to try that next.

And of course, we will compare its cameras versus other top-tier phones in our full review.

Stay tuned!
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