iPhone 12 Pro Australian Review: The Camera Finally Punches Above Its Weight

iPhone 12 Pro Australian Review: The Camera Finally Punches Above Its Weight

Over the past few years we have seen a plethora of incredibly impressive phone cameras. The vast majority of those have been of the Android persuasion. Huawei. Oppo. Google Pixel. All of these brands continue to produce truly spectacular, industry-leading photography. And yet I’ve found myself reaching for the iPhone 12 Pro more often this time around.

iPhone 12 Pro

iPhone 12 Pro

WHAT IS IT?

Apple's

PRICE

Starts at $1,699

LIKE

Great camera, gorgeous OLED display, MagSafe is cool

DON'T LIKE

Saving the best camera specs for the giant Pro Max, battery life could be better

The Design, Screen and Performance

This year saw Apple throwback to the days of yore by reverting to an edgier form factor, quite literally. The curves of the last few years have been replaced by a blockier finish that is reminiscent of the iPhone 4.

This change combined with the weight of the stainless steel frame feels good in the hand and I’m less paranoid about it slipping off stuff. The matte glass rear is also a nice touch. Once again, literally. You’re less likely to cop unsightly smudges on this device, unlike the regular iPhone 12.

I also quite like the finish on the dark blue model, though I have hidden within the snug embrace of a phone case for its own protection. I am capable of dropping a phone by looking at it from across the room so it’s better to err on the side of caution here.

Hopefully the new ceramic shield glass will help with that. It is supposed to make the screen far tougher than iPhone predecessors and for now I’m going to have to trust Apple on that. I thankfully haven’t inadvertently stress tested it, yet.

What I have gotten to have a crack at is the Retina XDR OLED display. It really is quite lovely under the fingertip as well as to stream content and game on. While the larger Pro Max may be the more appropriate device for this, I still enjoyed it on the smaller screen.

And part of this is due to the performance. Apple’s A14 bionic chip does a great job keeping the user experience whether you’re browsing the web or playing something casually on the morning commute. While the refresh rate taps out at 60 Hz, this is probably fine for the regular user.

At the moment every phone capable of 120 Hz has to trade off its battery life, and I just don’t think it’s worth it yet. While there are a few mobile games where you may be able to clock the difference, it really isn’t a deal breaker yet. I’d rather the extra battery life. But we’ll get to that.

iPhone 12 Pro Camera

The true hero of this device is the camera. While iPhone cameras have been improving over the last couple of years, this is the first truly significant shift. It finally feels like Apple is catching up to its more robust competitors, such as Huawei, Oppo and Samsung.

Until now the vast majority of my iPhone use has been due to other products entirely. As is Apple’s design, it was just easier to use my AirPods Pro and Apple Watch with an iPhone. But more often than not you would catch me carrying around an Android device for photography reasons. I would prefer the inconvenience of lugging around two devices rather than relying solely on an iPhone.

But the upgrades to the the triple-lens array has altered this behaviour, at least for the time being.

In addition to the stunning regular and wide-angle pictures I’ve managed to snap, low-light shots are a significant improvement on the previous generation. This is in part due to the new night mode features and LiDAR scanner which, according to Apple, improve low-light focus by about six times.

While I can’t verify that exact accuracy of that, I can attest to how good my own shots have been in dark spaces. They are far brighter than what I could capture on the iPhone 11 Pro Max last year, and they’re also less muddy.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Examples of what it can do in low light

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Portraits are similarly more robust this year both on the front and rear cameras thanks to the iPhone 12 Pro’s faster autofocus capabilities. Even taking a photo of high-energy dogs (one of whom was in a moving vehicle at the time) resulted in crisp images with a lovely bokeh effect.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Portrait mode with the selfie cam

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Portrait mode with the selfie cam

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Portrait mode with the selfie cam

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Portrait mode with rear camera

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Portrait mode with rear camera

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Portrait mode with rear camera

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Portrait mode with rear camera

To be honest, I don’t place a whole lot of importance on zoom. Perhaps that’s because the last couple of years have seen some companies throw around 50x and even 100x zoom functionality. While that is kinda cool, in the real world you’re still not seeing very good shots past about 20x.

Still, the 2x optical and 10x digital zoom on the iPhone 12 Pro is nice — it’s just not doing anything different to what we’ve seen in Android devices for years now. You’ll see some examples of the wide angle (which is great) and the zoom doing its thing below.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

While there’s no dedicated macro lens on the iPhone 12 Pro, it still does a really decent job of picking up details in close subjects, when there’s good lighting at least. For me that generally just means plants and food.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

https://www.gizmodo.com.au/content/uploads/sites/2/2020/11/03/iphone-12-pro-cat-2-detail.jpg

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

My biggest beef with the camera is that the Pro Max version is even more comprehensive. Apple’s justification is that the extra room afforded by the Pro Max means it can fit more camera hardware in. While I understand this, it would be nice if people with smaller hands could also comfortably gain access to top-of-the-line camera capabilities

Battery and MagSafe

In the cursed year of 2020 I am sorry to reveal the battery on the iPhone 12 Pro is smaller than the previous generation. And you certainly see that play out in practice. Our run down tests saw the iPhone 12 Pro sit at around 14 hours, and my own personal use had me needing to charge by the end of the day.

But Apple has spun this narrative in a more positive direction with the introduction of its proprietary MagSafe wireless charging.

This is a big deal for Apple because at the time of writing the fastest Qi wireless charging iPhones have been able to get is 7.5W. Comparatively, MagSafe chargers go up to 15W. In real world terms, you can charge an iPhone 12 from 0 to 40 per cent in just half an hour with Apple’s USB-C MagSafe wall charger.

It’s genuinely great, but it comes at a price. A wired MagSafe cable comes in at $65 in Australia, and that’s without a wall charger. If you’re looking to go even fancier, there are also MagSafe chargers available. But they’ll set you back a casual $79.

And don’t forget, there is no wall charger included with the latest crop of iPhone 12 devices. Apple’s reasoning for this environmental, striving to become carbon neutral by 2030.

In the midst of this decision the company also switched its in-the-box cables from USB-A to lightening to USB-C to lightening. While your older iPhone cables will work just fine, it still seems like a weird move. I’m not sure its just about the environment when people may need to buy a new USB-C wall charger at some point.

5G

5G might be the future but it’s really not something you need to be overly concerned about yet. It certainly shouldn’t be something that makes or breaks your buying decisions in 2020.

This is particularly true for Australia as we won’t be getting the much-hyped mmwave 5G models that were highlighted during the Apple event.

That being said, I am seeing improvements in speed tests within and outside the CBD compared to last year. Still, it can be wildly inconsistent. But to be perfectly fair this is mostly due to the Telstra network rolling out further. At the present time I can’t comment on the Optus or Vodafone 5G networks as I haven’t personally tested them.

 

Should you buy the iPhone 12 Pro?

At $1,699 the iPhone 12 Pro may not be the most expensive of the line up, but its still a premium phone. So the more pertinent question is whether it’s worth picking over the regular iPhone 12.

Starting at $1,349 the middle child of the group has largely the same features of the Pro. The primary exceptions are the material its made from and the camera. But are those worth a $350 premium? If you’re not looking at Android alternatives, yes.

For the first time since I started this job I have found an iPhone camera to be in the same league as its strongest Android competitors. Yeah, you still need to pay a considerable amount for it, but that isn’t going to be a surprise for seasoned iPhone stans.

While my heart generally gravitates towards the pixel, and my soul still yearns for Huawei cameras, my interest has been thoroughly piqued by the iPhone 12 Pro. I am no longer simply settling for a relationship of comfortable convenience. It has finally received a hardware glow up I can get behind.


Disclosure: the author owns 12 shares in Apple.