Why I'm skipping the iPhone 12 Pro for the iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max
(Image credit: Apple)

In our iPhone 12 Pro review, we found Apple's new high-end handset to be one of the best camera phones ever made. But there are a few big reasons I'm willing to wait for an even more impressive photography experience on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Let's start with what makes the Pro series special. The iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max now support improved low-light video recording and will shoot Dolby Vision grade footage. Those might seem like nice to have features rather than anything particularly revolutionary. At least, that’s what I thought until Apple showed off its Experiments V: Dark Universe video. 

Apple commissioned Donghoon Jun and James Thornton of design firm Insight to shoot a video that showcased the stellar night time video capture of the iPhone 12 Pro and how Dolby Vison brings in extra contrast, brightness and details to video footage. And the results are rather mind-blowing. 

The short video shows a suite of stylistic shots, from what looks like particles of graphite swirling around in a dark scene to the sun breaking through some clouds and the dawn comes to usher away the night. While the shots look very impressive and artistic, the idea here is to show off just how capable the iPhone 12 Pro’s low-light mode is when capturing video. 

“We wanted to push the iPhone 12 Pro with its Dolby Vision and low-light recording capabilities to the limit,” said Apple. 

While these capabilities are all well and good, getting such shots does require some knowledge of capturing videos at a professional level. A behind the scenes video shows how the shots were set up, and the iPhone 12 Pro was mostly held in place on an arm, rather than relying on unsteady human hands.  

Taking video to the Max

However, it still shows just how strong Apple’s low-light shooting is and how Dolby Vision can boost the brightness and colors of videos. As such, even in inexperienced hands the iPhone 12 Pro can capture impressive videos; in the hands of professionals, it can pretty much be used to create visual masterpieces. 

And this has got me rather excited for the iPhone 12 Pro Max. While the iPhone 12 Pro clearly has a stunning suite of cameras, the 12 Pro Max comes with Apple’s new sensor-shift optical image stabilization. In a nutshell, that uses a floating sensor to counterbalance any movement within the cameras; for someone who drinks a lot of coffee and can occasionally shake like a leaf in a tornado, that’s a pretty compelling feature. 

Furthermore, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a larger 65mm focal length in its telephoto camera that trumps the 52mm focal length of the iPhone 12 Pro’s zoom lens. When combined with the wide angle lens, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 5x optical zoom, beating the 12 Pro’s 4x zoom. 

As such, video recording on the iPhone 12 Pro Max could set a new bar in the smartphone world. And with a larger 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR that supports HDR, playing back Dolby Vision videos on the iPhone 12 Pro Max should be a joy. 

And there's scope to watch those videos for longer, as the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a larger 3,687 mAh battery which Apple claims will keep going for 12 hours of video streaming compared to the 11 hours on the 12 Pro. Our testing found that the iPhone 12 Pro lasted 10 hours and 23 minutes of constant web surfing, so the extra juice offered by the Pro Max is appealing. 

That's not to say the iPhone 12 Pro isn't a compelling smartphone, because its suite of features, from a new flat-edged design to the powerful A14 Bionic chip, make it one of the best handsets around. But the extras the iPhone 12 Pro Max is offering on the camera front has especially caught my eye.

You'll have to wait a little longer to get the 12 Pro Max, as it's set to go on sale November 13. But I think it could be worth the wait for Apple fans.

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face. 

  • varase
    Yep, me too.

    Gotta have those cameras - not to mention battery life to combat that 5G modem and larger OLED panel.

    Going for the Gold ... how about you?
  • g-unit1111
    I've been an Android user forever but this time around I am seriously thinking about crossing over to the dark side and getting an iPhone 12 Pro Max. Mainly for things like Carplay (I just bought a new vehicle that has both) and the camera of course.