Best iPhone for photographers 2023: smartphone snapping

iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

iPhone changed the game for smartphone photography, and every new model takes the mobile photography game to a new level. The latest Pro Max models feature three large lenses that work together with Apple's computational photography software to produce stunning shots in every type of lighting. Because of this advanced system, we recommend the iPhone 14 Pro Max as the best iPhone for smartphone photographers this year. In addition, we've gathered other noteworthy models to help you choose the one that fits your needs best.

Here are the best iPhones for the photo-savvy

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Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: iMore)

iPhone 14 Pro Max

Best overall iPhone on the market

Reasons to buy

+
Telephoto, Wide, and Ultra Wide cameras
+
Blazing fast thanks to the A16 Bionic chip
+
Best battery life with up to 28 hours between charges

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
Difficult to hold with one hand because of its 6.7-inch display

The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are identical except for their sizes: 6.1 inches vs. 6.7 inches. In turn, the Pro models are nearly the same as the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus internally, although key differences on the outside remain. For example, all four iPhone 14 models have an A16 Bionic chip with a next-generation Neural Engine, Face ID, 5G capabilities, Ultra and Wide camera lenses, and MagSafe support. In addition, the entire iPhone 14 series also offers Cinematic mode in 1080p at 30 frames per second (FPS) and Dolby Vision HDR video recording up to 4K at 60FPS.

Turning to the iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro specifically, these models offer a Telephoto lens, which provides a 3x optical zoom-in that gives photographers new framing options, including closer close-ups. These models also provide a 6x optical zoom range, digital zoom up to 15x, a LiDAR scanner for night mode portraits, quick autofocus in low light, and improved AR experiences versus older models. And the iPhone 14 Pro series handsets also come with ProMotion technology, which offers adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz.

The Pro models come in five colors: Deep Purple, silver, gold, and Space Black. Each offers a Ceramic Shield front and surgical-grade stainless steel.

This year's Pro Max iPhone model also offers up to 28 hours of video playback and a whopping 95 hours of audio playback between charges. Its 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion provides a 2796x1290 resolution at 460 PPI.

There are two apparent negatives about the iPhone 14 Pro Max. First, it's costly at every storage level. In addition, while the 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion is terrific, those with smaller hands might have a tougher time holding it.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro

(Image credit: iMore)
Best alternative pick

Reasons to buy

+
Same great internal specs as Max
+
Beautiful, strong design with ceramic
+
Easier to hold one-handed than Max
+
6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion

Reasons to avoid

-
Smaller display than Max
-
Still very expensive

Unlike some iPhone models of the past, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max models are the same except for screen size and battery life. 

In this case, the iPhone 14 Pro offers a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion, which translates into a 2556x1179 resolution at 460 PPI. Battery life is up to 22 hours for video playback and 75 hours for audio. It's still reasonable for a phone like this, but it's slightly weaker than what you'll get with the Pro Max.

Like the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the iPhone 14 Pro is expensive at all price points. However, if you're serious about being a mobile photographer, your best bet is either of these two models. 

Apple iPhone 14

(Image credit: iMore)
Our budget pick

Reasons to buy

+
Same internals as Pro models, including the A16 Bionic chip
+
Four great color choices  to the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus
+
Terrific Wide and Ultra Wide camera system

Reasons to avoid

-
No telephoto lens
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No LiDAR scanner
-
One less GPU core than Pro models
-
Less impressive 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display

The flagship iPhone 14 is the best iPhone for most folks. 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 best. 

There are five areas where the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 compares unfavorably with the much higher-priced iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. First, only the Pro models feature a Telephoto camera and a LiDAR Scanner for night mode portraits, faster autofocus in low light, and next-level AR experiences. Second, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are also the only two 2021 models to include surgical-grade stainless steel. By contrast, the iPhone 14 is made from slightly-less-strong aerospace-grade aluminum. Third, the iPhone 14 offers a 4-core GPU versus the Pro's 5-core GPU. And finally, only the Pro models come with up to 1TB of storage, as the iPhone 14 maxes out at 512GB. 

With the negatives out of the way, there are still reasons even as a photographer to consider the iPhone 14. First is its lower price. You'll save at least $200 versus the Pro and $300 versus the Pro Max. Additionally, only the iPhone 14 (and iPhone 14 mini) come in pink, blue, Starlight, and PRODUCT(RED). The iPhone 14 offers up to 19 hours of video streaming between charges and 75 hours of audio play. 

And then there's what all iPhone 14 models have in common, which was discussed above. These include the same A15 Bionic chip with a 6-core CPU with two performance and four efficiency cores, 16-core Neural Engine, Face ID, and much more. 

iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: iMore / Karen S. Freeman)
Best older model

Reasons to buy

+
Blazing fast thanks to its A15 Bionic chip
+
Almost the same as the newer model
+
Probable discounts
+
6.7-inch display

Reasons to avoid

-
Discontinued in 2022
-
Not quite as good as iPhone 14 Pro Max
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13 Pro Max camera has lower resolution and less zoom capability

The well-received iPhone 13 Pro Max was an easy choice for the best iPhone for photographers last year. We're still recommending it this year for photographers who want a large iPhone (it offers a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display) but might be on a smaller budget. 

With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, you get Wide, Ultra Wide, and Telephoto lenses. These translate into a 3x optical zoom-in, 5x optical zoom range, and digital zoom of up to 12x. In addition, the machine's Macro setting means less distortion and more compression, making it ideal for taking close-ups and product shots. 

On the video front, the iPhone 13 Pro Max includes sensor-shift optical image stabilization (OIS), plus 3x optical zoom-in and 3x optical zoom-out. Digital zoom is measured up to 7x. 

Battery-wise, the iPhone 13 Pro Max offers up to 20 hours of video playback and 80 hours of audio playback between charges. 

Like previous iPhone Pro models, the iPhone 13 Pro Max was only officially on the market for one year. That means you should find excellent discounts on the handset. And if you're worried Apple doesn't support this model, don't be. On average, Apple supports iPhones up to five years after they are no longer sold directly by the mother ship. 

Beautiful choices

We highly recommend the four iPhones listed here if you're a photographer. When money is no object, and you want the biggest phone possible, certainly go with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. If you like everything on the Max but have a smaller handset, the iPhone 14 Pro is your choice. Budget photographers should get the iPhone 14 or last year's largest model, the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The latter is almost just as good at this year's Max, but you should be able to get one at a lower price. 

Just remember: there isn't a wrong choice. It just comes down to matching your needs with your budget. And while you're at it, don't forget to grab the best iPhone photography accessories to level up that photo game. Happy shopping. 

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

With contributions from