iPhone 12 Pro Max Portrait Photo Session in Florence Cover

A portrait session with iPhone 12 Pro Max camera

Posted on Nov 27th, 2020

Portrait photos with iPhone 12 Pro Max and the new lenses

In this article I will analyze the photographs taken in portrait session with a model in Florence.

As you know, the new iPhone 12 Pro Max features a new telephoto lens with a focal length equivalent of a 65mm, which thus allows you to have a perfect lens for portrait photography.

So I wanted to test the new Apple smartphone by trying the new 65mm focal length without portrait mode and with portrait mode, and also the Wide 26mm focal length which features the new larger sensor at f/1.6. In this test I did not use the 13mm ultra wide-angle lens as the use for the portraits is obviously very limited.

   I suggest you also read the full review of the iPhone 12 Pro Max in which you can find many other photographs in addition to the technical data of the lenses and sensors used. I have also covered other topics related to iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 series in the following articles:

All the photos in this article are posted unedited. To see more details of the shot, you can enlarge a photo and read the description.

Photo shot with the Wide Lens, equivalent to a 26mm. In this shot I've Under Exposed -0.3Ev to get stronger contrast.
Photo shot with the Wide Lens, equivalent to a 26mm. In this shot I've Under Exposed -0.3Ev to get stronger contrast.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: portrait mode with which lenses?

The portrait mode (with simulated Bokeh blur) on the iPhone 12 Pro Max works with the wide 26mm lens and the new telephoto lens equivalent to a 65mm.

As I have already highlighted in my review of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, one of the differences with the iPhone12 Pro model in its “basic” version is the focal length of the telephoto lens (on the iPhone 12 Pro equivalent to a 52mm as in the previous models).

The portrait mode (with simulated Bokeh blur) on the iPhone 12 Pro Max also has the same interesting features that were present in the past: the ability to adjust the virtual aperture f/ before or after the shot, the ability to add “studio lights” presets to add some light on the face, cut out a person, etc.

Remember that the Apple ProRaw format is not available in portrait mode (with simulated Bokeh blur).

iPhone 12 Pro Max: portrait mode (with simulated bokeh blur) and the new 65mm lens

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Portrait mode with simulated bokeh blur and standard photo mode with the new 65mm lens

I must say that in this photo session I have not always used the portrait mode (with simulated Bokeh blur). In fact, I wanted to try to see the qualitative yield even using only the new 65mm lens and see if I could get some natural depth of field given by the longer optics.

As you can see from the results below, the natural focus is hardly noticeable, especially in the case where the model was very close to the background wall. We will have to wait for a larger sensor, combined with a wider aperture for more natural blur.

Depth of field varies with aperture, focal length, proximity point of focus and sensor size.
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iPhone 12 Pro Max: photos shot with standard camera mode and the new telephoto lens (65mm)

Portrait photography with the 26mm Wide lens

I also wanted to take portrait photos using the standard photo mode (without bokeh blur simulation) using the new 26mm wide lens. In fact, I wanted to see if with the new sensor, advertised as twice as large as previous generations, combined with an f/1.6 lens, it was possible to appreciate a smaller natural depth of field given by the larger sensor.

Even in this case, as for the shots take with the telephoto lens, I must say that unfortunately it is still not possible to appreciate a natural bokeh blur. We will still have to use a computational bokeh blur on smartphones for more years to get this result.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: photos shot with standard camera mode and the wide lens (26mm)

Portrait mode on the iPhone 12 Pro Max: the quality is also in the details

Speaking of quality, as I mentioned in my previous article from the iPhone 12 Pro Max review, I was totally impressed by the balance of the lights, the color and the skin tone. This point was often a problem in previous iPhone models as with the HDR mode activated, the skin always turned out to be a little too orange and lacking in contrast.

Now I must say that the step forward with the new Smart HDR 3 algorithms can be seen and the general balance, even on a day of strong contrast in which I was at the moment of this photo session, returns “almost” always natural skin.

I said “almost”, because in general there is still an aesthetic of smartphone photography, which, as always, prefers few (if any!) highlight burns or overexposure from the lights, often giving a lower contrast in the final picture. This is one of the aspects on which you can work in the shooting phase by intentionally under exposing the photo. Furthermore, in post production with the new Apple ProRaw mode active on iPhone 12 Pro smartphones from iOS 14.3 onwards we are able to edit the shot and change the colors and the aesthetic of the shot taken.

Talking about Deep Fusion, the algorithms that improve details (which are automatically activated by the camera software according to the lighting situation), it gives truly remarkable details: in some cases made me to think about the sharpness of photographs taken with a proper dSLR or Mirrorless camera with much more expensive lenses!

Photo shot with the new Tele Photo Lens on iPhone 12 Pro Max, equivalent to a 65 mm. Photo Over Exposed to 1 EV
Photo shot with the new Tele Photo Lens on iPhone 12 Pro Max, equivalent to a 65 mm. Photo Over Exposed to 1 EV

   I suggest you to give a look at the smartphone review page where you can find other articles about smartphone photography :

Speed and operability shooting portraits with the iPhone 12 Pro Max camera

Shooting speed with people in portrait mode (with the simulated bokeh ) or with the standard camera mode is remarkable. Thanks also to the new adjustment present in iOS 14 (from the settings menu -> camera -> Prioritise Faster Shooting), we can take many images in a row without noticing any slowdown. The focus is always precise on the iPhone 12 Max pro and in the case of the portraits the camera immediately identifies the face of the subject by performing an automatic tracking.

The addition of the LiDAR sensor on the Pro models helps even more the speed and accuracy of focusing and this is very noticeable! (notice that LiDAR sensor to work properly has to be at least 5 meters to your subject)

Details from a portrait shot with the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the new telephoto lens (65mm)

Here you can find an image before with also its full 100% crop to valutate the sharpness and the details in it.

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  • John Glam Ph
    Posted at 09:51h, 01 December Reply

    Bravo, nice review.

    In the next few days I’ll do some tests with my full frame with standard kit lenses and this mobile phone in the same light conditions and pose with a model. I was wondering if I had already operated with the Apple ProRaw, I have seen excellent reviews of those who have the beta of IOS 14.3 in the post-production in LR.

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 09:55h, 01 December Reply

      Ciao John, thanks for your message! Yes, I’m already shooting in Apple ProRaw for some weeks 😉 Actually all these shots I have them all also in Apple ProRaw. This will be the topic of my next article (after the publication today of the Night Mode analysis), so stay tuned! 😎

  • Laurent
    Posted at 18:06h, 27 November Reply

    Totally surreal to see his photos taken with a phone. Admittedly, it is with an iPhone 12 Pro Max but still ….. These portraits are sublime. Bravo to the photographer and the model who is superb. Phone photography has just taken a giant leap forward.

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 18:25h, 27 November Reply

      Thanks so much for your feedback! Yes, I’ve to admit that I was also impressed by some of the shots in the more difficult lighting situation. Smartphone photography compete more and more with the camera. I don’t think it will replace, but it create a valid alternative.

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