The iPhone 15 Camera Review | THE Camera for Mobile Filmmakers

A candid review after using the iPhone 15 extensively, testing both photography & filmmaking features. But are these enhancements actually worth an upgrade?

Mobile photography has revolutionized the way we capture memories, with our phone often being the most convenient camera. At Moment, we've created everything from photo essays to short films using only our smartphones. Now, we've gotten our hands on Apple's latest: the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

We're incredibly impressed, particularly with the video capabilities of the Pro Max. But there were a few quirks we found along the way, too.

Join us for an intensive camera test journey with the iPhone 15 through Seattle, Vancouver, and more. We promise a thorough, unbiased review of its new features, covering photography and filmmaking. Let's dive in.

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Basic Camera Specs — MORE Resolution!

Whether you're a JPEG enthusiast or a HEIF lover, this 48MP can be housed in a neat 10MB or 5MB package, even on the standard iPhone 15. But hey, if you’re flexing the Pro versions, there's a bonus: the Apple ProRAW format. It’s the real MVP, capturing those vivid details in a slightly hefty 75MB file – all worth it for the dynamic range and cinematic footage.

Additionally, while 48MP is the headline, the main camera serves crisp 24MP captures by default. This combines the best of 12MP and 48MP through the magic of QuadBayer sensors. Just a fun throwback: that's twice the clarity you'd get straight out of the box from the iPhone 14 Pro. And for the night owls, you'll note the Night Mode caps at 12MP, even with the 48MP switch on.

On a side note, for your wide-angle selfies, ultra-wide adventures, and Pro-model zoomed captures — you'll be playing in the 12MP arena. The iPhone 15 Pro Max's exclusive 5x (a slick 120mm equivalent) telephoto lens will also be 12MP.

So far, there’s mega amounts of resolution to play with.

First Impressions After 24 Hours:

Ah, the beautiful city of Vancouver — a mesmerizing mix of modern cityscape and lush nature. As an avid filmmaker and photography enthusiast, I decided to dive into the city's nooks and crannies armed with Apple's latest iPhone 15 devices. And fellow video-lovers, Apple might have outdone itself this time.

Upon unboxing, the first glance of these two beauties side by side is enough to set any tech lover's heart in overdrive. Their sleek designs and the promise of groundbreaking camera technology immediately piqued my curiosity.

The Pro Max boasts a new 120mm periscope lens. And as I meandered through Vancouver's bustling streets, this lens allowed me to capture the distant city's essence without sacrificing too much quality. Honestly, I still prefer a 2x or 3x equivalent, as that 5x is too much zoom needed for my iPhone needs.

All the phone’s standard cameras in low light were nearly impeccable, making capturing those neon lights and cityscapes with tricky coloring a breeze. And although Night Mode is reduced to the 12MP range, it still outperforms my iPhone 14 Pro with better RGB results and dynamic clarity.

The revamped Portrait Mode was a true surprise. Ever clicked a picture and later wished you'd focused on a different part of the shot? Or altered the aperture a tad? With the new Portrait Mode, you can. It allows you to change your focus point and aperture post-shot, granting ultimate control over images after you shoot them.

The updated Macro Mode is like having a magnifying glass. It accentuated the minute details of Canada’s backcountry flora and the intricate designs in its architecture, allowing for some stunning close-ups.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the nifty new Action button located on the iPhone's side. This addition ensured I could quickly access my favorite tools and camera stings, streamlining the photo and video process as I hopped from one location to another.

The iPhone 15 series, with its multitude of camera enhancements, proves to be an incredible companion for mobile creators. For those looking to chronicle their adventures in cities or landscapes — it promises quality, flexibility, and a cinematic touch, all in the palm of your hand.

Standard 1x
Zoom 5x

iPhone 15 vs. iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max

If you're evaluating each camera in the lineup, they’re relatively comparable in quality. Apple has long emphasized producing remarkable mobile images. Yet, this year's enhancement in the video sector positions the iPhone 15 as a stronger option for filmmakers.

For videography enthusiasts, the Pro Model is the way to go. The standard iPhone 15 camera caters to photographers seeking higher resolution and fundamental features such as Portrait Mode and quality specs. In contrast, the iPhone 15 Pro's LOG footage and ProRaw abilities elevate mobile filmmaking to a new, competitive level. And while the Pro Max retains all features of the standard 15 and 15 Pro, it also grants a sweet 5x zoom enabled with new periscope technology.

The Video Is INSANE!

Apple continually improves its camera systems, enhancing focus, sharpness, and image quality. While the iPhone 12 marked a significant leap in photo capabilities, subsequent upgrades have been more incremental. This year, the spotlight is on video.

The Pro Max makes a particularly big splash. When shooting in LOG color profiles, its output is virtually indistinguishable from footage from our Sony FX3. Patrick Tomasso, a community member and friend whose work we admire, provided a compelling example on Twitter (are we even calling it “X”?). He mounted the phone atop his Sony FX3 during filming, illustrating that you can seamlessly color-match the phone's footage with a cinema camera, and the results are wild. This makes it an ideal option for secondary angle videography.

We recorded high-speed footage of our friend, Carlie Penning, running a 6-minute mile across the Canadian terrain without using a gimbal (see below). The results were stunning. The footage is cinematic, free from any visual disturbances or pixelation lags. It's arguably the best phone camera for filmmakers currently available, at least in our tests.

Images by Patrick on Twitter. Spot the difference between iPhone 15 and FX3?

The Editing & Workflow

Apple's introduction of the USB-C port also marks a significant advancement, particularly for those handling large LOG files in 4K or 8K. USB 3.1 and 3.2 support can achieve transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps and 20Gbps, respectively. Additionally, a compatible USB-C hub allows for connecting multiple devices simultaneously. This convenience greatly benefits mobile creators to streamline their workflow more efficiently.

Personal Cons — Worth the Upgrade?

Apple's continuous advancements in HDR often result in images that might appear overly sharp to a discerning photographer's eye. We address these concerns through tools such as Moment CineBloom filters and post-production editing, but authentic visuals have their unique appeal that’s too difficult to replicate every time. This sentiment is similarly echoed by photographers who gravitate towards film cameras over digital ones, valuing an image's simplicity and no-frills rawness.

Take, for example, a comparison between the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 15 Pro:

And while we love the ability to shoot in a LOG color profile, does this single feature justify an upgrade? To be honest, I’m unsure.

Our pro mobile camera app offers ProRaw editing capabilities, making it particularly enticing for those using older iPhone models without a built-in LOG color option. Still, a thorough hands-on comparison remains open. In the meantime, you can download the Moment Pro Camera App and let us know your thoughts.

In summary, while mobile phones may not wholly replace high-end equipment, they undeniably serve as an invaluable addition to any photographer's toolkit. Incorporating ProRes LOG and a standard 48MP resolution across iPhones allows for seamless integration with professional cameras, paving the way for innovative setups and enriched content. We’ve been thoroughly impressed and had much fun testing these phones.

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