The iPhone SE 2 Camera Hands-On Review

With the capabilities of Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro, but the meat and feel of an iPhone 7, this is a phone I’d recommend to those needing an excellent camera at a fraction of the cost.

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Before I get into the meat of the review, please consider my thoughts and opinions as just that — thought and opinions. This phone blew my original presumptions out of the water. With impressive camera capabilities identical to that of the iPhone 11 Pro, at a fraction of the cost, it’s a phone that I would consider personally switching to based on being a photographer. If you’re looking for more technical aspects of the phone itself, try this video by our friend, Marques Brownlee.

Bright yellows and tones in JPG.

All detail seen on mountains and seas.

Imagine this as a delicious motion blur.

To Know:

Apple’s latest gadget is pretty incredible for it being only $399. With an A13 Bionic chip, this phone can handle most of what you throw at it, making it a powerhorse for photography and filmmaking functions. It features 13-hours of video playback, wireless charging, up to 256GB of storage, and a 12-megapixel f/1.8 wide angle camera. The weight and body is reminiscent of an older iPhone 7 or 8, but feels sturdy and comfortable in the hands. Its factual simplicity is intriguing for those not wanting the bells and whistles of an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro.

What We Love:

Camera is Nearly Identical to the iPhone 11 Pro

I cannot state enough just how incredibly identical Apple’s SE 2’s camera is to the iPhone 11 Pro, but at a much lower price point.

Hecka Battery Life

With the A13 Bionic chip, this phone’s body can handle most of what you throw at it.

Loving the Simplicity

I’m a simple man, so I like simple things. It doesn’t have extra bells and whistles, which is what partly shines its charm.

The Details:

Brand: Apple

Price: $399

Product Type: Smartphone Camera

Best For: Photographers looking for something relatively inexpensive, but love the simple, analog feel to their images.

Shop iPhone SE 2

Apple's latest iPhone SE 2 is impressively capable of more than what they had led on.

The iPhone SE 2 is a stellar option for those looking to purchase an affordable camera phone. The biggest reason is its near identical camera to the iPhone 11 Pro, the most expensive and sought after smartphone camera on the market. At just $399, you’re able to capture on a rear, single 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera. Only difference is there's no extra ultrawide or telephoto camera like the 11 Pro; therefore, it's clean and simple with zero fluff. You get what you get, and it’s just enough. Hey, that rhymed. But on a serious note, the SE 2 is truly remarkable in the sense that you get a phone with incredible detail and sharpness at a near fraction of the cost. Smack on a Moment Lens of your choice — Wide, Tele, Macro, or Fisheye — and you still would have a cheaper, more dynamic setup than the iPhone 11 Pro. Certainly something to think about.

Much like what the Verge proclaims, “Apple’s newest iPhone has the guts of the iPhone 11, but the body of an iPhone 8”. I think this is a pretty important feature to consider. In addition to a near identical camera setup, the weight and feel of the phone in your hand is incredibly comfortable, making it ideal for a day-long shoot. The look and feel reminds me a lot of the iPhone 7, one of my favorite cameras Apple has made, for its simple, yet hefty capabilities. Its images, as you might see, are warm and vibrant. The colors are natural and seamlessly perfect. Similar to that of the Canon 5D Mark 2 vs. Canon 5D Mark 4 argument, the older camera has a more analog vibe to their imagery, which I particularly love. The iPhone SE 2 is reminiscent of this, making it a phone that I'd not only use — but switch to. I know that's an unpopular opinion, but certainly something to consider when looking at the hard evidence.

Overall, the camera is stunning. It’s sharp, crisp, and relies on natural colorization to enhance the image. Again, this is a phone that I’d personally switch to from my iPhone 11. I originally made this review as a way to showcase the camera specs, but I truly got so much more out of it. I not only fully understand the phone’s technical aspects, but it’s made an impression on the way I look at smartphone cameras. Newer is not always “better”.

  • Extreme Sharpness: A 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera for ultimate crisp detail, identical to that of the iPhone 11 Pro.
  • Video Recording: 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps, 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps, 720p HD video recording at 30 fps, and extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps.
  • Front Camera: 7MP camera with an ƒ/2.2 aperture and a Portrait Mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control.
  • Powerhorse: An A13 Bionic chip that lasts for up to 13-hours of video playback and long lasting shooting times.
  • Feels Good in the Hands: Its lightweight aluminium body feels just right when holding it for shooting.
  • Natural Colors: The colors feel natural and unprocessed, a must-have feature in my book.


Detail with every capture.

You can see almost every flower leaf.

As good as the iPhone 11.

Ever the clouds shine during gloomy days.


Just wide enough for the shot you need, no extra camera needed.

In Detail:

I know I've touched on the A13 bionic chip quite a few times, but it’s important to realize just how power hungry the software on this phone will be for reducing or photographing. While teh SE 2’s hardware is simple and basic, you will greatly benefit from Apple’s more recent image processing rewrite. Additionally, a significant fact is that the phone has an advanced version of the Smart HDR algorithm, also seen with last year’s iPhone 11 lineup. Its “Semantic rendering” is designed to light items or subjects in your shot properly, making for an even better image. It’s worth noting that the iPhone SE's rear camera has a single 28mm f/1.8 lens, while the iPhone 11 has two rear cameras: a main one with a 26mm f/1.8 lens and an ultra wide-angle camera with a 13mm f/2.4 lens.

You can't even tell this was shot on a phone.

What It Has:

  • Optical image stabilization
  • Six‑element lens
  • Sapphire crystal lens cover
  • Autofocus with Focus Pixels
  • Wide color capture for photos and Live Photos
  • Next-generation Smart HDR for photos
  • Advanced red-eye correction
  • Auto image stabilization
  • Burst mode
  • Photo geotagging

What it Does:

  • Panorama (up to 63MP)
  • Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control
  • Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High-Key Mono)
  • Image formats captured: HEIF and JPEG
  • 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
  • 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
  • 720p HD video recording at 30 fps


  • Height: 5.45 inches
  • Width: 2.65 inches
  • Depth: 0.29 inch
  • Weight: 5.22 ounces
  • Storage: Up to 256GB
  • Display: 4.7 inches

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