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iPhone 12 Pro Max reviews: Major camera upgrades, but 6.7-inch display could be too big for some users

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the iPhone 12 mini. It features a massive 6.7-inch display, making it the largest iPhone ever, and early reviews emphasize that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is not just bigger, but that it’s better than the rest of the iPhone 12 lineup.

At The Verge, Nilay Patel says the iPhone 12 Pro Max is so big that it “demands a case” to make it easier to hold and that it’s on the cusp of being too big:

The combination of the size and flat sides basically demands a case to make it easier to hold, which makes the whole thing even bigger. It’s still workable, but it is right on the edge of being too big. I think the size is a reflection of increased choice: this year Apple has more phone sizes available than ever before, including the diminutive iPhone 12 mini, so it had the ability to push the Max even farther.

The Verge also calls the iPhone 12 Pro Max camera system “the best smartphone camera” yet, with the potential to get even more powerful when Apple rolls out its ProRAW format:

All in all, the combination of the larger sensor, faster lens, improved stabilization, LIDAR, and processing power means that the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the best smartphone camera I’ve ever used — it produces terrific, colorful photos with excellent detail in lighting situations where other phones start to struggle. We’ve seen Android phone makers like Samsung and Huawei use much bigger sensors this year with a variety of complicated techniques to make them work, but Apple’s approach of pairing a moderate sensor size jump with its focus on improved processing has kept it in the lead. I’m intrigued by Apple’s new ProRAW format that promises the editing flexibility of RAW images from this sensor with the processing of Smart HDR… but it’s not out yet, so we’ll have to wait.

At TechCrunch, Matthew Panzarino has some details on how the new sensor shift OIS system plays a role alongside the new f1.6 aperture camera and the larger aperture:

All three things work together to deliver pretty stellar imaging results. It also makes the camera bump on the iPhone 12 Pro Max a bit taller. Tall enough that there is actually an additional lip on the case meant for it made by Apple to cover it. I’d guess that this additional thickness stems directly from the wide angle lens assembly needing to be larger to accommodate the sensor and new OIS mechanism and then Apple being unwilling to let one camera stick out further than any other.

Engadget’s Chris Velazco says the camera isn’t necessarily a “game-changer” but that it’s worth the premium over the iPhone 12 Pro:

All told, these updated cameras aren’t exactly game-changers, though I should stress I’m definitely not a pro photographer or video producer. I’ve learned how to take pretty good pictures of phones, but that’s about it. With that in mind, I can still appreciate Apple’s extra work here: The Pro Max’s cameras give you some flexibility that just isn’t available from other models, and it sets an important precedent for bigger camera differences between iPhones down the road. If you don’t mind living with a big phone, this is well worth the $100 premium over the smaller 12 Pro.

On the other hand, Raymond Wong at Input says the differences between the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max camera are negligible at best:

So what have we learned? The iPhone 12 Pro Max camera has a very good triple-camera system. The main wide camera takes as good photos as the 12 Pro outdoors, indoors, and in low-light. But the comparisons photos don’t lie: the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s larger image sensor is very overhyped. You’re really not getting considerably better photos over the 12 Pro. That’s a relief if you were worried about FOMO by getting a 12 Pro instead of a 12 Pro Max.

Jacob Krol at CNN Underscored has some details on battery life performance with the iPhone 12 Pro Max:

We also ran the iPhone 12 Pro Max through the CNN Underscored battery test. In it, we play a 4K video on loop with the brightness set to 50% and volume at 30% with the device in airplane mode and play the video on a loop until the device dies. We monitor the test with two cameras for redundancy. The iPhone 12 Pro Max lasted for 16 hours. That blows all the other 2020 iPhones out of the water.

Joanna Stern at The Wall Street Journal wishes that Apple would take better advantage of the 6.7-inch display of the iPhone 12 Pro Max:

It is crazy to me, however, that Apple hasn’t enabled us to do more on a phone that is practically iPad-size. Why can’t I view my inbox on the top half of the screen and my calendar on the bottom, like Samsung allows with its Multi-Window mode? Why does the tiny iPhone Mini allow the same number of rows of home-page app icons and widgets as the iPhone Giant? Why can’t I use an Apple Pencil to take notes on the notebook-size device? Apple declined to comment on future software updates.

Pocket-lint’s Stuart Miles has some buying advice:

The changes to the cameras compared to the other phones in the range are noticeable – the main sensor is physically larger and adds in-body stabilisation for better results, while the telephoto lens has a longer reach – but not to the extent that you have to buy this model to achieve great photographs. For many, we believe the iPhone 12 Pro will be more than good enough.

iPhone 12 Pro Max video reviews:

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Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

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