The cheapest new iPhone you can buy is the iPhone SE (2022), but what is the worst iPhone? That dubious honor goes to the iPhone 14 Plus, an oddly out-of-place model in the otherwise excellent current lineup of new iPhones. But what happens when you compare the two cameras? Can the iPhone 14 Plus, the iPhone few people understand or seem to want, beat the cheapest iPhone? We found out.
The phones and cameras
If this sounds like an unusual pairing to compare, you’re right, it is. However, the results are valuable as while we’re using the iPhone 14 Plus against the iPhone SE (2022), the Plus’s camera system is the same as the one fitted to the back of the regular iPhone 14 too, meaning the test also exposes just how different the camera experience is on the basic iPhone compared to the cheapest iPhone.
On the back of the iPhone SE (2022) is a single 12MP camera with an f/1.8 aperture. It also has Apple’s Smart
Due to the differences in cameras, we won’t be able to directly compare wide-angle or portrait mode shots, but we will still show you what’s possible when you choose an iPhone 14 or 14 Plus over the SE (2022) at the end of the test. During it, we’ll be looking at the main camera performance, zoom performance, front camera quality, and the night mode too.
You may think the
It’s going to set the tone for the rest of the main camera test, and also shows Apple has not tweaked the iPhone 14 Plus’s camera performance since I reviewed it upon release. It still exposes photos less effectively than it should, leaving images a little washed out and lacking visual punch. The iPhone SE (2022) avoids this, and at first glance, takes better photos for it. The cake has a deeper brown color, the chocolate looks richer, and the plate is less starkly white in the SE (2022)’s image.
The photo of the Porsche emblem shows all this and another issue in more detail. I tapped on the emblem to force focus here, and the iPhone SE (2022) keeps more of the scene in focus than the
In the photo of the pond, we can see where the iPhone SE 2022 uses more smoothing technology than the
However, the iPhone 14 Plus’s indoor performance in more difficult lighting was far better than the SE (2022)’s, as our last photo shows. The color of the Lego is more vibrant and natural, there’s less noise and grain in the darker areas, and the focus is sharper too. It backs up the technical ability of the
Winner: Apple iPhone SE (2022)
This is a bit of an unfair comparison, as the
The rooftop photo shows the grain and noise introduced into the SE (2022)’s photos when you shoot in anything other than 1x. There’s considerably less definition, and it is immediately obvious you’ve zoomed in to capture the scene. The iPhone 14 Plus’s photo still has noise in the clouds, but the rooftops are much more clearly defined.
In the second photo, taken indoors on a gloomy day, the
The iPhone SE (2022) doesn’t have the same automatic Night mode as the
It’s in our second photo that the big differences appear. Taken in darkness, but with street lights nearby, the iPhone SE (2022) failed to capture the image effectivity. The iPhone 14 Plus’s photo is totally different, with masses of detail, natural colors, and even stars in the sky being visible. It shows the effectiveness of the phone’s extended shutter in Night mode.
The final photo, taken of a floodlit church, shows that while additional light helps the iPhone SE (2022) take decent photos at night, it can’t match the
It’s hardly a surprise, given the technical differences between them, but it’s interesting to see just how much of a difference there is.
In anything other than very bright conditions, the iPhone SE (2022)’s selfie camera is bad. Unfortunately, weather conditions have been poor during my test, and that has meant all the selfies taken with the SE 2022 have been poor. But this shows the reality of living with the front camera on the phone. The
These selfies weren’t taken in darkness, just not in sunlight, and with Portrait mode active. Edge recognition is decent from both, but improved with the
Wide-angle and portrait mode
What about the things the iPhone SE (2022) can’t do? The
More versatile it may be, but there’s only one of these two additional features you’ll want to regularly use, and that’s the wide-angle camera. There’s solid consistency between it and the main camera, and often it increases the vibrancy when you do, resulting in highly shareable photos. The Portrait mode is hit-and-miss, where it often fails to capture the image you expect, or requires you to shift position to activate the Portrait mode so much, the photo becomes pointless.
The iPhone 14 Plus wins but doesn’t dominate
I noticed something similar when I compared the iPhone 12 Pro to the iPhone 13 Pro. There was a subtle difference between the photos, and the older phone’s photos often had more character. It’s the same here, where the
The final thing to think about here is cost. At $430, the iPhone SE 2022 doesn’t embarrass itself against the
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