iPhone 14 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro camera battle isn’t as close as you think

If you’re looking longingly at the new iPhone 14 Pro and wondering just how good the camera is, and whether it’s better than the Apple phone that’s already in your pocket, we’ve got the answer for you. Over the first few days with the 14 Pro, I’ve taken several hundred photos with it and the iPhone 13 Pro, ready to put the two against each other in a battle that’s sure to get heated.

iPhone 14 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro camera specifications

You can see a complete breakdown of what’s new with the iPhone 14 Pro compared to the iPhone 13 Pro, but we’re only concerned with the cameras for this test. Apple has made some changes with the new generation. The iPhone 14 Pro has a new 48-megapixel main camera with an f/1.78 aperture, second-generation optical image stabilization, and its Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4, and new Photonic Engine features. It’s joined by a 12MP ultra-wide camera and a 12MP telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom.

iPhone 14 Pro and 13 Pro camera modules. Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 Pro has three 12MP cameras on the back. The main camera has Apple’s previous generation optical image stabilization and an f/1.5 aperture, while the telephoto also has a 3x optical zoom. On the software side, the phone also has Deep Fusion and Smart HDR 4 technology but doesn’t have the new Photonic Engine. The two phones use different processors, with the A15 Bionic powering the iPhone 13 Pro, and the A16 Bionic in the iPhone 14 Pro. On the front is a 12MP selfie camera, but the 14 Pro gets the Photonic Engine and an f/1.9 aperture.

Although there are other differences, these are the major ones, and we’re not going into video performance for this test. All the photos were taken using automatic settings, and for the night shots, I let the phone set the exposure time. In some of the portrait mode shots, I did tap to confirm the subject, but otherwise, everything is left to the phone to sort out. Images have been examined on a color-calibrated monitor but resized here for friendlier online viewing.

iPhone 14 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro: main camera

It’s time for a game of spot the difference. At first glance, the two main cameras take very similar photos, and it may seem like Apple hasn’t made any changes at all. However, there are differences when you look much more closely, and they add up to a better photograph. What’s not clear is whether these alterations make upgrading worthwhile, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Main camera photo taken with the iPhone 14 Pro.
Main camera photo taken with the iPhone 13 Pro.
  • 1. iPhone 14 Pro
  • 2. iPhone 13 Pro

The first photo is of a canal, taken around the middle of the day with overcast skies. There’s a sharpness to the iPhone 14 Pro’s photo that’s missing from the iPhone 13 Pro’s. It’s not much, but it’s most obvious looking at the pathway. The focus points are different, with the iPhone 14 Pro appearing to take in the entire scene and bringing more of it into focus. There’s also better contrast and white balance, noticeable when you look at the color of the clouds and the water.

Main camera photo taken with the iPhone 14 Pro.
Main camera photo taken with the iPhone 13 Pro.
  • 1. iPhone 14 Pro
  • 2. iPhone 13 Pro

Our second photo of lunch and a cup of coffee also shows these same qualities, but again, you won’t spot them with just a casual glance. Spend a moment and you’ll notice the plate is whiter in the iPhone 14 Pro’s photo, and the focus is generally sharper. The top of the sausage roll is in focus, but the iPhone 13 Pro doesn’t quite get it right. Outside of this, colors are practically the same: bright and natural.

Main camera photo taken with the iPhone 14 Pro.
Main camera photo taken with the iPhone 13 Pro.
  • 1. iPhone 14 Pro
  • 2. iPhone 13 Pro

The third photo shows where some will prefer the iPhone 13 Pro’s photos, as it tends to up the saturation levels just a little more than the iPhone 14 Pro. You can see it in the blue sky in this photo of a church, but once again, the 14 Pro does deliver a sharper photo. There are masses of detail in the texture of the stone in both images, but the generally larger focal area of the iPhone 14 Pro makes it pop, despite not having quite such a blue sky.

It takes an analytical eye to spot the differences between the two main cameras, but once you know where the iPhone 14 Pro’s strengths lie, they’re quite easy to point out. Having the two side-by-side, it’s the iPhone 14 Pro that takes the superior photo, but I’m not sure how many people with an iPhone 13 Pro will consider the performance uptick enough to upgrade. That said, don’t let anyone tell you the two cameras take exactly the same photos, because they definitely don’t.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro: wide-angle camera

If changes were hard to spot with the main camera, don’t worry, it’s easier to see where the iPhone 14 Pro differs when we get to the wide-angle camera. The photo of the car is a great starting point. The contrast levels and color management are dramatically different, with the 13 Pro prioritizing the blue of the car’s paint in a different (and actually less realistic) way than the 14 Pro. The windscreen is more clear, the grass more vibrant, and the sky more natural too.

Wide-angle photo taken with the iPhone 14 Pro.
Wide-angle photo taken with the iPhone 13 Pro.
  • 1. iPhone 14 Pro
  • 2. iPhone 13 Pro

However, while the changes in that photo are largely positive, it doesn’t always seem to work that way, and the iPhone 14 Pro’s wide-angle camera definitely still needs tuning. This wide-angle photo of a church shows it best. The iPhone 13 Pro’s color balance is much more natural, and in its efforts to show more detail on the church itself, the iPhone 14 Pro’s exposure levels blur detail elsewhere. The grey clouds are preferable to the iPhone 13 Pro’s blue-tinted ones, though.

Wide-angle photo taken with the iPhone 14 Pro.
Wide-angle photo taken with the iPhone 13 Pro.
  • 1. iPhone 14 Pro
  • 2. iPhone 13 Pro

In the final photo, it’s the same situation, where the iPhone 13 Pro’s exposure and contrast levels mean the sign is clearer and more readable, and the photo is generally a little brighter. The iPhone 14 Pro’s shot is moodier than it was in real life and isn’t as picturesque. However, the grey clouds are more realistic, and I don’t think there’s as much edge distortion either.