iPhone 12 Mini Camera Review

Is The iPhone 12 Mini Good For Video?

Anyone that follows our channel or this blog will be well aware of my general dislike of the hyperbole that follows smartphone cameras. Every year we hear the same things from Apple, Google and the likes. We see the same glossy ‘shot on iPhone’ commercials and are wowed by the potential of these pocket friendly cameras. What annoys me is every time I upgrade and go to shoot with these cameras I’m just left deeply disappointed by the realities of what they deliver. 

And despite all of this, I am still a sucker for the marketing and more often than not buy into the hype. And true to form I opted into the upgrade cycle and dipped into the world of the iPhone 12… mini, but that’s mainly because I’m a cheapskate at heart.

So when it comes to testing the these smartphones video capabilities my intention isn’t to compare this to a similarly budgeted cameras or even to look at the bleeding edge cinematics, it will be to shine a light on this phone as a simple, easy to use to camera for vloggers, content creators and the more casual videographers, that in truth will be ones seriously using this as a video camera.

iPhone 12 Mini – The Good Bits

The iPhone 12 mini delivers a beautiful image straight out of the camera. By far it is the best image I’ve ever seen straight out of a smartphone. The colours and contrast are full and saturated, the detail and dynamic range are all really impressive and all without any heavy lifting in post. It’s certainly a very usable image but not one without issues, but we’ll touch upon those later. 

The image stabilisation is some of the best I’ve seen on a smartphone. It’s rock solid, actually it’s so good that I think  it’s up there with cameras like the Fuji XT-4 and Olympus OMD EM1-iii which both have phenomenal levels of stabilisation. For sure if you push this too hard you will see the tell tale warp in the corners of the frames. But in truth this stabilisation is so good that you can comfortably shoot with this camera handheld, which is definitely a first from an iPhone.

I do love the ultra wide lens, in many respects I think it is the perfect accompaniment to the Smartphone camera. For the typical kind of user, the casual videographer, content creator or vlogger they will get a huge amount of mileage from this lens.

In all this is one of the most complete pieces of hardware I’ve used. It’s perfectly produced and perfectly formed, especially the 12mini that I’m using. It just feels right and as a piece of camera technology its a huge leap forward. But it is far from perfect still. 

The Filmmaking Bad Bits

The image. In truth it suffers with the same issues every over smartphone has. If you give it the perfect conditions, golden hour or a controlled studio lighting and it suddenly comes alive in a ‘shot on iPhone’ commercial style. But anything less than that and it looks, well, shot on iPhone. There’s noticeable noise in the shadows, in fact I do go further than to say noticeable, there’s a bad level of noise. You also get a contrast flicker from the autofocus hunting and just a general cheap and unremarkable aesthetic. It’s all more than passable for the casual shooter, but for all the hype it can be a little disappointing. 

And speaking of disappointment, it brings me to the native iOS camera app. Why is it still so bad? I understand that they’ve essentially idiot-proofed their camera, but why are there no options for any manual controls at all? I find the process of filming on it so limiting it hurts. A quick trip over to something like Filmic Pro gives me everything I need, but why aren’t these manual focus, shutter and iso controls present in the app. Going a leap beyond with something like Double Take really excites me, allowing you to record with both focal lengths simultaneously and suddenly the hardware on the iphone 12 comes alive as a true filmmaking tool. 

Finally, lets take a minute to talk about that Dolby HDR recording… and yes you’re right in thinking I’ve put this in the bad bits part of this video. You have to acknowledge that it is incredible that Apple have managed to develop a phone with the processing power capable of capturing 10bit HDR footage. All of this insane processing is all thanks to Apple’s ‘System On A Chip’ silicon, and truly represents the bleeding edge of smartphone camera technology. My issue with it, being in the iPhone 12 and 12 mini is that it seemingly misses who these cameras are for. 

The Dolby HDR footage is only viewable on compatible monitors and devices. For sure YouTube now supports it, but again only for display on those devices that support Dolby HDR, like the iPhone 12. So if you’re a casual creator looking to reach the widest possible audience with the least post-production heavy lifting, the dolby HDR feature is as good as useless. 

iPhone 12 Mini For Video – In Summary

For the price point and as a standalone piece of technology, the iPhone 12 mini is incredible. I’ve been blown away by this little smartphone. In truth though, some of the headline features will be totally beyond the needs of most users and others are limited by the software or just the tiny sensor behind those dual cameras. It is the best smartphone camera I’ve used to date, but it is still a smartphone camera and from a video perspective, given anything but perfect conditions it will capture videos that look, shot on iphone. 

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