Still Image Quality

Like the iPhone 6s, the iPhone SE has a 12MP 1/3" camera sensor, and a lens with an f/2.2 aperture. With the A9 SoC also comes the same image signal processor (ISP), and so in theory photos should be identical between the two phones. This represents an enormous improvement from the iPhone 5s, which used Apple's first 1/3" sensor with a resolution of 8MP. Moving to a higher resolution sensor has enabled UHD video recording, and the new ISP built into A9 allows for 1080p120 slow motion video as well as Apple's Live Photos feature. Based on my experience, the iPhone SE and the iPhone 6s produce identical results when taking photos and shooting video, but I've put together two comparisons below just to illustrate that fact.

Daytime Photography

Photos taken in the day with the iPhone SE look quite good. Photos are noticeably sharper than on the 5s, which is a combination of the higher resolution sensor and two years of improvements to Apple's image signal processor when going from Apple A7 to Apple A9. As expected, the image quality is essentially the same as the 6s due to their shared camera and ISP, and it definitely gives the best results I've seen from a $400 phone.

Night Photography

Night time photos on the iPhone SE are identical to those from the iPhone 6s. In this case it almost looks like I just took the one photo and shifted it slightly, as the exposure, processing, and level of detail are the same between the SE and the 6s.

What’s interesting about the iPhone SE sharing a camera with the iPhone 6s is the fact that they’re priced $250 apart. Daytime photo quality on the iPhone 6s is quite good, but it’s definitely a step behind the 6s Plus and the best Android device in low light due to its smaller sensor than the Android flagships and the lack of OIS which is included on the 6s Plus. At $400, Apple is playing a completely different game, as the camera quality is often one of the first things to be sacrificed when you step down from the flagship price bracket. I would argue that the iPhone SE gives you the best camera in a smartphone at its price point.

Given that the iPhone SE and iPhone 6s use the same camera, there's not much point in repeating a large number of photo tests. My Galaxy S6's VCM also broke which unfortunately prevented me from including it in these comparisons. For some additional photo comparisons and some video comparisons you can take a look at those sections from our iPhone 6s review where a number of 2015's Android flagship smartphones are also compared.

Display Analysis Experience: Going Back To 4 Inches


View All Comments

  • SourAPL16 - Sunday, May 22, 2016 - link

    On Monday, 23rd, I will be going after my FOURTH I Phone model, since turning my 6PLUS in
    but one month ago. I have had, now three SE's in rapid succession. My service is VERIZON. I have not had a dropped call in memory. In the last two weeks I have had several everyday. THE SE Sucks, in my humble opinion. Even switching Sim cards, no change in the lack of performance. I had my 5C for almost 3 years; great service. I jumped at the 6Plus because of
    Verizon's newer acquisition program. No more big downstrokes. I wanted to be Mr. Cool among the fam and I was for a couple months. My arthritic hands became increasingly stressed as I
    attempted to heft and use the Monster. Hip but terribly frustrated. Opted to downsize to the SE
    for my damaged hands ease of handling and for SE's new goodies. The goodies have not come
    close to offsetting the misery of telephonus interruptus! Any other sufferers want to start a
    SUPPORT GROUP??? Considering moving to a straight 6; my wife's is easy to handle. Stay tuned!!!
  • kimi33 - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    Highly recommend this SELECTEC 8600mAh White Ultra-Thin Pocket Size Power Bank to you, only $15.99 after coupon code M6TBH358, Reply
  • GB123 - Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - link

    Here in Taiwan -

    LG G4 32G = USD$340 without contract
    iphone se 16GB = USD$483 without contract

    iPHone SE is definitely not the one with best camera at USD$4xx, not to mention the expansion capability.
  • mike_IC97 - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    This phone is super fast and has an excellent camera but if you are a headphone junkie like me and like to blast your tunes all the time the 5s has a much cleaner and more dynamic sounding headphone output. Just my 2 cents Reply
  • Assimilator87 - Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - link

    Hey Brandon, here's a proposal for an experiment: You should get acclimated to the iPhone 6s Plus and then switch over to the HP Veer. I'd like to research the behaviors and symptoms that may arise from such a traumatic experience ;-) Reply
  • skrafi151 - Tuesday, August 16, 2016 - link

    This iPhone has nice features and for service/repair go to # Reply
  • thomas94k - Sunday, October 2, 2016 - link

    I was waiting for this type of topic. Thank you very much for the place. Reply
  • Drkovcim - Sunday, January 1, 2017 - link

    Display iPhone SE under the microscope: Reply
  • Maccustomerservice - Wednesday, April 18, 2018 - link

    This is the best review I have ever read on any site.i use this phone, but i have some problem with this device.This device is a little bit slow and I can fix it from mac customer service, you can also visit if you have a problem with your device <a href=" customer support</a>. Reply

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