iPhone SE's single camera is no iPhone 11 Pro, but specs are surprisingly close

Sure, the new iPhone SE may have only one camera compared to the 11 Pro's three, but that doesn't mean it won't take great shots.

Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Expertise Smartphones, Photography, iOS, Android, gaming, outdoor pursuits Credentials
  • Shortlisted for British Photography Awards 2022, Commended in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2022
Andrew Lanxon
2 min read
iPhone SE

Apple has taken the wraps off the latest version of its iPhone SE -- the smallest, most affordable iPhone it's possible to buy right now. The new iPhone has various features found on the iPhone 11 Pro, which is more than double the price, including the A13 processor and wireless charging. But the SE comes with just a single camera on the back. So how will that one lens compare to the 11 Pro's three?

The SE's single camera is most similar to the 11 Pro's standard zoom lens. Both have 12-megapixel resolutions, wide f1.8 apertures to let in lots of light, six-element lenses, optical image stabilization and sapphire crystal covers. It's the additional cameras Apple sacrificed in order to keep the cost down.

Watch this: iPhone SE (2020) vs. iPhone 11: We compare cameras to see which is better

The SE lacks the 2x telephoto zoom found on many of the recent iPhones, as well as the ultrawide-angle mode, which captures much more of the scene in front of you than the standard zoom lens is able to achieve. If you're really into your photography and love the idea of shooting those ultrawide cityscapes, the new iPhone SE may not be the best phone for you, but don't think it won't be able to snag some great shots.

The iPhone 11 Pro's standard zoom lens takes some of the best photos it's possible to get from a phone. I even found it good enough to replace my DSLR on my road trip around Scotland. While we've yet to see exactly how the new iPhone SE's camera compares, it does share some of the 11 Pro's software processing, courtesy of that A13 chip. 

It has portrait mode (the depth effect being created by software, of course, not by a zoom lens), which also lets you use the various lighting modes like stage and contour lighting. It has the same upgraded HDR as the 11 Pro too, which does an amazing job of capturing detail in the brightest and darkest areas of a scene. 

Take a look at photos from the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max

See all photos

You don't get the 11 Pro's impressive night mode, but It'll take 63-megapixel panoramas, shoot video in 60 frame-per-second 4K and manage 240fps slow-motion video at 1080p resolution. 

While the new iPhone SE may not have the creative abilities of the 11 Pro's multiple lenses, its single camera should be able to take some amazing shots, which will suit those of you who are more about capturing those fun holiday snaps than spending too much time getting overly artistic. 

We'll be putting both camera side-by-side just as soon as we can, as well putting the iPhone SE through our full barrage of tests in the full review.

Read moreiPhone SE vs. iPhone 11: Which new iPhone should you buy?

iPhone SE vs. 11 Pro camera specs comparison

iPhone SEiPhone 11 Pro
Camera 12-megapixel f1.812-megapixel f1.8 (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (2x telephoto)
Front-facing camera 7-megapixel12-megapixel with Face ID
Video capture 4K, 60fps4K, 60fps
Slow motion video 240fps, 1080p240fps, 1080p
Portrait mode YesYes
Night mode NoYes
Processor Apple A13 BionicApple A13 Bionic