As a professional photographer, you can imagine my surprise when I found that my favorite iPhone (possibly ever) was not the one with the best camera. In fact, the phone I am talking about the rarely-mentioned iPhone 12 Mini.
After taking the year off from photoshoots (due to the pandemic), I started up production again in the middle of February. Between the increased knowledge of the virus and my crew and I being vaccinated, I felt that it was time to come together and create again. This means creative calls with the art teams from ad agencies, countless emails, bids, and correspondence of the shoot details, not to mention the rest of life as it emerges from the year-long slumber.
It just so happened that as all of these aspects of the photography industry were re-emerging, Apple reached out and asked if I was interested in checking out the iPhone Mini. At first, I was a bit hesitant, as the Pro Max (first the 11 and now the 12) has been my way of life for the last couple of years. However, I love everything tech and agreed to give the Mini a shot.
Before getting the phone, I had a quick read over the reviews and press material, looked at the photos, and made a preliminary conclusion that the phone was actually not all that “mini” really, and thought it may be more of marketing hype to call it so. I have always wanted a smaller phone, but to really hit that sweet spot, this dream phone would have to have so little a footprint that it could be relatively forgotten about when in my pocket. Whether or not this was possible remained to be seen. I requested a Black phone as a bit of a throwback to my iPhone 4s (favorite iPhone ever) and decided that I would rock the Mini without a case, as I have always enjoyed the iPhone aesthetics.
A couple of days later, the box from Cupertino arrived with my iPhone 12 Mini in it and I eagerly opened it hoping for some kind of magic. The phone’s box itself didn’t seem all that small, and I worried that my suspicions of it not really being “special” due to its size were real…
And then I opened the phone box and saw it.
To be honest, I actually had a gleeful chuckle upon first holding the Mini. I hadn’t even powered it up and I already was in love with the thing. I did what probably every person that has held the Mini does first, put it in my pocket and walked around the room to see if I could even tell I had a phone in my pocket: I couldn’t. To be honest, a wallet and car keys are more noticeable than the Mini when walking around. Finally after doing my runway walks around the living room, it was time to power the thing on.
The function and feel of the phone are like any other iPhone 12 out there. The screen actually feels huge for such a physically small footprint. However, one thing that I immediately noticed and enjoyed was that I could reach the entire screen (all four corners while holding it in one hand). The size is perfect. I decided right then and there that I would use it as my “daily driver” for the upcoming productions and see how it held up.
As negotiations progressed and I had to enter into legal contracts (NDA’s) for some of the productions, I used the camera on the Mini to photograph the pages and email them to the client on the fly. It performed perfectly. While the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the best camera I have ever used on a smartphone, the Mini’s camera is no slouch. It is enough to grab good snapshots and document life along the way. However, this is one area where I also think the Mini stands out as the phone to help photographers relax.
When I take my 12 Pro Max out, I want to use the camera to create and while it is fun and a mega-capable camera, I have found myself from time to time neglecting to take a camera out in place of the phone. With the Mini, this is not the case. In many ways, it has actually led to me taking my camera out more for walks and hikes.
On set, I actually kept the phone in my pocket for most of the photoshoots. Where I would usually take my phone out and keep it on the cart that holds my camera or hand it to my assistant, which was not necessary for the Mini. However, at two of the recent sets, I took out the phone to check on something and was immediately asked by the models from one shoot and celebrity from the other what phone I was using. People were genuinely intrigued to see what the phone was, so uncommon these days it is to see a phone this petite.
This brings me to the sad reality: the iPhone Mini has not been adopted by the masses the way that many thought it would. I think that this is a combination of two things that have combined to stifle interest.
The first, which I touched on earlier, is that people cannot really tell how small it is by the photos or videos of it. You really have to hold it to understand how much smaller it is than what has become the average for smartphones.
This leads to the next factor: the pandemic has limited people’s ability to go to the Apple store and actually hold one. It is a perfect combination, along with the pervasive idea that a big phone is necessary, that has been tough to witness since getting it as I have really fallen for this phone — and I am not alone.
I knew that my friend Ted Forbes had one coming his way as well. Not wanting to affect his reaction, I asked objectively what he thought about the Mini without hinting my personal feelings. With a slight reluctance and excitement in his voice, he said: “To be honest, I love this thing.”
We went through and talked about our thoughts and found that he shared in common with me all the same reasons I was falling for it. Most of all was that it was the first phone in years where we could breathe easier and feel like we should walk with our cameras again. While we both love our iPhone 12 Pro Max phones, we find that we love the Mini even more. It really is a shame so few people are giving it the chance it deserves.