In this camera comparison, we compare two high-end smartphones that could hardly be more different. The iPhone 13 Pro Max (for review) is a smartphone from the world-famous American manufacturer Apple. The Axon 40 Ultra comes from the Chinese manufacturer ZTE, which has become somewhat quiet in recent years. And the camera systems also differ significantly. ZTE only uses 64 megapixel sensors for zoom, ultra wide angle and main camera, while Apple leaves it at simple 12 megapixel sensors. In addition, Apple’s iPhone has the largest (and probably ugliest) notch on the entire mobile phone market, while the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra relies on an under-display selfie camera.
And the price also differs significantly: Apple charges at least €1100 for the iPhone 13 Pro Max, while the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra goes on sale for around €800. In this camera comparison, we will look at which of the two smartphones takes the better photos.
iPhone 13 Pro & iPhone 13 Pro Max:
Main camera: 12 MP, f/1.5, 26mm, 1.9µm, dual pixel PDAF, sensor-shift OIS
Zoom: 12 MP, f/2.8, 77mm, PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/1.8, 13mm, 120˚, PDAF autofocus
Selfie: 12 MP, f/2.2, 23mm, 1/3.6″ – in a huge notch
ZTE Axon 40 Ultra:
Main camera: 64 MP, Sony IMX787, f/1.6, 35mm, 1/1.7″, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
Zoom: 64 MP, f/3.5, 91mm, 1/2″, PDAF, OIS, 3.5x optical zoom (vs. 26mm cam)
Ultra wide angle: 64 MP, Sony IMX787, f/2.4, 16mm, 1/1.7″, PDAF
Selfie: 16 MP, f/2.0, 26mm, 1/2.8″, 1.22µm – below the display
As already mentioned, the sensors in the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra are all particularly high-resolution and rely on pixel binning technology. The iPhone 13 Pro Max, on the other hand, has “normal” 12 megapixel sensors on board, which we also did excellently in various camera comparisons.
On the left you always see the picture of the iPhone 13 Pro Max and on the right the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra. After the normal photo, we usually show you a zoom into the photo to clarify the differences in detail.
In daylight, the cameras already show clear differences. In any case, it should be noted that the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra has a 35mm focal length and is therefore closer to the object. We tried to compensate for this situation as best we could. In terms of image quality, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra reveals visibly more details. In addition, the color representation is more realistic, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max relies on strongly saturated, “pretty” colors. But where the iPhone has a clear advantage is dynamics. Dark areas of the image are partly gray on the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra, while the iPhone is undeterred here and also displays strong contrasts confidently.
Overall, we can award a tie here. The iPhone 13 Pro takes less realistic, but very expressive pictures. The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra works on the other hand, something more natural and sad. What you prefer here is not least a question of taste.
Exciting, exciting, exciting… The differences become even clearer in interior shots. The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra can capture significantly more details and the images appear more contoured. The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra can also handle light sources better: While the curtain on the iPhone 13 Pro Max is completely faded, everything on the ZTE is still clearly visible. Overall, we see the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra as a bit ahead here.
The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra has a 3.5x zoom, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a 3x zoom. The high-resolution 64-megapixel sensor clearly pays off when zooming in: In terms of detail, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra literally destroys the iPhone. Where only rough pixels can be seen on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the Axon is still really detailed. For the user, this means that with the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra you can also zoom further using digital zoom, while it is better not to go beyond 4x zoom with the iPhone 13 Pro. In terms of contrast, however, we like the iPhone 13 Pro Max better again. Nevertheless, the ZTE is the clear winner here.
Ultra wide angle camera
You don’t have to waste a lot of words here. The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra has a slightly smaller image section, but otherwise shows the iPhone 13 Pro Max where the hammer hangs. The images are not as noisy in low light, the details are also higher on the ZTE and the distortion at the edge is also better corrected. A very clear point for the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra.
It becomes difficult with night shots, because the two smartphones have different strengths and weaknesses. The iPhone’s zoom camera can definitely produce better shots when there is little light. However, this is not due to more details or better contrast, but simply to the fact that the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra has a blue haze here. But the tide turns when you look at the ultra-wide-angle shots. In these, the ZTE performs significantly better. With the main camera, it depends on the scene: If there is really very little light, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra takes significantly better pictures with less noise and more details. In two of the shots, the results from the iPhone were no longer usable, whereas the Axon 40 Ultra was still able to take usable photos. With a little more light, however, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a bit better because the color rendering is more natural. The Axon 40 Ultra has a slight yellow cast in some shots. Overall we award a tie here.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a good selfie camera in a big notch, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra has a disastrous under-display selfie camera. Analysis finished.
Both smartphones produce similar portrait shots with a very warm look. Both smartphones manage to separate the foreground and background about equally well. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a little less detail, but is much faster when recording. In principle, shots “from the hip” are better with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. However, if you take your time, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra takes the better shots. We therefore award a tie.
Both smartphones take excellent videos with all cameras. This is also to be expected with high-end smartphones. In detail, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a few more tricks up its sleeve here: the selfie camera can record videos in 4K quality and you can switch between the camera sensors while recording. Unfortunately, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra lacks these two features, which is why this point goes to Apple.
What an exciting comparison! With the Axon 40 Ultra, ZTE has impressively proven that you can play in the top league. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is downright outclassed in the zoom shots and the ultra wide-angle shots. When it comes to the main camera and portraits, both smartphones are in a head-to-head race. The clear winner is the iPhone 13 Pro Max for videos and selfies. That’s the price you have to pay for the under-display cam. Overall, we give this camera comparison a tie, which is really an impressive result for the underdog ZTE. How do you see it? Please leave us a comment!
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