More than ever, Apple is taking smartphone photography seriously by updating the photo part of its iPhone 15, Plus, Pro and Pro Max. The brand announced during its keynote a necessary update which can now compete with its most serious competitors, in particular thanks to its new periscopic telephoto lens called “Tetraprism”.
What are the new photos of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max?
We start with the big piece, the iPhone 15 Pro Max which concentrates what Apple does best in mobile photography. Here is its configuration:
- Wide-angle: 48 Mpx, 24 mm equivalent, f/1.78 aperture, optical stabilization.
- Ultra-wide-angle: 12 MP, 13 mm equivalent, f/2.2 aperture, 120° field of view
- Telephoto: 12 Mpx with periscopic zoom
- 3x zoom, 48mm equivalent, with f/2.8 aperture, optical stabilization.
- 5x zoom, 120mm equivalent, f/2.8 aperture, optical stabilization.
The “non-Max” iPhone 15 Pro benefits from the same configuration, but the 12 Mpx telephoto lens stops at 3x zoom, as on the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max.
Periscopic zoom, a first for Apple
The main new feature of the iPhone 15 Pro Max camera is therefore the integration of a periscopic zoom. This system, already used for a long time by certain competitors such as Oppo, Samsung or even Huawei, makes it possible to offer a more powerful and more qualitative zoom, without increasing the thickness of the photo module.
Periscope zoom is a set of lenses that use a set of mirrors to reflect light from multiple angles towards the smartphone’s telephoto lens. Apple called its “Tetraprism” because it reflects light four times. A technology which makes it possible to partly circumvent the problem of the large space that this type of zoom can occupy.
The lenses being arranged across the width, this allows a significant saving of space in depth, which is very practical in order not to increase the thickness of a smartphone. The aim is obviously to be able to offer a better (more “powerful”) zoom factor in a relatively compact format, without having to increase the thickness of the camera module.
On its iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple offers a periscopic zoom offering x5 optical zoom, compared to x3 zoom on the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max.
On paper, the iPhone 15 Pro Max can now compete with the 5x zoom of the Google Pixel 7 Pro or the continuous optical zoom (from 3.5x to 5.2x) of the Sony Xperia 1 V. On the other hand, its main rival that The Galaxy S23 Ultra stays a good step ahead with its 10x optical zoom.
On its technical sheet, the iPhone 15 Pro Max also plays with words with wording that can be confusing: “5x optical zoom forward; 2x optical zoom out; optical zoom range: 10x”.
It now remains to be seen what quality this new camera module will be able to deliver. The main limitation of periscopic zoom is that it generally performs worse in low light. We’ll have the opportunity to put it to the test during our full iPhone 15 Pro Max review.
Macro mode to better capture details
Apple also highlighted during its presentation the macro mode which allows you to take close-up photos of small objects or fine details, with optimal focus.
The macro mode will be accessible from the ultra-wide-angle of the iPhone 15. Apple does not fail to highlight the “range” of the different focal lengths offered on its iPhones, up to 120 mm for the Max version and its periscopic zoom x5.
“Space videos”, the chef’s surprise
Apple took advantage of its conference to remind people that it was possible to watch immersive photos and videos using its first mixed reality headset, the Apple Vision Pro. To close the loop, the Cupertino company announces that the iPhone 15 Pro is capable of capturing “spatial videos” that use the wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle sensors of smartphones.
We simply know that the videos in question will be “more immersive” when they are recorded in this way in 3D and watched on Apple’s AR/VR headset.
And the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus in all this?
For its iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, Apple has finally decided to abandon its 12 Mpx wide-angle camera module to move to 48 Mpx (26 mm equivalent), with an f/1.6 aperture and optical stabilization.
Yes, it’s the same configuration as last year’s iPhone 14 Pro. “Non-Pro” models can thus benefit from pixel binning technology which merges several pixels into one to capture more light and thus improve the overall quality of the photos captured. The quad-pixel sensor also makes it possible to offer a 12 Mpx x2 telephoto lens.
The ultra-wide-angle sensor of the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus does not change compared to previous models. We remain sure of 12 Mpx (13 mm equivalent) with an f/2.4 aperture and a field of view of 120°.
The iPhone 15 and 15 Pro present themselves as a smartphone of choice for photography enthusiasts. By making its classic models benefit from the main sensor of last year’s “Pro” models and adding the x5 periscopic zoom on the “Max” model, Apple has a card to play to compete with Android in terms of photography on mobile.
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