iPhone 15
iPhone 15

iPhone 15 Pro Max ‘Tetraprism’ means better 5x Telephoto Camera

What To Know

  • Both the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max share similar camera hardware, including a 48-megapixel wide-angle main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera.
  • While the iPhone 15 Pro features a 3x telephoto camera with a 77mm equivalent, the iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts a 5x telephoto camera with new image stabilization technology and a 120mm equivalent focal length.
  • Offering the periscope camera exclusively on the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max harkens back to earlier iPhone models when the larger device had room for superior camera equipment.
  • In contrast, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max shared identical camera equipment, ensuring that users opting for the smaller model didn’t compromise on image quality.

Apple announced on Tuesday that the iPhone 15 Pro boasts an improved primary camera for enhanced shooting flexibility. However, the most significant photography enhancement can be found in the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which introduces a new 5x telephoto camera. This addition is designed to assist users in capturing superior photos of distant subjects such as wildlife, mountains, or children engaged in sports activities.

Apple’s Chief Marketing Officer, Greg “Joz” Joswiak, highlighted the new photographic versatility of these cameras during the iPhone launch event, suggesting that iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max owners now effectively have “seven camera lenses in their pocket.”

The proliferation of cameras on smartphones, along with their increasing capability to process data from modern image sensors, is gradually bridging the gap between smartphone photography and traditional cameras with zoom lenses.

This achievement is particularly impressive given the compact size of smartphones, although the most extensive range of features is typically reserved for high-end flagship phones.

Both the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max share similar camera hardware, including a 48-megapixel wide-angle main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. The primary camera offers versatility by allowing users to shoot at its native 24mm focal length equivalent (1x), as well as at tighter 28mm (1.2x) and 35mm (1.5x) framings with a new 24-megapixel resolution.

It can also capture 12-megapixel shots at a 48mm focal length in 2x mode. The ultrawide camera provides a 13mm focal length equivalent (0.5x) and can switch to a macro mode for close-up shots, accounting for six of the seven available camera options. The seventh option, the telephoto camera, distinguishes the two Pro models.

While the iPhone 15 Pro features a 3x telephoto camera with a 77mm equivalent, the iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts a 5x telephoto camera with new image stabilization technology and a 120mm equivalent focal length. Both telephoto cameras default to 12-megapixel resolution.

Given that cameras are arguably the most competitive aspect of new smartphones, this improvement ensures that Apple remains competitive with Android phone manufacturers like Samsung and Google. However, it falls short of their 10x camera capabilities.

The 48-megapixel main camera takes center stage for both phones, serving as the primary choice for most shots. Its increased sensor size enhances its ability to capture more light and vibrant colors, particularly in low-light conditions.

The wide f1.8 aperture lens also contributes to better performance in dimly lit environments and produces pleasing bokeh effects, which blur backgrounds behind subjects. Additionally, Apple has enhanced this camera with second-generation image stabilization, mitigating the impact of shaky hands or camera motion when shooting video.

Leveraging the larger camera size and Apple’s computational photography capabilities, users can select default focal lengths of 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm when launching the camera.

Meet the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s tetraprism camera

The iPhone 15 Pro Max introduces a “tetraprism” camera that bends light four times before it reaches the sensor, a novel variation on the “periscope” camera designs used by Samsung, Google, Huawei, and others.

These designs circumvent the limitations of traditional telephoto optics, which require physically longer lens assemblies. Periscope cameras achieve compactness by employing prisms or mirrors to redirect light, creating a more efficient and space-saving path for light to travel.

Offering the periscope camera exclusively on the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max harkens back to earlier iPhone models when the larger device had room for superior camera equipment. In contrast, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max shared identical camera equipment, ensuring that users opting for the smaller model didn’t compromise on image quality.

Apple has also increased the default photo size of the main camera from 12 megapixels on previous iPhones to 24 megapixels. Additionally, users will now be able to capture 48-megapixel photos in the HEIC format, eliminating the need for Apple’s ProRaw format to achieve higher resolution. While photography enthusiasts often embrace raw formats, they can be more complex for average users.

Another noteworthy enhancement is the introduction of new lens coatings. Although seemingly minor, these coatings play a crucial role in reducing lens flare issues, such as streaks and overexposed shots, when shooting toward bright light sources such as the sun or streetlights. Smartphone cameras are particularly susceptible to lens flare problems compared to higher-end traditional cameras.

New video abilities in iPhone 15 Pro

The iPhone 15 Pro also features an improved portrait mode, which Apple claims is faster and more effective in low-light conditions. It also retains depth-map information in photos, enabling users to switch between portrait and non-portrait modes after taking a shot to determine their preference.

For serious videographers, the Pro models offer several upgrades. Notably, users can now record video to external storage devices, thanks to USB-C support. This allows for shooting in Apple’s high-end ProRes format at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second, as opposed to the previous limit of 30fps.

Given the substantial file size of ProRes videos, external storage is likely to be a welcome addition. Additionally, Apple is introducing support for a log format for color recording, appealing to professionals who rely on color grading for precise control over the visual aesthetic.

This option also enables iPhone 15 Pro models to support the Academy Color Encoding System, a significant development in video production capabilities.

Filmmaker Stu Maschwitz expressed his excitement about these possibilities, stating, “For the first time ever, I am genuinely excited to shoot some video with my telephone,” in a post on Threads.