2024 iPhone could get 12× telephoto zoom lens | Cult of Mac

2024 iPhone could get 12× telephoto zoom lens


Super telephoto photo of a hawk
Pictures like these, with an incredibly long zoom, might be possible on the next next iPhone.
Photo: Susanne Nilsson/Creative Commons

A new leak outlines how the 2024 iPhone Pro Max might improve upon the upcoming iPhone 15 Pro Max’s camera. While this year’s model reportedly will introduce a new periscope lens, the iPhone 16 Pro Max could come with an ultra-long telephoto periscope lens capable of 12× optical zoom.

To clarify, today we’re still on the iPhone 14, which features a 3× optical zoom — and the model releasing this fall is rumored to retain the same 3× zoom level, using periscope technology to reduce the camera’s thickness.

The source of Tuesday’s iPhone 16 rumor, Digital Chat Station, previously leaked the iPhone 12 mini display.

Leak: iPhone 16 Pro Max with 12x telephoto zoom

Crude diagram of a periscope lens in an iPhone
In this rough approximation of a periscope lens, two glass elements (blue) reflect the light so that the camera elements (white) can run down the length of the phone onto the sensor (purple).
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

To add more layers and zoom capabilities to a camera, manufacturers typically extend the length of the lens. But on a smartphone, the lens length is limited by the thickness of the handset. A periscope lens puts the camera elements between two 45-degree mirrors, so the photographic hardware can run down the inside of the phone rather than protruding even more.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max, due less than two months from now, is rumored to come with a periscope camera. It reportedly will deliver the same 3× zoom as today’s models. However, the periscope lens will slim down the iPhone Pro Max’s significant camera bump.

Next year’s iPhone 16 Pro Max, if the rumor posted today by Digital Chat Station on Weibo is to be believed, will go one step further. It will use a super telephoto periscope lens, a moniker reserved for cameras with a very high focal length of more than 300mm — in other words, a camera that can zoom incredibly far.

Apple calls the 77mm lens in the iPhone 14 Pro a 3× zoom. So it’s not a stretch to say a greater than 300mm lens could enable a 12× zoom.

What might that look like?

Some sort of animal and its offspring, I presume, in a beautiful green bokeh background
This shot from a Canon camera has triple the focal length of today’s iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Photo: Susanne Nilsson/Creative Commons

Pictures taken with a lens longer than 300mm are identifiable by an extreme level of zoom and a natural “bokeh” effect. That’s the look that the iPhone’s Portrait mode fakes by applying a Gaussian blur to the background of a picture.

Super telephoto shot of some leaves.
All the example pictures I found on Flickr were animals and leaves. Nature photographers are going to love the iPhone 16 Pro Max.
Photo: Susanne Nilsson/Creative Commons

While current iPhones offer a “10× zoom,” it’s a digital zoom. The iPhone crops and blows up a 3× picture to a bigger size. That process produces images not nearly as sharp as those taken with a 10x optical zoom.

A downside to zooming in so far is that the slightest shake of your hand will significantly blur the picture. Without a tripod, a super telephoto lens would need advanced image stabilization and lots of light to take clear shots. Perhaps some of the work Apple did to create Action mode, a feature of the iPhone 14 for taking stabilized video, can work similar magic on super telephoto pictures.


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