I’m a professional photographer for CNET, and I also spend my weekends producing photography-focused YouTube videos. That means I take a lot of photos, so I know just how important a good zoom is. Apple has just taken the wraps off its new iPhone 15 series, which includes some significant upgrades in the iPhone 15 Pro Max, including a 5x periscope telephoto zoom. That’s a big zoom boost over the 14 Pro, and it’s left me super excited to get a 15 Pro Max in my hand.
While both the standard iPhone 15 Pro and the 15 Pro Max have been equipped with larger main image sensors, the Pro Max received a big boost to its zoom, taking the 3x optical zoom on the previous model and upping it to 5x. That might not seem like a big boost on paper, but it provides a much more zoomed-in, telephoto view in your images — the equivalent of shooting at 120mm on a regular DSLR, Apple says.
The vast majority of the photos I take, both professionally and personally, are at longer focal lengths, usually at least 50mm if not 100mm or beyond. I love a telephoto look and I relish the creative challenge it presents when taking photos. Instead of a wide angle view that simply captures everything in front of you, a zoom lens allows you to look for more-intimate details within your scene, finding those shots that would be lost to those with only wide angle options.
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Telephoto zooms are used frequently for portraits too, while those of you who enjoy taking candid street-style photos will appreciate being able to do that from farther away, capturing the action without potentially disrupting it.
The iPhone 15 Pro Max isn’t the first phone to offer this. Google’s Pixel 7 Pro remains one of my favorite camera phones largely because it, too, has a 5x optical zoom lens. Then there’s Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra, which takes that to a whopping 10x — although I find this focal length so zoomed in that it’s actually less usable in everyday scenarios. I found 5x to be a real sweet spot on the Pixel 7 Pro, and I’m pleased to see Apple opt for this on the new Pro Max.
And Apple hasn’t just added a longer zoom lens and called it a day, the telephoto sensor is 25% bigger with an f/2.8 aperture, which should be a huge improvement in capturing more light, resulting in better-looking images. And the video-producer side of me is also extremely excited about being able to shoot ProRes videos at 60 frames per second and record footage with Log encoding for better postproduction.
In short, I can’t wait to get an iPhone 15 Pro Max model in my hand and hit the streets of my beautiful home city of Edinburgh to put it through its paces.