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How much do ƒ2.4 and OIS improve 'telephoto' on iPhone X? Watch and see!

iPhone X has a 12-megapixel ƒ/2.4 "telephoto" lens with optical image stabilization (OIS) as part of its back camera system. That's compared to a 12-megapixel ƒ/2,8 non-optically stabilized lens on iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 7 Plus.

It's important because the tele doesn't just help gather depth data for Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting, it handles the 2x optical zoom feature. And, when the camera system doesn't have enough light, it'll switch back to the wide angle and digital zoom to preserve image quality. (See Serenity Caldwell's explainer.)

So, how much difference does that really make? Apple says about a 1/3 of a stop in normal shooting situations. But if you check out the difference it makes in terms of the camera system switching from the 12-megapixel ƒ/1.8 wide angle lens to the telephoto, well, take a look at Dan Provost's test on Studio Neat:

Dual Lens comparison on iPhone X and iPhone 7 Plus (opens in new tab) from Studio Neat (opens in new tab) on Vimeo (opens in new tab).

I also used the manual camera app Halide to get an ISO and shutter speed reading at the various light levels, and came to the conclusion that the iPhone X requires roughly 2 fewer stops of light before switching to the telephoto lens, as compared to the iPhone 7 Plus.

For most people, when the iPhone X camera system chooses to switch between lenses is an implementation detail. You should just be able to shoot and get great results and not have to worry about what's happening behind the curtain.

For camera nerds, though, this is great to see. And it prompts the question: Where and how far can Apple push the iPhone camera system next?

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

1 Comment
  • Just a hard numbers comparison. The iPhone 8+ has an f2.8 non OIS telephoto lens. The X's with f2.4 and with OIS essentially makes it the equivalent of an f1.8 without OIS. That's definitely a big difference for sure.