When you pick up an iPhone 8 Plus, you're also getting a great multi-camera system to take photographs with and shoot video. By default, you'll use with the iPhone's 12-megapixel wide-angle f/1.8 lens in Photo mode, but you can also amp up the magnification and take photos with the new 56mm-equivalent "telephoto" lens — either in the Camera app, or in a variety of great third-party apps.

NOTE: Though many (myself included) have argued that this system is closer in comparison to a normal or portrait lens than a true telephoto, I understand Apple's intentions here: Because they're marketing the lens in conjunction with a 2x feature, it may seem more appropriate to call it "tele" than "normal" or "portrait" to the average user — especially considering that Apple also uses it with its "Portrait" feature that utilizes both lenses. For that reason, I'm referring to the lens as Apple names it — tele, or telephoto — even though I don't necessarily agree with that branding.

What iPhone models have the telephoto lens?

Apple currently builds three iPhone models that have the multi-camera system:

  • iPhone 7 Plus (f/2.8 telephoto lens)
  • iPhone 8 Plus (f/2.8 telephoto lens)
  • iPhone X (f/2.4 telephoto lens)

All of these three have access to shooting with the telephoto lens or shooting in Portrait mode, but only the 8 Plus and X support Portrait Lighting.

How to shoot with the telephoto lens in the Camera app

  1. Open the Camera app and select Photo mode.
  2. Tap on the 1x button to switch to 2x mode.
  3. Frame and shoot your photo!

Note: As long as you're shooting in a brightly-lit area, the Camera app will automatically select the 56mm-equivalent lens when you switch to 2x magnification; if you're in a dimly-lit area, however, you won't be able to use it, and the app will automatically switch to digitally-zoomed wide-angle shot.

If you're running iOS 10.1 or later, you can also use Portrait mode, which will automatically always shoot with the telephoto lens.

How to shoot with the telephoto lens in third-party apps

If you run into a situation like the above where you want to make sure you're shooting with the 56mm-equivalent lens — and that lens only — you can use a third-party manual camera app that supports lens swapping. (Our current favorite is ProCamera.)

Here's how to shoot in ProCamera:

  1. Open the ProCamera app.
  2. Tap the More button (looks like three horizontal lines).
  3. Select the Tele camera option.

For other third-party apps that support the iPhone 8 Plus's multi-camera system, instructions will likely be similar — you'll just want to look for their lens selectors.

Questions?

Let us know in the comments.

Originally written September 17, 2017. Updated September 29, 2017 with information on iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, as well as iOS 11.

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