Well for starters, the massive 48MP camera from the iPhone 14 Pro debuts in the regular iPhone 15 lineup, but that's not all.
There's a standout new zoom feature in the Pro Max, and software upgrades to boot. Here's everything you need to know about the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro cameras, the best iPhones for photography in 2023.
iPhone 15 camera
The headline iPhone 15 upgrade is a new 48MP main camera, inherited from last year's iPhone 14 Pro. That means photos up to 4x the resolution of the previous model, with shots taken in super-high resolution. It also enables shots in 2x on the telephoto lens without sacrificing picture quality, which Apple says is akin to having a third camera. The main camera is 26mm and has f/1.6 aperture, sensor-shift OIS, and more. One interesting addition is Apple's new 24MP super-high-resolution photos alongside those spicy 48MP ones.
iPhone 15 retains last year's dual camera configuration, with the secondary lens being a 12MP Ultra Wide camera with a 13mm focal length and f/2.4 aperture. As noted, Apple also advertises 12MP 2x Telephoto shots enabled by the quad-pixel sensor as a separate feature, with a 52mm focal length and f/1.6 aperture.
The iPhone 15 also gets Smart HDR five to help battle bright or uneven light. Apple has also upgraded portrait mode on the iPhone 15 to offer "sharper detail, more vivid colors, and improved low-light performance." Strikingly, you can also now take portrait photos even when you're not in portrait mode, editing photos in the Photos app using depth information captured automatically when you shoot.
As you might expect, this is all powered by the A16 Bionic chip from last year's iPhone 14 Pro, which helps juice all that computational goodness.
Otherwise, the iPhone 15 retains many camera features from last year, including 4K recording at up to 60 fps, Cinematic mode, HDR video recording in 4K 60 fps, and more. It also still offers the 12MP front-facing True Depth Camera for FaceTime, selfies, and video.
iPhone 15 Pro camera
The upgrades to the iPhone 15 Pro's camera were much more muted this year. It still has the same 48MP camera, which now enables 24MP super-high-resolution shots like the iPhone 15. It also supports 48MP HEIF images, so you can get 4x the resolution of normal HEIF shots without taking up all your storage.
The 48MP camera still offer 24mm focal length, f/1,78 aperture, while the second and third cameras are a 12MP Ultra Wide and a 12MP Telephoto lens. Here, we start to see the differences between the iPhone 15 Pro and the more capable Pro Max.
The telephoto lens on the Pro offers 3x optical zoom, with a 77mm focal length and f/2.8 aperture. However, the iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts a 5x Telephoto lens with 120mm focal length, stabilized by Apple's new 3D sensor‑shift optical image stabilization, built using Apple's tetraprism design.
This increased zoom means the Pro Max offers 5x optical zoom in compared to the Pro's 3x, and Digital zoom of up to 25x compared to the Pro's 15x.
Across the board, the iPhone 15 Pro range gets new Smart HDR 5 and Apple's portrait mode upgrades mentioned above. They also still offer all the same video options as last year including 4K video at up to 60 fps, cinematic mode up to 4K HDR at 30 fps, Action mode, and HDR video with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60 fps.
Like the regular iPhone, there's still a 12MP TrueDepth camera on the front for FaceTime and beyond.
The A17 Pro chip lends a big boost to all the computational photography on iPhone 15 Pro, as does USB 3. 20x faster transfer speeds mean users can shoot with apps like Capture One to instantly transfer 48MP ProRAW images from your iPhone to your Mac, just like the Pros.
A tale of two sensors
The upgrade for the iPhone 15 is much more pronounced than the iPhone 15 Pro this year, with Apple's new 5x optical zoom on the Pro Max the only notable change to Apple's Pro line. The 48MP lens was a massive upgrade to the iPhone 14 Pro last year and will be a really welcome update to the regular lineup this year. Of course, facts on a page are one thing, but it's in the real world that Apple's cameras will truly have their mettle tested.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
- John-Anthony DisottoHow To Editor