iPhone 16 and 16 Pro cameras: What photographers can expect in 2024

The back of an iPhone 15 Pro, showing its camera system.
(Image credit: Future)
iPhone Photography Week 2024

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(Image credit: Future)

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Just like clockwork, Apple is expected to stick to its annual iPhone release cadence and ship updated models this fall. Likely to be unveiled in September, the iPhone 16, iPhone 16 Plus, iPhone 16 Pro, and iPhone 16 Pro Max will all replace the models that are on sale today. And as ever, we can expect a few improvements along the way.

While it's still relatively early days for the new models, and rumors are only that, we do have some ideas of what those iPhones will have to offer when the covers are taken off later this year. New chips, potentially bigger displays, and revamped buttons could all be part of the fun, but for some people, it's all about those cameras. The best iPhone to those people just happens to be the one with the best cameras, and 2024 could be particularly notable on that front.

Last year, it was the iPhone 15 Pro Max that took the crown thanks to an improved 4x optical zoom capability brought about by a new tetrapism lens, but things are set for a shake-up this time out, assuming the rumors are accurate. We're going to dive into those rumors and outline what we expect the camera situation to be for the upcoming iPhones right here, but it's important to remember one thing right out of the gate — rumors are only rumors until Apple announces the new iPhones this fall and until then, it's impossible to be sure what the company has up its sleeve.

With that said, let's dive in.

iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus cameras

iPhone 15 Plus review

(Image credit: Future)

Current rumors have the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus sporting the same cameras as the outgoing iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, which isn't a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

The iPhone 15 models sported a new 48-megapixel main sensor, a notable upgrade over the previous sensor used in the iPhone 14 series of devices. The ultrawide camera is expected to retain its 12-megapixel sensor from last year's model, while the selfie camera is also likely to continue to be a 12-megapixel part.

However, while the sensors might not be changing these two models could yet benefit from a whole new videography feature. If the rumors are true, a new, vertical camera layout will be used rather than the diagonal one of recent iPhones. The reason? The Apple Vision Pro.

The Apple Vision Pro is currently the hottest ticket in town, and one of its standout features is spatial video, a 3D video recording and viewing experience. While the Apple Vision Pro is the only Apple device capable of viewing spatial videos, it isn't the only one that can capture them. The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max can also record spatial videos, while the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus cannot, thanks to their diagonal camera array.

By moving the cameras to a vertical orientation, Apple could allow all new iPhone 16 models to record spatial videos via a stereoscopic lens configuration. It's a move that makes plenty of sense, and Apple will no doubt want to give as many people as possible a chance to record videos for playback on their new $3,499 spatial computing device.

iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max cameras

iPhone 15 Pro Max used at Scary Fast event

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

While the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus might be getting camera upgrades, those who want the best of the best will still want to go Pro. However, they might not need to choose the iPhone 16 Pro Max this time out.

That's because persistent rumors have the iPhone 16 Pro gaining the iPhone 15 Pro Max's 5x tetraprism camera which could give it zoom parity with its larger cousin. Such a change would be a big move for Apple and herald the end of the current crop of 3x zoom models.

Alongside the tetraprism switch, there is also talk of a new 48-megapixel ultrawide camera, a move that could vastly improve the quality of shots it can take. This ultrawide boost is also tipped to come to the iPhone 16 Pro Max as you'd expect.

There are also reports of a change in lens construction technologies for the new high-end iPhones as well, potentially allowing for so-called super zoom capabilities. While that doesn't mean a whole lot on its own, the label is normally given to cameras that have a focal length of more than 300mm. Such a figure would be much higher than that of the current iPhone 15 Pro Max's zoom lens which sits at 120mm.

Beyond these changes, there is little already known about these new models, but it's vital to remember that we are a long way off any of these new iPhones being announced and there is plenty of time for Apple's plans to change between now and their release.

The Apple Vision Pro factor

Spatial video app

(Image credit: Apple)

If the rumors turn out to be accurate all four new iPhones released in 2024 will be capable of capturing spatial videos which is a move that could see the number of people capturing 3D home movies balloon.

Such a move would see Apple leverage the iPhone to help it build added value into its new AR/VR headset in a way that few other companies can achieve and it's a decision that makes tons of sense. It's also a decision that leaves room for some unknowns, too.

Apple's WWDC 2024 event is likely to take place in June with iOS 18 and visionOS 2.0 likely to be two of the announcements. If Apple does have some new Apple Vision Pro features on the way the new iPhones could be key to those plans. We might not learn about them until the fall, but anything Apple announces at WWDC could give us a glimpse of what's to come in September. It's tea leaf-reading at its finest, but it can often work, too.

This article is part of iPhone Photography Week 2024. Expect new posts to appear daily, focused on making your photos shot with iPhone better than ever before.

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Oliver Haslam

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.