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Photographer notices iPhone 11's telephoto lens doesn't support Night Mode. Internet loses its mind

Rene Ritchie does Night mode showdown with iPhone 11 and Pixel 3
Rene Ritchie does Night mode showdown with iPhone 11 and Pixel 3 (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Photographer Amos Chapple has accused Apple of lying by omission.
  • That's because of the way iPhone 11 Pro's telephoto lens handles Night Mode.
  • The lens doesn't support Night Mode and instead crops the image from the wide-angle lens.

Photographer Amos Chapple has accused Apple of "lying by omission" after he discovered that the telephoto photos he was taking in Russia weren't actually using Night Mode. The iPhone gives the impression that they were.

When taking a photo in Night Mode the interface notifies the user by displaying the number of seconds the photographer needs to remain still. That does happen when taking a photo using the telephoto lens, but as Chapple notes, the image that's captured is instead a cropped version of an image captured by the standard wide-angle lens instead.

This is, of course, not news. Developer and photography genius Sebastien de With told us this way back in September.

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And it's even something that John Gruber mentioned when quoting de With in October. He did us a solid and explained how to go about proving what iPhone 11 Pro is doing, too.

You can see this yourself in the EXIF data. Shoot an image using Night Mode at 2× zoom, and look at the lens information in Photos on the Mac. It will say "iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8". That's the wide-angle camera. The telephoto camera is "6mm f/2", and the ultra-wide is "1.54mm f/2.4". (The front-facing camera is "2.71mm f/2.2".)It's even easier to see it for yourself by simply obscuring the lenses one at a time with a fingertip or piece of paper. Cover the telephoto and you can still shoot "2×" Night Mode shots; cover the regular wide lens and you can't.

It's my understanding that the standard wide 1x wide-angle lens is the only one that is made up of 100% focus pixels, allowing it to take the super crispy Night Mode images we've been drooling over for the last few months.

Chapple, for his part, is having none of it. He instead thinks that Apple should be nailed to the nearest door because it's lying to people by omission. He even mentioned unnamed "influential tech journalists" who seemed to be under the impression Night Mode worked with the telephoto lens.

Apple fooled me as well as some highly influential tech journalists, one of whom noticed the low quality from the "telephoto" Night Mode but concluded that "images look best with the wide-angle camera as it is the better lens".

I'm not sure why someone else not knowing what is going on with the telephoto lens makes this into some sort of huge conspiracy, but here we are and the internet seems to be more interested in a good "gotcha" story or tweet than actually doing the research.

Welcome to 2020.

Oliver Haslam
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.

3 Comments
  • Slow news day? His tweet is from September just after the 11 came out?
  • Yet another Pixel 4 camera victory gone unnoticed, actual telephoto photos in night mode. Disappointed that everyone gives the iPhone the rank of "best camera" just because of a wide lens and some video prowess
  • Everyone gives the iphone rank of best camera because apples pockets are deeper!