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Your next iPhone may feature Apple's biggest camera upgrade ever

The 15 Pro Max hasn't been announced yet, but there are rumors that the iPhone 16 Pro Max's camera system is the one to watch.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer

The iPhone 14 Pro features a 6x optical zoom lens from 0.5x ultrawide to 3x telephoto.

June Wan/ZDNET

The rumor mill always starts buzzing as we near big launch events, with speculation of what the next iPhone or Galaxy model will feature. But rumors today are buzzing not over what may be announced this fall on the Apple stage but over what 2024 will bring. 

According to a Macrumors, Apple's iPhone 16 Pro Max will include a super telephoto camera, giving the smartphone camera significantly increased optical zoom.

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A super-telephoto lens, like the iPhone 16 Pro Max could feature, would allow iPhone owners to photograph distant objects while maintaining focus and image quality. The telephoto lens is also preferred to create images with blurred backgrounds, which could enhance the iPhone's Portrait feature.

A traditional 300mm lens is typically long and heavy, used by animal photographers and sports reporters, not one that you'd carry around in your pocket attached to your iPhone. But the idea is not that far-fetched; the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra features a 230mm focal length for its telephoto lens, and the Pixel 7 Pro has a 120mm focal length. 

Currently, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro models feature a telephoto lens with a 77mm focal length. The iPhone 16 Pro Max would boast a 300mm focal length, which sounds incredible to add to the back of a smartphone. 

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If Apple can get a 300mm focal length on the iPhone 16 camera, it'd be the first smartphone with a super telephoto lens, a designation reserved for zoom lenses with a focal length of 300mm and over. 

You may wonder if Apple can build it, why not do it this year? Apple seems to be taking steps towards adding the super telephoto lens to its flagship smartphone's camera systems by making some necessary improvements. 

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Reportedly, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which should be released later this year, will feature a periscope lens. The system, already in use by the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, allows for larger optical zoom without needing a thicker smartphone. 

A periscope system lets the light enter the camera and reflects it through a prism or mirror set at an angle. It then travels horizontally through the lenses before reaching the sensor. The engineering team can position the camera system sideways or horizontally inside the smartphone. 

Presumably, iPhones would have an intricate periscope lens system built in a way that adds little to no thickness to the smartphone. This could work wonders for that amateur bird photographer or those shots of a full moon that you can never quite capture well enough with your phone camera. 

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