iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro cameras — these are the biggest changes

iPhone 15 Pro cameras close up
(Image credit: Future)

Update: Check out our iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max hands-on reviews for our first impressions of these new phones.

The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro's cameras are key to these phone's appeal, and there have been quite a few improvements since last year to learn about.

Even the basic iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus have received meaningful upgrades thanks to Apple adding a 48MP camera that can shoot in higher resolution and offer lossless digital zoom. Meanwhile, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max have had their 48MP main cameras overhauled too, with the Pro Max also gaining a new more powerful telephoto camera as well.

For now, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is second place in our best camera phones, with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra sitting in the No. 1 spot. Apple's no doubt keen to recapture the crown, so let's see if the iPhone 15 camera specs stand a chance at making an Apple device the top pick again.

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro cameras: iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus

For the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, the big new feature is the 48MP main camera. With a wider aperture and a higher default resolution of 24MP, you should get brighter, more colorful and more detailed images compared to the iPhone 14.

Apple iPhone 15 held in the hand.

(Image credit: Future)

The extra pixels also mean you can take photos at up to 2x zoom without losing detail like you would from zooming in on other phones without telephoto cameras.

Meanwhile, the ultrawide camera and selfie camera remain the familiar 12MP units from the iPhone 14 line. But Apple touted improvements to low-light images and HDR color capture for the whole camera system, so these should still perform better than previous iPhones.

Portrait mode has been overhauled too. The Camera app now automatically applies Portrait mode if it detects a suitable subject, similar to how earlier iPhones automatically apply macro or night modes. Even if you don't use portrait mode when taking the shot, you're able to enable it after the fact in the Photos app, or adjust the focus to completely change the look of your photo if you didn't get it right the first time.

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro cameras: iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max inherit the 48MP main camera from the iPhone 14 Pro. It's a different sensor from the one the iPhone 15/15 Plus use, and can shoot not only in 24MP but also in 48MP, either in ProRAW or in HEIF. The iPhone 14 Pro had to use ProRAW in order to use all of its available pixels, so it's good that Apple's now added a more compact format for users who want to save on storage space.

The default mode for the main camera is a 24mm lens equivalent according to Apple, making it good for taking shots with a lot of depth. But if you prefer your camera more zoomed-in by default, for instance for taking portrait-style images you can also set a 28mm or 35mm equivalent that lets you concentrate the image on a particular subject.

iPhone 15 Pro Max cameras

(Image credit: Future)

The telephoto cameras differ between the two Pros. On the iPhone 15 Pro, you have a 12MP camera with 3x optical zoom, whereas on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it's a 12MP sensor with a 5x optical zoom.

As with the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, the ultrawide camera and selfie camera on the Pro models aren't any different from last year, but benefit from Apple's software improvements.

On the video side, the iPhone 15 Pro models can now shoot at up to 4K ProRes video at 60fps, and it can record this directly onto an external drive connected to the iPhone 15 Pro's USB-C port, making it much simpler to capture large video files without filling your iPhone storage to the brim. For the real pros, there's also options for LOG encoding, the system used to set video color during editing.

While it's not going to be available at launch, the iPhone 15 Pro will be able to record spatial video for watching on the Apple Vision Pro headset. This is a 3D video format that'll prove a boon to anyone who splashes out on not only a new iPhone now, but a Vision Pro when it goes up for sale next year.

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro cameras: Outlook

iPhone 15 Pro cameras

(Image credit: Future)

There are several reasons to be excited about the iPhone 15 series' camera upgrades, from the basic iPhone 15 all the way up to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and both in terms of software and hardware.

Whether it's enough for Apple to retake the top spot on the best cameras guide is another matter. The iPhone 15 Pro Max stands the best chance with its new 5x telephoto camera on top of all of Apple's other upgrades, but the competition, in the form of the Galaxy S23 Ultra and incoming Google Pixel 8 Pro, is tough. We will be putting all these phones through detailed comparisons to see which is best soon enough.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.