We've been waiting some time for the iPhone 15 periscope camera. There have been rumors going all the way back to early 2021 that this was the year we'd get an iPhone zoom camera to significantly boost its photography skills, and the leakers and analysts supposedly in the know believe it's a dead cert for the iPhone 15 Pro Max's expected announcement at the Apple September event.
The periscope camera on the new iPhone is thought to be one of the biggest potential reasons to upgrade, according to an analysis of the rumored changes. That said, the claim that it'll only appear on one out of four iPhone 15 models is a bit of a disappointment, since it would impact on a user's choice when upgrading their phone.
If you're still curious about the iPhone 15 periscope camera, then here's what we've heard up to now.
iPhone 15 Pro Max periscope camera: What is a periscope telephoto camera?
Just like the periscope on a submarine, a periscope camera lens uses a pair of mirrors to reflect an image from the camera's opening to its sensor, which is placed to the side of the opening. The increased distance between the sensor and the opening allows for larger lenses to be fitted, and therefore increased optical zoom power.
Android phones have been using periscope telephoto cameras for some years already, with the most prominent modern example being the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's 10x optical zoom camera.
iPhone 15 Pro Max periscope camera: Which iPhones will get it?
For the iPhone 15 series, we will probably see a periscope telephoto camera on the Pro Max/Ultra model only, something we find quite annoying because of the extra split it introduces between the smaller Pro model and the Pro Max. To make matters worse, this model might be harder to get a hold of than expected because of supply problems with the parts for the camera.
We may not see the smaller Pro iPhone model gain a periscope camera until the iPhone 16, so you may be tempted to skip this year if you prefer your iPhones on the small side. It's also worth noting that this could be the one defining feature that would justify a $100 to $200 price increase to the flagship's bottom line cost.
iPhone 15 Pro Max periscope camera: What will it be able to do?
The rumor mill claims the iPhone 15 Pro Max's periscope zoom camera will be capable of 6x zoom, up from the 3x that the iPhone 14 Pro can manage. But there's a chance it could be capable of an even higher 10x zoom magnification, or be equipped with a variable lens to allow for multiple optical zoom levels.
Whatever lens we end up with, leakers have claimed the periscope camera will feature a hybrid lens, made of glass and plastic, to balance the expense and weight of using all-glass components again the quality that all-glass lenses provide over plastic parts. All other iPhone cameras use plastic lenses, which would make this camera an exciting first in another way.
The new tech will understandably take up more room inside the camera block though, which means Apple will apparently have to move the position of the ultrawide and telephoto camera to make the new sensor fit, as well as increasing the size of the camera bump by 5%.
iPhone 15 Pro Max periscope camera: Outlook
The periscope camera could be the biggest camera upgrade that any of the iPhone 15 models gets, so it's a shame it'll be limited to just the most expensive Pro Max model, if the rumors are fully correct. But it's a long-awaited feature that will let Apple catch up with Android rivals in the best camera phone stakes.
Anyone wanting the periscope camera in a smaller frame should probably wait a year, since there's likely no change to the iPhone 15 Pro's zoom camera, while there's a chance the iPhone 16 will include it.
Meanwhile, anybody hoping to get their hands on the iPhone 15 Pro Max and its new camera this year will have to be ready to fight for it, as it could be in both high demand and low supply. Consider making an iPhone 15 pre-order if you're certain it's the phone for you already.
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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.