There are several reasons why the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra tops our list of the best camera phones, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max is gunning to retake the top spot — assuming it gets one particular feature. Don’t get me wrong, Apple has been hot on Samsung's trail, as its iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max both turned in strong performances. Despite that, they couldn’t overthrow the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Now that we’re less than a week away from Appel’s ‘Wonderlust’ event, all rumors about the new iPhone 15 lineup will soon give way to reality. And that gives Apple's latest flagship the chance to stake its claim as the top camera around, particularly if it can deliver on one rumored feature — adding a periscope telephoto camera that could match the optical one in the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
The S23 Ultra's superior zoom is the main reason why I often use Samsung’s flagship as a b-roll video camera at professional video shoots. Every phone can produce exceptional photos with their main cameras, but telephoto range is what separates the good from the best.
History proves that more range is better
We’ve done countless camera comparisons with the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, and while the two are more than capable of capturing stunning photos, their 3x telephoto cameras come up short of matching the 10x range that Samsung’s top-of-the-line flagship offers.
Even the aging Galaxy S22 Ultra produced sharper looking images with its 10x telephoto camera against the iPhone 14 Pro in our telephoto shootout. It’s hard to overlook how much of a difference there is between a 3x optical zoom versus one with 10x. Compare the S22 Ultra's shot below to the iPhone 14 Pro's effort.
Galaxy S22 Ultra at 10x
iPhone 14 Pro at 3x
It's no surprise then that the iPhone 15 Pro Max may try to match the zoom capabilities of Samsung's top phone. Rumors hint to the possibility of the upcoming Apple handset gaining a 10x periscope telephoto camera, paired with a larger sensor. The result could be even better images. And while I’m excited for this possibility, other rumors pin its optical range to top out at 6x. I hope Apple comes through and opts to go with a 10x optical zoom.
Post editing flexibility with 8K video recording
Another reason why I’d love for the iPhone 15 Pro Max to gain a 10x periscope telephoto camera is that it would provide me with more utility with shooting video. In addition to getting closer to subjects without physically moving closer to them, a 10x telephoto camera could be leveraged in a way to allow me to crop video using video editing software — or achieving a panning effect.
Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro series are tipped to feature the new A17 Bionic chip, which is based on a new 3-nanometer manufacturing process. Leaked benchmark tests indicate the silicon is a downright beast against its competition, but I’m curious if it’ll unlock the iPhone 15 Pro Max / iPhone 15 Ultra to shoot 8K video.
Currently, the iPhone 14 Pro Max tops out at 4K 60fps, which is handy by today’s standards. By boosting the limit to 8K 30fps, it could provide me with even more leverage with my video editing software. Combining a 10x telephoto camera with 8K video recording means that I can also output video at 4K resolution without much detail loss.
It takes an incredible amount of processing power to record 8K video, but the A17 Bionic chip could have the muscle to make it happen. Interestingly enough, the iPhone 15 Pro Max can also benefit from an additional zoom through the camera app by recording in 1080p — which is essentially what many phone makers refer to as “lossless zoom.”
2TB storage for accommodation
With more resolution comes larger file sizes. It could become outrageous if 8K video recording does become reality for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. That’s probably why Apple’s rumored to offer an obscene 2TB storage option with its iPhone 15 Pro series — the most in an iPhone to date. This makes sense when you think about the amount of data 8K video requires.
Factoring everything I mentioned, it’s no surprise that Apple’s expected to increase the price of its iPhone 15 Pro lineup. Leaks hint to a $100 increase over the iPhone 14 Pro Max price on the low end with perhaps as much as a $200 premium on the high end. Whatever the outcome, I desperately hope there’s a 10x telephoto camera at the very least.
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John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.