These iPhone 15 camera upgrades make it easier to pass on the iPhone 15 Pro

Apple iPhone 15 held in the hand.
(Image credit: Future)

If you're a smartphone photography fan, chances are you've got your eye on iPhone 15 Pro now that iPhone 15 pre-orders have opened. But don't hit the buy button just yet: the iPhone 15 may have more to offer you than you think!

There are of course differences between the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro cameras, but it looks like Apple's changed enough with the iPhone 15 cameras to make stretching your budget to an iPhone 15 Pro less of a necessity if you want good photos.

The upgrade that caught my eye in particular during the Apple Wonderlust event was the addition of a 2x mode for the main camera. Despite what Apple says, this is not a complete replacement for a telephoto camera, but 2x lossless digital zoom is possibly all the average iPhone camera user would need. It's a smart addition that makes the lack of a 3x telephoto camera (or even a 5x telephoto like the iPhone 15 Pro Max) sting less.

Then there’s the 48MP main camera that enables that 2x mode. As well as the new zoom level, it can shoot in 24MP or 48MP just like the iPhone 15 Pro, just in JPEG or HEIF format only, rather than ProRAW. But since that's a format designed more for image editing later rather than quickly sharing with friends or on your socials, most users won't get the full benefit of ProRAW even if they did enable it.

Interestingly, because the iPhone 15's new 48MP camera has a wider aperture than the iPhone 15 Pro's 48MP camera, the cheaper phone may end up producing a brighter, livelier image overall since it can take in more light information. This could be a stretch though; we'll have to wait for the reviews to come in to be sure.

Behind the cameras, the same updated software can be found in the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 15 Pro. That includes the same portrait mode updates that let you adjust the depth and focus of your shots after taking them, plus older features like Photographic Styles, Cinematic mode, Action mode video and night mode shots.

Even the iPhone 15's unupgraded cameras don't fall too far behind the iPhone 15 Pros. The front-facing camera is the same on the standard and Pro iPhone 15s, meaning no selfie quality differences between the two devices. And while the ultrawide camera misses out on the macro mode, and has a slightly smaller aperture, it is still a 12MP sensor capable of taking 0.5x zoom images.

To address the Android-shaped elephant in the room - the iPhone 15's cameras are still a poor value compared to what you can get if you switch to an Android phone. The Samsung Galaxy S23 furnishes users with a 3x periscope camera like the iPhone 15 Pro but for the price of a basic iPhone 15, while the Google Pixel 7, another dual-rear camera phone, costs $200 less than the iPhone 15. If you're set on an iPhone as your next phone, this may not mean much, but it would be remiss of me not to point out the benefits of going to The Other Side.

iPhone 15 pre-orders are already up, so there's a chance you've already put your order in. But if you went for an iPhone 15 Pro, but were reluctant to shell out a whole grand for it, maybe you'll reconsider which phone you want to reserve now you've read this. You can thank me for saving you a couple of hundred bucks, quid (or whatever currency you're paying) later.

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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.