iPhone 16 Pro Max tipped for major camera upgrades — what you need to know

iPhone 15 Pro Max shown in hand
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Mobile photography has always been a big part of the iPhone, but it could play an even more outsized role with this fall's iPhone 16 Pro Max, based on new leaks hinting at potential camera upgrades.

As with the iPhone 15 Pro Max that shipped last fall, look for Apple to once again turn to a 48MP sensor for the iPhone 16 Pro Max's main camera, serial leaker and Weibo user Digital Chat Station says. But the leaker also claims that the image sensor size is increasing from 1/1.28 inches to a 1/1.14-inch option. The move would improve performance with background blur and low-light capture.

Digital Chat Station's camera claims were spotted by MacRumors, and they include the leaker's claim that the iPhone 16 Pro Max would be an "image flagship," with a particular focus on camera features.

Besides the larger sensor in the iPhone 16 Pro Max,. the leaker says this fall's premium phone is going to include a 14-bit Analog-to-Digital Converter to improve the camera’s ability to handle data conversion, along with a Digital Gain Control to handle image noise and dynamic range more effectively, according to the report.

Rumors have been swirling for months that say Apple is working on major camera improvements for this year’s iPhone 16 Pro models. One of those rumors says Apple will bundle the tetraprism telephoto lens available solely in the iPhone 15 Pro Max in the standard iPhone 16 Pro. The company could also upgrade the iPhone 16 Pro’s ultrawide lens to a 48MP sensor after using a 12MP sensor for years.

Like Digital Chat Station, other rumormongers have also said Apple is planning to bundle Sony’s IMX903 sensor in this year’s Pro models and would offer a new sensor size to improve the camera’s quality.

Indeed, most reports on Apple’s plans for the iPhone 16 Pro models say the company will focus most of its efforts on improving the handset’s cameras. But there have also been reports that while Apple will make some other design tweaks to the iPhone 16 Pro. Both the Pro and Pro Max are expected to feature larger screens,. for example.

Cameras are one of the critical areas on mobile devices as phone makers vie to offer the best camera phone to consumers. Samsung — Apple's biggest competitor in the smartphone space — just released the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which counts bigger pixels and a retooled telephoto lens among its improvements. The Samsung phone's AI driven features also include some geared toward photo editing.

Apple could be planning some AI moves of its own this year via the iOS 18 update. A number of reports say that Apple plans to make AI features a big part of this year's iPhone software, which could include generative AI to help with image editng.

Trying to determine exactly what the notoriously secretive Apple has planned is a fraught endeavor, considering the company is loath to reveal any details about its future plans and will often make last-minute decisions on whether to keep or scrap features in its handsets. But at least in the camera space, Digital Chat Station has a notably strong track record in predicting Apple’s next steps. It’s realistic, therefore, that what Digital Chat Station says may in fact be accurate.

We’ll find out for sure when Apple unveils the iPhone 16 Pro this fall. Until then, expect many more rumors, including those from Digital Chat Station, to keep cropping up as we inch closer to launch.

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Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.