Apple's iPhone 15 Pro Max: The Science Behind the 5x Zoom

Apples Jon McCormack explains why the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a 5x optical zoom instead of 10x, citing superior stabilization and better low-light performance.

In a conversation with Nicolas Lellouche of Numerama, Jon McCormack, Apple's VP of camera software engineering, shed light on why the iPhone 15 Pro Max opted for a 5x optical zoom in contrast to Samsung's Galaxy S23 Ultra, which boasts a 10x zoom. This discussion, originally in French, is summarized below through computer translation.

McCormack highlighted that Apple's Telephoto lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max incorporates the most advanced camera stabilization system to date. This system combines optical image stabilization with a 3D sensor-shift module for autofocus. He emphasized that the 5x zoom lens on the iPhone is exceptionally well-stabilized, surpassing the usability of a 10x zoom lens.

"The 5x zoom is something that we can stabilize incredibly well," McCormack stated. "If you look at the 10x zoom, unless you have the steadiest hands in the world or a tripod, it's really difficult to use."

Maxime Veron, Apple's senior director of iPhone product marketing, who also participated in the interview, added that the iPhone 15 Pro Max's 5x lens boasts an impressive ƒ/2.8 aperture, ensuring excellent light management. In contrast, the Galaxy S23 Ultra's 10x lens features a less favorable ƒ/4.9 aperture. A wider aperture allows for greater light intake by the camera sensor, which proves especially advantageous for Night mode photography.

It's important to note that the 5x optical zoom is an exclusive feature of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, while the iPhone 15 Pro remains limited to a 3x optical zoom. There are rumors circulating that Apple intends to extend the tetraprism lens system to both iPhone 16 Pro models in the coming year.

For an in-depth exploration of the latest camera innovations across all iPhone 15 models, McCormack and Veron delve into further details in the Numerama interview. These devices are set to launch this Friday.

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