It’s high time that all iPhones had zoom cameras

The back of the iPhone 12 shows the camera module.

David Imel / Android Authority

Roger Fingas

Roger Fingas

The rules of photo composition are barely set in stone, but two related rules almost always apply: filling the frame and eliminating dead space. For example, if your subject is a car, that car should dominate the picture unless there is a purpose in its surroundings. All non-functional parts of the frame are “dead” unless they are there on purpose. Then why does Apple seem to treat zoom as a secondary feature of its iPhone and iPad cameras while Samsung gives it priority?

Consider the iPhone 12 range. Both the standard phone and the mini come with dual lenses, but these are wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle components. Their focal lengths are the equivalent of 26mm and 13mm on a full-size DSLR camera, which puts the shooters quite far away from the action. You’ll have to equip yourself for a Pro or Pro Max to add a telephoto lens, and even those iPhones get 2x and 2.5x optical zoom – that’s 52mm and 65mm, both of which are only in the middle range of the DSLR -World lie. We do without the 10x “digital” zoom from Apple, which simply inflates the picture after the 2 / 2.5x mark, whereby things become increasingly pixelated and blurred.

This is in contrast to Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series, which offers at least 3x “hybrid optics” (optical / digital). That’s not much better than an iPhone 12 Pro, but you can get up to 10x optical zoom on the Galaxy S21 Ultra – the equivalent of a full-frame 240mm lens, even better than what photojournalists typically use. It is noteworthy that all of Samsung’s Galaxy S21 phones also offer the full three-pack of cameras: wide-angle, ultra-wide-angle, and zoom. Hell, even the mega-affordable Galaxy S20 FE did it.

If Samsung can offer the Trifecta with all of its flagships, iPhone buyers shouldn’t have to pay extra for Zoom.

Some other Android phone manufacturers are on the same trail. Flagship devices like the OnePlus 9 Pro, for example, often contain a 3.3x telephoto paired with an ultra-wide and a wide main shooter. However, many cheaper Android phones share the wide / ultra-wide combination of the iPhone 12. This is particularly widespread in the budget segment (often with a superfluous third shooter like a macro camera), but also with affordable flagships like the Google Pixel 5 , the Xiaomi Mi 11 and the pro-free OnePlus 9. To be fair, it’s not a useless arrangement. Ultra wide angle lenses are characterized by capturing rooms and large groups, which can be handy for architecture, landscapes, and events like parties. Outside of these applications, however, they make a good composition difficult and can cause perspective distortions towards the edges of the frame. From experience, professionals therefore rarely take portraits with an ultra-wide angle.

See also: The Complete Guide to Ultra-Wide Camera Phones

Telephoto photography has its own limitations, but is almost always more useful – not just for composition purposes, but because people usually have trouble getting closer to a subject rather than further away. When filming a concert, you are likely separating crowds from the stage. When you’re at a wedding, you can only be that close to the altar. A telephoto lens can make all the difference between taking a shot and ending up with nothing of value. These lenses should be standard equipment on iPhones, especially if Samsung is Apple’s neck. More importantly, consumers don’t have to choose.

Why Apple has too little zoom and when it could be fixed

iPhone 12 Pro Max shows the camera module.

David Imel / Android Authority

There are a few reasons Apple might be following its current strategy. The popularity of consumers cannot be ruled out – while a new one Android authority Survey found that the majority of people preferred telephoto photography, 45.81% of readers chose ultra wide angle. Depending on who Apple is listening to, its market research could support a broader focus.

The company is also obsessed with thin and sleek designs, sometimes at the expense of practicality. Modern iPhones already have a camera hump, and an optical zoom beyond 2.5x optical zoom would likely require a larger sensor and periscope lens technology. That, in turn, could force Apple to enlarge the bump or commit the worst of sins (in Apple’s eyes) by making the case noticeably thicker.

Related: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

However, its main motive is probably to minimize component costs. Periscoping lenses are currently more expensive, and even building a thicker body could be seen as an unnecessary increase in costs if buyers tolerate the status quo. So it makes sense to choose an ultra-wide-angle lens as an additional lens for iPads and vanilla iPhones.

With that assumption, it’s unlikely that Apple will be adding telephoto lenses to its standard iPhones anytime soon. It’s even rumored that autofocus is getting to ultra-wide angles on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max before anything is more affordable. If telephoto lenses eventually move up to entry-level iPhones, it will likely be thanks to a combination of market pressures and falling part prices.

If we are critical of Apple here, it is not out of spite. The company has consistently had some of the best smartphone cameras out there for about a decade. It’s just frustrating when a company hinders its own technology or asks customers to pay for something that should be on every device. A triple lens setup should be the norm for phones of this caliber. If Samsung can do this, then there’s no reason Apple can’t too.

Next: The Best Triple Camera Phones – What Are The Options?

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