This Year’s iPhone 15 Could Be Getting a Big Camera Upgrade

iPhone single camera lens Credit: Akshar Dave
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It could be a big year for the cameras on Apple’s standard iPhone models, with at least one analyst suggesting we’re in for a significant quality upgrade.

While Apple’s iPhone Pro models have gotten bigger and better cameras every year since the “Pro” line first appeared in 2019, the base models have plodded along with mostly the same specs. The general sense from Apple has been that if smartphone photography is important to you, then you need an iPhone Pro.

That’s not to say that non-pro iPhones haven’t seen any camera improvements year over year; it’s just that these are mostly on a software and image processing level. Each year’s new models, pro and non-pro alike, get most of the same improvements in those areas as these are baked into Apple’s latest A-series chips. New image signal processors offer quality improvements, and new machine learning algorithms introduce more robust night mode photography, color balancing, and new features like the iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode.

In 2021, the iPhone 13 Pro models got a boost to a 3X optical zoom — an increase from 2X of the iPhone 12 Pro and the 2.5X of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, plus a larger aperture and bigger image sensors. By contrast, the iPhone 13 (and iPhone 13 mini) only got the larger image sensors. Those offered a nice improvement in low-light photography, but that model was also the exception.

The only hardware camera change in last year’s iPhone 14 was a slightly wider f/1.5 aperture on the primary lens. While all the iPhone 14 models gained Apple’s new Photonic Engine — an enhanced version of the Deep Fusion technology introduced on the iPhone 11 — this was another computational photography feature that had nothing to do with the camera hardware.

Finally, More Megapixels?

By all reports, the iPhone 15 will be getting the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island this year, but it may not be the only thing that trickles down from last year’s flagship model.

Analyst Jeff Pu of Haitong International Securities is doubling down on a claim he made earlier this year that Apple will bring the 48-megapixel (MP) camera sensor of the iPhone 14 Pro models to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, effectively offering the higher-quality sensor across this year’s entire iPhone lineup.

Of course, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will still have the edge thanks to the third telephoto lens, which will remain exclusive to those models. The iPhone 15 Pro Max may even pull farther ahead, with reports that periscope lens technology will finally arrive to push optical zoom levels higher than ever before.

As with the current 48MP sensor, the iPhone 15 models will continue to take 12MP photos by default, with the extra pixels being used to feed more data into the image signal processor and neural engine, offering better low-light photography and more detailed image quality.

However, while the iPhone 14 Pro models can take full 48MP pictures in ProRAW, that may not be an option for the non-pro models. ProRAW was introduced on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max and remains exclusive to the iPhone Pro models. That’s likely to continue with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max since the primary purpose of the larger sensor is to produce better 12MP images.

Even if Pu’s information is accurate, it seems there’s a chance that Apple could scrap these plans. The analyst warns that Apple is having supply problems getting enough stacked CMOS image sensors for the 48MP camera, which could put the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus behind schedule. If Apple is faced with the possibility of delaying its iPhone 15 release too much, it could choose to scrap plans for the 48MP sensor and postpone it to next year, much like it did three years ago with the 120Hz ProMotion display on the iPhone 12 Pro.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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