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Periscope Lens – 5-6x optical zoom rumored for iPhone

We’ve heard vague rumors about a so-called ‘periscope lens’ before – as far back as last Summer, in fact – but the latest reports suggest that such a lens will be restricted to Apple’s largest and most expensive iPhones. Not just this year, but in future iterations too.

For the past few years, Apple has released four variants of each iPhone. For example, currently, you can buy an iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, or iPhone 14 Pro Max. The two Pro models typically get extra features and capabilities that the regular models don’t – fair enough when they cost a fair chunk more. Not everybody needs the top-of-the-line.

The Pro and Pro Max versions of iPhone have traditionally been as similar as possible, meaning users can choose their preferred size without concern for missing out on other features. Exceptions to this rule have been minor: typically the Max will have a slightly bigger battery, and in the past it has been first to get new features like optical image stabilization. Rarely are these things dealbreakers.

But this year, that could change with the introduction of a 5-6x optical zoom that’s exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro Max. It seems likely that only the Max is physically large enough to support a periscope camera system, which cleverly bends the image sensor in a way that can absorb more light without requiring added depth.

That means that we may never see the technology make its way to a smaller handset – bad news for customers who want the best camera but dislike larger phones.

Current iPhone models don’t offer anything higher than 3x optical zoom, but competing smartphones from Samsung etc have included periscope lenses for a while, some of them offering as much as 10x optical zoom.

It will be interesting to see how close these analyst reports are when Apple reveals the next iPhones in September. Our money’s on a 6x zoom, with the 3x option remaining as a button in the Camera app but utilizing the same lens.