iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone Plus James Martin/CNET

The iPhone 15 may be just weeks away, and we’ve already seen a host of exciting rumors about Apple’s next phone. From solid-state buttons to USB-C charging, the iPhone 15 series may get a wealth of upgrades. But I’m a professional photographer, so it’s the phones’ camera skills I most care about. 

The iPhone 14 Pro is already one of the most sophisticated camera phones money can buy, with a triple camera setup capable of taking shots you might easily mistake for photos taken on a pro-level camera. 

So what camera upgrades can we expect on the iPhone 15 series? Here’s what the rumors suggest. Keep in mind that all rumors should be taken with a pinch of salt, and we won’t know the details for certain until Apple reveals its next iPhones, presumably in September. 

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New image sensors on the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus

With the base iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, Apple didn’t really change the camera setup all that much compared to the iPhone 13 range. But a report from industry analyst Jeff Pu (via MacRumors) states that the sensors on the iPhone 15 base models will get a big upgrade. New 48-megapixel sensors will replace the 12-megapixel sensors seen on the standard iPhone 14, allowing for improved image quality and better digital zoom. Apple’s Pro models are the only iPhones that currently have 48-megapixel sensors. 

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The iPhone 15 could be a seriously potent camera phone.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

The report also says the phones will use a stacked CMOS sensor technology that can capture more light than previous designs. The more light captured by a sensor, the better images it can produce. It’s interesting to see Apple putting so much new tech inside its base models, rather than forcing keen photographers to opt solely for the Pro models. 

And while these sensors are expected to be physically larger than the base iPhone 14 models, they reportedly won’t be as large as the image sensors found in the iPhone 14 Pro.

iPhone 15 Ultra could get a longer zoom

Apple is also rumored to release an even more expensive version of the iPhone potentially called the iPhone 15 Ultra. Rumors from known Twitter tipster Tech_Reve suggests that this phone would feature a periscope zoom offering optical zoom levels up to 5 or 6x. That would be a huge step up over the 3x optical zoom currently available on the iPhone 14 Pro, and it could help Apple compete with rivals Samsung and Google. 

The Google Pixel 7 Pro features a 5x optical zoom lens, making it one of my favorite cameras found on a phone. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S23 Ultra packs a 10x optical zoom that allows for amazing quality close-up shots. I’d love to see Apple push the boundaries of zoom on its phones. 

an Android phone and an iPhone both flash an Android phone and an iPhone both flash

Samsung’s Galaxy 23 Ultra and the Google Pixel 7 Pro both have awesome zoom lenses.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

The rumors also suggest that this zoom lens may even offer continuous zoom, enabling you to shift smoothly between regular and full zoom views, rather than choosing between 1x or 3x. These systems are rare on phones (the Sony Xperia 1 IV is one of the only phones that uses it) since they require extremely delicate, technical components. 

iPhone 15 Ultra might have the largest image sensor ever in an iPhone

Meanwhile, prolific leakster IceUniverse predicts that the iPhone 15 Ultra (or Pro Max) will use a Sony IMX903 image sensor, which is reportedly 1/1.14 inches in size. That would make it the largest image sensor ever seen in an iPhone.

The bigger a sensor is, the more light it can take in. And remember, more light means better-looking photos. Even the top-of-the-line iPhone 14 Pro’s camera sensor is only 1/1.28 inches, so if true, this sensor would be a big step up. 

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The cameras in the base iPhone 15 models look set to get a big upgrade.

James Martin/CNET

What else to expect from the iPhone 15

We won’t know if an iPhone Ultra truly exists until Apple announces its 2023 iPhone lineup. But otherwise, the iPhone 15 family is expected to get several upgrades. Such changes may include USB-C charging instead of Lightning (thanks largely to new laws in Europe), a new processor (likely to be called the A17 Bionic) and potentially updated titanium chassis. 

Apple is expected to announce its new iPhones in early to mid-September. Apple typically puts its products on sale within the following couple of weeks, but some rumors suggest the company is already facing delays. The Pro Max model may be delayed until October, as reports suggest Sony is struggling to meet demand for its camera sensors, according to an analyst speaking to 9to5Mac.

As a photographer, I’m excited about the potential for the big camera sensor and the longer optical zoom. They’re both features I’ve had on my iPhone wish list for some time, but they’re also rumored features for the iPhone Ultra. And the Ultra may not even be unveiled this year and could instead be held back for a 2024 release, meaning I’ll have to wait longer for the iPhone camera I really want. Either way, I’ll be interested to see how Apple keeps photographers like me happy this September.

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