This year's iPhone 15 Pro Max sets itself apart from the iPhone 15 Pro thanks in part to it exclusively housing a tetraprism telephoto lens, allowing it to achieve the longest optical zoom range in an iPhone to date at 5x. However, it appears as though next year's iPhone 16 Pro could be adopting it thanks to new detail in a recent Apple supply chain report.
This information was based on reports from the component supplier Lagan and LG Innotek. Both suppliers have seen increased Apple orders for 2024, especially the folded zoom actuators used in the tetaprism design. This information would match prior predictions that the two models would be supplied with the feature.
The original folded zoom components were primarily provided by LG Innotek. However, heavy demand meant there were reported production lags with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The elec reports that Apple had previously approached several suppliers, but supply issues were the reason for the lag in production. It seems they are now using LG Innotek as the primary production source and see them as the more stable option. Hopefully, the prior issues with production will not be repeated with the new phone — resulting in faster shipments.
The question for potential buyers is what all this means. A tetraprism lens works similarly to a periscope: it uses a folded glass structure placed below the main camera lens to allow light to travel farther while in the same space. This allows the camera to have a greater focal range than normal models.
This is exactly what enables the iPhone 15 Pro Max to be unique among Apple's current lineup — having a 5x optical zoom means extra utility. Even though there are phones with a longer optical range, like the Galaxy S23 Ultra's 10x telephoto camera, the iPhone 15 Pro Max benefits from Apple's Photonic Engine to enhance its performance in all lighting conditions.
This magnification does come at a price, however, namely that any movement of the hand is also increased. Apple solved this issue by including optical image stabilization or OIS for short. OIS, combined with a 3D sensor and an autofocus module delivered twice as many micro adjustments as previous models. For instance, the OIS for the iPhone 15 Pro max could move up to 10,000 times per second in multiple planes to counteract the users' movement. This meant photos taken at the 5x zoom were still remarkably sharp and defined.
If the predictions are correct it will mean that the iPhone 16 Pro could have one of the largest focal ranges on the market, which would likely be second to the iPhone 16 Pro Max. There will also likely be an improved version of the OIS included, which could lead to very well-defined images from any distance. We will know more when the iPhone 16 Pro releases next year. These upgrades would certainly make a compelling argument them being some of the best camera phones.
However, it will be interesting to see what the more powerful iPhone 16 Pro Max can do. It will likely be able to create even crisper images with an improved stabilization program, and perhaps a longer 6x telephoto range according to the rumors.