2x zoom on the iPhone 7 Plus does not always mean you're using the new telephoto lens

Here's the deal about the Apple iPhone 7 Plus: it's the first and only mainstream phone to offer a secondary, telephoto lens in addition to the regular wide-angle lens used on every phone out there, and this fact alone gives it a great versatility, as it allows you to zoom in on objects without losing much in terms of sharpness.

There is one thing to know about this secondary camera, though: it's not always used when you select the 2x zoom setting on your iPhone.

To understand why, let's first dial in the basics: the 7 Plus has a 28mm wide-angle lens with f/1.8 aperture, while secondary rear-facing lens is a 56mm one with f/2.8 aperture. That difference in aperture means that the regular, wide-angle lens can open much wider and capture a lot more light, while the f/2.8 telephoto lens has narrower aperture and can't quite match it in terms of the amount of light it captures.

So this is the reason why in very low light, the iPhone 7 Plus tends to automatically use digital zoom on the wide-angle lens. Digital zoom basically means that it crops the picture from the wide lens and it comes with lower sharpness and a degradation in quality, but that's something that Apple has decided is better than a much darker and possibly useless image from the telephoto lens.

Additionally, the telephoto lens is not able to zoom as close as the wide-angle one, so for macro shots of around 10mm, changing the zoom also would use digital zoom rather than switch to the telephoto lens. And this is just another interesting detail for photo enthusiasts that have taken up the iPhone 7 Plus.

Related phones

iPhone 7 Plus
  • Display 5.5" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A10 Fusion, Quad-core, 2340 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 2900 mAh(21h 3G talk time)



1. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

"it's the first and only mainstream phone to offer a secondary, telephoto lens in addition to the regular wide-angle lens used on every phone out there" the first? lol... already forget about G5?? G5 have 28mm and 18mm equivalent so it have 1.5x optical zoom (optical zoom? lol..)

4. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Nice catch, but as you know, Apple invented the telephoto lens and was the first to add it to their phone because they did it somewhere within the timeline making it retroactively true.

26. qxavierus

Posts: 51; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

How dumb Apple can be to put two separate sensors, just to have a zoom. Instead of inventing some clever optical zoom mechanism, they just decided to ditch the headphone jack, to make room for another sensor. What's next? - ditching the ear speaker to make room for yet another sensor. After all, we can use the phone as a Walkie-talkie and still make a decent conversation. Why would you want more from a phone... meh..

6. binyameen

Posts: 43; Member since: Aug 25, 2011

Does G5 have f/1.8 aperture?

18. taz_chaz

Posts: 135; Member since: Aug 29, 2014

lg g4 had f.1.8, lg g5 got f1.8 16 MP (f/1.8) + 8 MP (f/2.4)

32. iushnt

Posts: 3105; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

Do some homework

7. sarcastic_nerd unregistered

28mm is a pretty standard lens with no zoom at all. And switching to the 18 mm lens does zooming out, not zooming in. And yes, the iPhone is the only phone with the telephoto lens. The G5 has a wide angle lens, the opposite of that. Conclusion: 1. G5 is the first phone to have a wide angle primary lens( not the only because the V20 has it too). 2. 7 plus is the first and only phone to have a telephoto lens. They are the exact opposites. the 1.5x optical zoom isn't a zoom because even after it, you get a standard image, not a zoomed one. And vice versa.

10. JK7844

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 20, 2016

56mm is not a telephoto lens. And iphone's just toggling between two prime lenses so you are missing 29mm-55mm range. You call that a zoom?

13. sarcastic_nerd unregistered

Yes, I would still call it a zoom.

21. JK7844

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 20, 2016

Thanks for the info. Now I can carry 24mm and 50mm prime lens and say I'm carrying a zoom lens.

23. sarcastic_nerd unregistered

It's not a zoom lens. But switching from 24 to 50 mm will give you a 2.1x zoom.

16. Martin_Cooper

Posts: 1774; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

Yes its a zoom, it gives you sharper images at 2X than any other phone with their software zoom. Proven by countless comparisons. And yes it can be called telephoto IN THE MOBILE phones world.

20. JK7844

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 20, 2016

What does mobile phone world have anything to do with telephoto? 56mm is pretty much what our eyes see. Nothing telephoto about it. Also I think Nokia Lumia 1020 will give sharper image with its software zoom.

24. Subie

Posts: 2363; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

If the 56mm is in comparison to full format, then yes it's pretty much what our eyes see. Apple then is employing a lens thats just 2x from their standard lens(which is 28mm). Because of it's 40mp sensor the Lumia 1020 will have a photo with higher resolution even when cropped. But that in no way guarantees that the quality or sharpness will be just as good.

25. JK7844

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 20, 2016

On top of 41mp, L1020 also has 1/1.5 sensor compared to 1/3.6 on iphone. That's more than 4 times the size.

27. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I read what you said. I am more confused now than what PA tried to explain. Please explain how the camera on the Lg is not also telephoto? I am only asking to clarify. You're saying telephoto vs Wide Angle. Correct? But does LG's wide angle lends not have a Zoom feature? Again I am trying to understand the difference. I'm not trolling you. I am asking about something I don't know.

17. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1324; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Have you forgotten that once Apple does it, it automatically becomes the first to do it regardless of how long any other company had been doing it?

2. LetsBeHonest

Posts: 1548; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

So basically (and obviously) it is not true optical zoom but an artificial one achieved by combining two cameras and lens (wider and narrower aperture)? Better something than nothing... Good job Apple. Waiting for a 'proper' camera review and comparison.

5. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

No, not basically that. It is "basically" using one camera or the other, it never combines anything and won't until maybe they release their bokeh effect.

12. LetsBeHonest

Posts: 1548; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

Ohh I see... Thanks for the info...:)

8. Eraman

Posts: 162; Member since: Dec 13, 2015

Disappointing photos

11. Hoggington

Posts: 356; Member since: Feb 23, 2016

The ones above, are not great pics, due to mostly the person taking them and subject matter. There are however plenty of amazing pics shot with the 7's. And this is coming from an Android guy :) I just saw this a few days ago. Guy did a camera review in Rwanda. Pretty good stuff here. Check it out. http://austinmann.com/trek/iphone-7-camera-review-rwanda The time lapses are pretty impressive as well.

29. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Yes they look great. But is the phone being used at default settings. Also, if you have the phone, can you confirm what settings are now available on the camera app? I guess I have to go see one at the store when I go to T-mobile tomorrow.

9. JK7844

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 20, 2016

Why are they marketing 56mm as a telephoto lens? Sounds like standard lens to me.

14. sissy246

Posts: 7111; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

They are nice, but no better then the s7/edge. Dual lens are gimmicks to me and I hope Samsung never does it. Plus they just look ugly.

15. twens

Posts: 1175; Member since: Feb 25, 2012

Hehehehe! Isn't it strange that with all the hype the iPhone camera still sucks and this is coming from a 6s plus user. All the honest reviews on YouTube clearly shows the iPhones camera still falls short compared to its main rival. So there's no point bragging about zoom here. I don't even zoom in on pictures and I don't think there are many people who do either.

19. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1324; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Considering that 97% of pics taken with phones the subject matter is 20' or less zoom is mostly useless. Simpler and easier to just take a few steps forward. The vast majority of pics are selfies and food. How hard is it to move your hand a few inches?

22. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Hahaha, iPhonearena really trying hard to hype this garbage camera of the 7+. That telephoto lense is a useless gimmick, look how badly it performs in the real world compared to the competition ( https://youtu.be/seSJvwF68-0 ). Sadly, they used that garbage as excuse for removing the headphone jack...

30. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I love SuperSAF. I was impressed with the 2nd lens on the LG G5. The wide angle shot was awesome. But roughly very similar to useing the S6/Note 5's 16MP shotter. I was certainly looking forward to seeing what the 2nd lens on the iPhne would do. Why doesn't both lens have OIS? How much you bet the next model does, so people upgrade. I liek that you can zoom in, but the zoomed in picture was terrible. If they combine both shots to get a single better image, that may have been great. But that telephoto picture is less colorful, very noisy and just yuck. When he walked and ran that lens was bouncing like a ball. PA dis post an article that said both Apple and Samsung were working on Dual cameras. Qualcomm is working on making a chip that will make using such better. Maybe Samsung is waiting for that. I can say Appel did improve the camera on the iPhone 7. It is betetr than the 6/6S. But it is still not as good as the Galaxy even with the same amount of pixels. The dual pixels with the faster focus is still king. The iPhone still over-saturates white light. Yes the background was lighter and whiter, but it was unnatural. In a dark or dimly lite room, a wall that is white will appear grey in tone. Sure the white looks better, but its not natural. Overall the new camera still doesn't beat the Galaxy in bright light or low light over all and that telephoto lens looks terrible in this video at least. Apple needs to offer what Samsung offers with its cameras. Since the default settings of the iPhone is terrible, they need ot open up the settings and offer pro mode or something. Ever other phone I have ever used on Android has setting you can change. With Apple you can't change nothing. That needs to change. Even real cameras not on phones allow for customized settinsg because you cant expect your camera to be exactly liek yoru eye an compensate for low light or brightness on equal terms. You're eyes will alwayys do betetr glasses or not. The iPhone is terrible at photos for yet another model. The Galaxy S2 was the last terrible camera Samsung had. The S3 was very good. The S4 was very very good and ever since the S5, Samsung has not been beat on cameras by anyone. Its amazing how both Apple and Samsung source the sensors from Sony and yet Samsung does better. I guess having a bigger camera bump means Samsung adds far better optics and also has better photo processing. I guess having 8 cores where you can divide the tasks really helps somewhere and more RAM too.

33. vliang86

Posts: 337; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

S7 edge still takes better photos in low light than iPhone 7 Plus....sigh...coming from an owner of both phones.

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