iPhone 15 camera photo and video samples: Galaxy and Pixel should steal Apple’s camera tricks ASAP

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iPhone 15 camera photo and video samples: Galaxy and Pixel should steal Apple’s camera tricks ASAP

Apple’s claims for this year’s iPhone 15 Pro camera system are very pretentious but while the new 5x zoom camera in the iPhone 15 Pro Max will get the majority of the attention, I actually think it might turn out to be one of the smaller upgrades to the iPhone camera this year.

A completely revamped Portrait mode, better Night mode, brand new 24MP photos, 48MP JPEGs that don’t take much space, new focal lengths, a new Action button that lets you launch the camera and use it a physical shutter key, Spatial (3D) videos, upgraded lens coating, etc.

If all of the above doesn’t sound more exciting than “5x optical zoom” to you, it’s perhaps because you don’t quite understand the potential difference the new camera features enabled by software can do for the photo and video quality on iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro.

So, let’s break down the new iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max camera features with sample photos and videos (provided by Apple), and more importantly, let me tell you what I think will be the biggest and smallest iPhone 15 Pro camera upgrades when it comes to real-world use.

You might be surprised…

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Big upgrades to iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro camera mean the iPhone 15 Pro Max's 5x zoom camera might be the last reason to upgrade this year

Without a doubt, all the kerfuffle around the new “magical” zoom camera of the iPhone 15 Pro Max will overshadow any of the other iPhone 15 camera upgrades on social media. That’s why I’ve talked about it in this lengthy iPhone 15 Pro Max camera story.

However, I have a feeling the rest of the camera upgrades introduced with iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will make a much bigger difference in everyday use for 95% of the people who buy a new iPhone 15/iPhone 15 Pro.

What stands out about some of these upgrades is that they have been available on some Android flagship phones for a while now, and while we still don’t know if Apples phone will do it “later but better” (as it usually happens), they seem extremely practical and even more exciting than the switch from a 3x to a 5x zoom camera.

Apple’s brand new Portrait Mode will be the most useful and most used new camera feature on iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro (by far)

With iPhone 15 and iPhon 15 Pro, for the first time, iPhone users can take Portrait mode photos without having to first switch to Portrait mode. When there’s a person, dog, or cat in the frame, or when you tap to focus, iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro will automatically capture depth information, so you can choose to turn your photo into a portrait later in the Photos app.

Meanwhile, in another Android-inspired Portrait mode upgrade, iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro users can also adjust the focus point after the photo has been taken. Sure, Apple might be 4-5 years late with this one but if the demos are anything to go by, this feature should work like magic.

I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of the Portrait mode upgrades coming to all iPhone 15 models. The convenience of not having to think about whether you’re in Portrait mode or not is far greater than many realize. You can open your Camera app, snap a photo of anyone/anything, and later decide if you want the added artistic background blur in your photo or not. You can even adjust the focus point.

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro will now take 24MP photos by default thanks to their 48MP cameras, and this could finally make iPhone photos look more natural

The interesting detail here is that the “pixel-binning” trick isn’t unique to the iPhone - in fact, the opposite is true. Android phones have been taking advantage of this “trick” to take better photos for ages now. However, this means that Apple managed to pull a fast one on everyone (again) by potentially taking the smartphone industry into a new (camera) direction by becoming the first phone-maker ready to leave the 12MP photo standard behind.

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro will now snap 24MP photos by default. Unfortunately, it’s not yet 100% clear how Apple is managing to pull this off. To my understanding, iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro will take one 12MP photo and one 48MP photo and combine them to create a 24MP image that’s detailed and bright at the same time, which sounds awesome but very bizarre (I don’t think we’ve seen this camera trick on any other phone before).

Either way, the benefit of a 24MP photo as opposed to the 12MP ones taken by any other phone should help iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro produce noticeably sharper photos, (hopefully) with much more authentic detail instead of the infamous Apple-style oversharpening that I’ve criticized for years. Without a doubt, this could be one of the most meaningful upgrades to the iPhone camera in many years.

More iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro camera upgrades enabled by software could finally fix major issues with the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera

Apart from the big changes to default photo resolution and Portrait mode, Apple has also added a few more important software and hardware upgrades to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro that could make “all the difference”...

  • 28mm-35mm (1.2x, 1.5x zoom) focal lengths added to main camera - you’ll be able to take more professional-looking photos with your primary camera without losing quality

  • The new Action button in iPhone 15 Pro can be used to launch the Camera app with a single click, and even as a physical shutter key once you’re inside the Camera app

  • The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max now get Spatial video / 3D video capture for viewing on Apple Vision Pro (available later this year); note that the vanilla models don’t get this feature due to their camera layout

  • New lens coating on iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro promises reduced lens flaring, which sounds like a must, considering the ongoing issues with lens flaring in iPhone 14, iPhone 13, iPhone 12, etc.

  • Smart HDR 5 promises to help you take more balance photos in more challenging lighting conditions, like when you’re taking a photo against the sun or a window; Apple also says people’s faces (and skin tones) will now be more accurately represented too - this would be a huge upgrade considering iPhone 14 Pro struggled in this area compared to other phones

  • You can now choose to lock white balance in video mode (from the Camera section in Settings), which should finally help with the iPhone’s inconsistent auto white balance issues in video mode (where the phone would often suddenly turn the scene blue/yellow depending on the light conditions)

  • Apple promises Night mode photos will now be even more detailed and colorful than before but we’ll have to test this out against the iPhone 14 Pro, Pixel 7 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra to find out

  • With iOS 17, you can now take 48MP JPEG photos from the iPhone’s Camera app (available on iPhone 15 and iPhone 14)

Apple’s new iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro camera system looks more powerful than ever but it still lacks the fun “wow factor” of Android cameras

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Finally, to wrap up this super-long introduction to the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max’s camera upgrades, I’ll say that I maintain my theory that the above-mentioned features should make the iPhone’s cameras feel like “new” even though the hardware in the Pro series is very much unchanged compared to last year.

The new camera features in iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro don’t just make the iPhone camera more powerful and versatile but also more fun, which is what the majority of people care about. Now, is the iPhone’s camera as fun as the Pixel’s? Not really. But I guess Apple will eventually get there… Like in five years or so.

iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro still lack some camera features Android phones have had for years

Finally, and because I know many of you will bring this up anyway, I feel obligated to underline that the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro still lack some notable camera upgrades that Android flagship phones have had for a while now:

  • Despite the new 5x zoom camera, the iPhone 15 Pro Max still doesn’t come with multiple zoom cameras (like the Galaxy S23 Ultra) and certainly won’t match the Galaxy in super-long range zoom photos (beyond 10x)

  • In case you didn’t know, the primary camera of the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max is the same one used in the iPhone 14 Pro, which means Apple’s premium flagships are still relatively far from the 1-inch sensor of the best Chinese camera phones on the market; 1-inch sensors offers natural blur in photos and videos that the iPhone can’t quite match

  • Despite the return of Macro mode, the iPhone still lacks a Super-macro camera like the one in the Huawei P60 Pro, which takes some of the most impressive photos ever taken on a phone (give it a Google)

  • By the looks of it, the iPhone 15 series also miss out on “real camera” color science like on the Xiaomi 13 Ultra (Leica) or Oppo Find X6 Pro (Hasselblad), which is disappointing considering the iPhone 14 Pro was prone to oversaturating photos

  • Despite becoming a bit more fun, the iPhone 15’s camera still lacks some software features that make some Android phones more useful and interesting (think: Magic Eraser, Action pan, etc.)

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