In a few hours I pick up my new iPhone 15 Pro Max, this is a quick post on what makes a good iPhone for photography and why I think my new phone is quite the upgrade, even from an iPhone 13 Pro, which still holds its own. I already covered more about the specs here.
Firstly I didn't want the biggest model phone, I haven't had an iPhone Pro Max before but the best camera system this year was only on the Max and the 5x zoom was persuasive, even if it's not the biggest zoom range, it's still a big deal. I have used the telephoto a lot recently on my iPhone 13 Pro, it's great for getting closer to wildlife, and for street and architecture photography.
The weight saving of the titanium frame and the first-hand reports, that it does make a difference and the overall improved handling of the iPhone 15 Pro Max was also important, I probably wouldn't have gone for the supersized iPhone otherwise. Finally, the UK (EU too) pricing was significant, with a sizeable price reduction, making this option slightly more practical.
The 24MP main camera is a big draw in itself, which is also on the standard models, not since the iPhone 6s (2015!), have we had an improved image resolution, which is enabled by default. You can easily lose 2-3MP just cropping/straightening an image, so 24MP gives you a lot to play with without losing quality. This isn't a simple crop of the main sensor, from The Verge review:
According to Apple, photos from the native 24mm focal length and the 28mm settings follow the same process (or “pipeline,” as Apple likes to call it), going through the typical Deep Fusion process on a series of 12-megapixel frames and borrowing detail information from a full 48-megapixel frame captured immediately afterward. A custom neural network is used to piece it all together and produce a final 24-megapixel image.
All of this with zero shutter lag, so it's performant and the file sizes are manageable, which is a good trade-off. While the standard iPhone 15 Pro models also have the 24MP main camera, they perform differently, according to Daring Fireball:
In my brief testing, the 1× hardware lens on the iPhone 15 models is noticeably inferior (or, if you prefer, less pro) to that on the Pro models, including last year’s iPhone 14 Pro. Shooting side-by-side in the same lighting, images from the iPhone 15 look flatter and lack vibrancy and contrast compared to those from the iPhone 15 (or 14) Pro.
We also get different focal lengths on the Pros, as alluded to in The Verge quote, which I don't know yet if that will be useful for me but it's a nice option, there is the standard 24mm (1.0×), 28mm (1.2x) and 35mm (1.5). Here is how the 35mm option is constructed, also from The Verge:
The 35mm setting has a slightly different process, owing to the fact that a 35mm crop happens to occupy the center 24 megapixels of the sensor. So rather than referring to a full 48-megapixel frame for detail, it’s able to put together a final 24-megapixel image with 1:1 detail from those center pixels.
You just tap the 1x option in Camera to switch between these, you can also turn these extra focal lengths off or set one, as the default in settings. This is super useful that you keep 24MP with these different focal lengths, from DF - "You can “zoom” to any focal length between 1–2× and you’ll still get a 24MP image".
The 2x zoom, even on the non-Pro models, is great too, it's probably a more useful middle zoom than 3x that can be too close sometimes, but it does mean anything in-between this and 5x will be digital zoom and the quality will reflect this.
The option for 48MP HEIF images is going to be great, this also comes to last year's Pro models, I noticed reports of people using a shortcut to convert 48MP ProRAW into HEIFs, which seemed a bit of a faff, so to have this built-in is a nice bonus.
So overall, I think the iPhone 15 Pro Max, along with the upgraded 8GB RAM, the Action button, which incidentally can be used to quickly open the Camera, and take a photo too (which you can already do with the volume buttons), USB-C (finally!) and the A17 Pro powering it all, is a great package, that I can't wait to try out.