iPhone 14 Pro Could Be a Big Letdown – Here’s Why…

The lack of a telephoto upgrade may cause me to pass on the iPhone 14 Pro.

A 48-megapixel camera and the abolition of the infamous display notch are two rumored standout features for the iPhone 14 Pro, but I have a feeling Apple’s next flagship phone will disappoint me.

That’s not just because it’ll almost certainly be a phone that leans toward evolution rather than revolution in terms of next-gen tech and design, but for a much more specific reason. That is, there have been no notable improvements to the telephoto camera.

Now, it’s important to note that all of this is based on the slew of iPhone 14 rumors we’ve heard so far. Apple, being Apple, hasn’t even hinted that a next-generation iPhone is in the works, let alone revealed any camera specifications. However, the rumor mill spews out enough information to give phone watchers like myself a good idea of what the iPhone 14 Pro might have in terms of features and specs.

An A16 Bionic chipset and improved selfie camera have been added to the rumors, but no word on an improved telephoto camera. So it appears that Apple will stick with the iPhone 13 Pro’s 12MP 3x optical zoom telephoto camera. If that’s the case, I’ll be disappointed.

I’ve been smitten with Apple’s phone since switching from Android to my iPhone 13 Pro. Its consistent experience easily outweighs the slightly dull feature set, and I find that the trio of rear cameras produce photos that are on par with, if not better than, those of my other favorite phone, the Google Pixel 6 Pro.

However, I’ve been using the telephoto camera a lot more recently, and it’s left me a little disappointed.

Zoom and gloom

I’m fortunate to live in an area of East London with some nice outdoor spaces, including ponds teeming with waterfowl, foxes, and various rodents. These critters have me reaching for my nearest camera, which is usually my iPhone 13 Pro. Even though I move lightly for a big guy, I still need to rely on zoom photography to get some good close-ups of the city’s nature.

I was trying to photograph a heron recently while doing my bargain-basement David Attenborough-ing. To get a decently detailed shot of what can be a shy bird, I needed to use a zoom lens.

“Unfortunately, the telephoto iPhone 13 Pro’s 3x zoom didn’t get me close enough; switching to digital zoom got me the range, but the resulting shots looked more like water paintings than sharp photos. This was made even more frustrating when the heron suddenly dove into a clump of nearby reeds and emerged carrying a squealing rat.”

The heron then proceeded to drown the rat in a nearby pond, in a captivating but mildly harrowing display of nature adapting to an urban ecosystem. Following that, it swallowed the rat in a series of jerky movements.

Naturally, I wanted to capture this heinous scene on video. But, as much as I believe the iPhone 13 Pro is the best camera phone for video, the lack of optical zoom beyond 3x meant I had to rely on digital zooming, which produced a less-than-crisp result, as shown below.

When the Pixel 6 Pro offers 4x optical zoom and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra offers 10x optical zoom, I believe the iPhone 13 Pro is falling behind; this appears to be the case with the iPhone 14 Pro.

Don’t get me wrong: the iPhone 13 Pro’s telephoto camera produces excellent results, but it sometimes lacks the range that the Pixel 6 Pro’s telephoto can provide, let alone the zooming capabilities of the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

To be sure, Apple could use image signal processing and the rumored A16 Bionic to give the iPhone 14 Pro a telephoto boost. But, in the absence of new hardware and a larger optical zoom, I expect the iPhone 14 Pro to disappoint on that front.

Periscope please

In an ideal world, Apple would include a periscope camera in the iPhone 14 Pro. This is a technique in which the camera’s sensor is mounted sideways and prisms are used to direct light from the lens onto it, allowing for more and larger lenses and thus powerful photo magnification without increasing device thickness. However, this was only hinted at briefly for the iPhone 14 range before being shot down; we currently expect a periscope camera in the iPhone 15 Pro Max another year down the road.

This is disappointing, because such zooming power would almost certainly give the iPhone 14 Pro enough scope to compete with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, as well as make it better for video work — at least the type of videos I like to capture. And it’s not like periscope cameras are anything new; the Oppo Find X2 Pro from 2020 had a rather good 5x optical zoom, which I’m not sure why was dropped in subsequent Find Pro phones.

Apple has long praised the photography and video capabilities of its iPhones, and rightly so, as they have consistently impressed generation after generation. However, the photography performance of main and ultrawide cameras is now so good that it’s difficult to notice significant differences between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 ranges, let alone stand head and shoulders above the best Android phones.

As a result, I believe Apple could do the most work and potentially pave the way for others to follow, particularly if it nails zoomed-in video capture. And I sincerely hope that this becomes a focal point for future Cupertino phones. Otherwise, my current iPhone allegiance may come to an end.

iPhone 14 Pro Could Be a Big Letdown – Here’s Why…

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