If you’ve tried zooming in with your iPhone’s camera to capture something in the distance, you’ve surely noticed how the image quality quickly decreases. That’s because it uses digital zoom, which simply expands what your camera sees rather than manipulating the light entering the lens to focus on distant subjects, like optical zoom does.
Apple may be working to solve that.
When you think of telephoto lenses, you may imagine extremely long lenses photographers use at sporting events to capture subjects from long distances. They’re especially useful for photographers shooting dangerous situations or animals, where coming closer than 100 feet from the danger itself is a bad idea.
They can be surprisingly compact, too, but fitting such a lens into a smartphone seems implausible, unless you’re Apple.
Rumours emerged last November that the iPhone 6/6 Plus’s successors (possibly called the iPhone 6s) could have a dual-lens system to produce DSLR-quality photography. Indeed, a telephoto lens in addition to the iPhone’s usual wider angle lenses would offer iPhone users the kind of options DSLR photographers enjoy, like switching lenses for different situations.
Apple could use zoomable lenses, which offer more versatility as they can focus in on closer subjects as well as distant ones. But for that to happen, a greater distance between the lens and your camera’s sensor is required (focal length), which means the lens would need to be physically extended, otherwise known as optical zoom. But we doubt that Apple will want to incorporate the kind of bulk an effective zoomable telephoto lens mechanism would require to future iPhones.
That’s why a separate, second dedicated telephoto lens could make more sense, thus lending credibility to rumours that your next iPhone could have two rear-facing camera lenses.
The new lens could technically be telephotographic as it may include the special lens arrangement called a “telephoto group” that differentiates regular lenses from telephoto lenses. But it’s unlikely that it will achieve anywhere near as much zoom as conventional telephoto lenses. Still, it beats zooming in digitally with your iPhone’s current camera, which isn’t really designed to zoom in at all.