The race to the top in mobile photography never stops. Every year, companies introduce innovations aimed at providing users with the best possible image quality. One of the features that is often a point of comparison is optical zoom. While Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra has opted for a 10x optical zoom, Apple has decided to give the iPhone 15 Pro Max a 5x zoom. The reason? Two top Apple executives explain it.
First reason: stabilization
In a recent interview with Numerama (via MacRumors), Jon McCormack, Apple’s Vice President of Camera Software Engineering, delved into the topic. According to McCormack, the decision to set the zoom at 5x on the iPhone 15 Pro Max wasn’t random. It’s a choice based on usability and image quality.
“The 5x zoom is something we can stabilize incredibly well,” McCormack said. On the other hand, he argues that a 10x zoom, like the one on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, is challenging to use unless the user has “the steadiest hands in the world or a tripod.”
Certainly, stabilizing the image is crucial when it comes to zoom photography. An unstabilized image at this zoom level can result in blurry or low-quality photos with even the slightest movement. In this regard, by keeping the zoom at 5x, Apple ensures that we can obtain clear and sharp images, even in situations where it’s not possible to keep the phone completely still.
Second reason: the aperture
There’s another important factor that Apple highlights: aperture. Maxime Veron, Senior Director of iPhone Product Marketing, mentioned that the 5x lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max has an aperture of ƒ/2.8. In photographic terms, this means the lens can capture more light compared to its predecessors and other phones on the market.
This is especially useful in low-light conditions or for nighttime mode photos. In comparison, the 10x lens on the Galaxy S23 Ultra has an aperture of ƒ/4.9, which limits the amount of light entering, especially in less favorable conditions.
As with many other decisions, Apple has once again demonstrated that their approach is not simply about competing in terms of numbers but about providing an optimal user experience. The 5x zoom, combined with excellent stabilization and light management, is a testament to this quality and usability-focused approach. From what we’ve seen, it allows the iPhone 15 Pro Max to capture truly stunning photos.