Finally some zoom in smartphones

I know the iPhone 7 Plus isn’t the first phone to offer a lens that’s longer than the standard smartphone wide angle. It’s not even the first phone to have 2 cameras on it. But it’s the first time we have more of a telephoto lens in a mainstream camera, and it’s optical zoom made easy.

As mentioned in my previous post on making the most of your phone camera, almost all smartphones nowadays have a single, fixed focal length lens in them, and they’re almost all wide angle lenses. Yes, you can zoom, but it’s digital zoom so it always looks terrible.

And phones generally never had optical zoom built in, because that would make it quite a bulky phone (like this phone that tried to do that). It always seemed obvious to me that the way around that was to put more lenses and more sensors on the camera to give you different focal lengths, but this would obviously increase the production costs.

And so we never really saw it. I mean, we saw dual cameras, but not quite a second telephoto lens – usually a lens that aided in creating effects from photos taken by the main lens. But now, with the iPhone 7 Plus, we finally have a simple way to optically zoom in when taking photos.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. This isn’t a proper zoom lens – it’s just two lenses with two different focal lengths. There’s no actual physical “zooming”, and you can’t optically zoom in further than the second telephoto lens, but this is still so much better than what we have currently.

Now, portraits can actually be shot without distorting the angles of the face. Now shots of that cute animal a bit too far away to be seen on screen might actually be visible. Now, people who don’t know any better can actually “zoom” without destroying the image as much.

I genuinely hope this trend continues. That we see more innovations in the hardware and not just software. That phones pack maybe bigger sensors and more lenses. That I can actually take amazing photos from the device in my pocket.

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