iPhone Lenses Explained: Wide, Ultra Wide & Telephoto

What to Know

  • Every iPhone has a Wide lens.
  • Most models after the iPhone 11 have an Ultra Wide lens.
  • Only the Pro models have an iPhone Telephoto lens.

Since the release of the iPhone 11 Pro in September 2019, seeing three lenses on an iPhone has become the norm, at least for the Pro models. In this article, I'll explain why iPhones, iPads, and most Android phones have multiple lenses and what each iPhone 15 lens does.

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    Wide Lens: Every iPhone Has One

    The Wide lens is the standard iPhone lens that has no optical zoom and shows the subject the way you see it with your eyes. Every iPhone that ever existed has had one, but that doesn’t mean that they are all the same. 

    The Original 2007 iPhone's Wide lens had a resolution of 320x480 and 2 Megapixels with a pixel size of 163 pixels per inch. Today's most powerful iPhone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, has a resolution of 2796x1290 and 48 Megapixels with 460 pixels per inch.

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    Typically, on an iPhone with three cameras (or an iPhone with two cameras), the bottom lens will be the Wide lens. If your device only has one lens, you can buy a third-party Telephoto or Macro lens for your iPhone, regardless of its model. To learn more about your iPhone’s Camera app, such as how to crop your photos without losing any of the image quality, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

    Ultra Wide Angle Lens: iPhone SE 2 & SE 3, 11, 12, 13, 14 & 15

    The Ultra Wide lens can be used to "zoom out" of the frame before taking the photo. It is sometimes called a Fisheye lens. If you are backed against a wall and want the camera to show more of what's ahead of you, switch to the Ultra Wide lens. The Ultra Wide lens is also the key to taking great macro mode photos.

    Keep in mind that the image may appear distorted around the edges when you use this lens. This is sometimes called the fisheye effect. You can turn on Lens Correction in your Camera settings to make it look more natural. You can find an Ultra Wide Angle lens, sometimes simply called the wide-angle lens, on the iPhone SE 2, iPhone SE 3, and any model of iPhone 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.

    When you see an iPhone with two lenses, one will be the regular Wide lens, and the other will be the Ultra Wide lens. On an iPhone with three cameras, the Ultra Wide lens is in the middle. What many people don't realize is that even though the wide lens has a 0.5x zoom, you can pinch your fingers to zoom between the range of 0.5 and 1x.

    iPhone Telephoto Lens: Pro Models of iPhone 11, 12, 13, 14 & 15

    What is the Telephoto lens on iPhone? The iPhone zoom lens, officially known as the Telephoto lens, has a higher zoom and can take close-up photos of your subject; it is useful for Portrait mode photos. The Telephoto lens can help you see far-away objects closer without compromising quality. For example, if your subject is a wild animal and you can't get physically closer, you might use the Telephoto lens to make it look closer than it actually is.

    Only the Pro models of the iPhone 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 have the Telephoto lens. The iPhone 15 Telephoto lens is the top one and has a 5x zoom with a focal length of 120 mm, ƒ/2.8 aperture, as well as a 2x zoom that has a focal length of 48 mm, ƒ/1.78 aperture, and a digital zoom of up to 25x. What's confusing is that 5x zoom doesn't mean that the image will be magnified five times. The magnification depends on the focal length of the lens.

    Every iPhone Telephoto lens happens to have a different zoom:

    • The iPhone 11 Telephoto lens has a 2x zoom
    • The iPhone 12 Telephoto lens has a 2.5x zoom
    • The iPhone 13 Telephoto lens has a 3x zoom.
    • The iPhone 14 Telephoto lens has a 2x and a 3x zoom.
    • The iPhone 15 Telephoto lens has a 2x and a 5x zoom.


    The two telephoto zooms on the Pro models of iPhone 14 and 15 are why Portrait mode on these phones has a different zoom amount, so if you upgrade to a newer model, you'll notice that it has a different magnification.

    iPhone is known for having one of the best phone cameras on the market, and that is thanks to the powerful iPhone lenses. When shopping for a new iPhone, you may be wondering which iPhone has the best camera. At the moment, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has the best resolution and highest zoom, but every iPhone with 'zoom lenses' (Pro models with Telephoto lenses) is a wonderful option. Plus, it has LiDAR sensors for better low-light photography. While the newest pro model tends to have the best camera, even older models and the SE take great photos, so it really depends on your individual photography and videography needs. Next, find out how to share your photos with your non-iPhone friends!


    • Can you buy third-party iPhone camera lenses? Yes! Many third-party companies create lenses and other iPhone camera attachments that can be clipped onto your existing lenses. I recommend checking out Sandmarc and Moment lenses in particular. Moment has a great Telephoto lens for iPhone (also called a zoom lens for iPhone or a telescoping lens for iPhone).
    • What is LiDAR? LiDAR sensors accurately measure distances between objects.
    • How does the iPhone Telephoto lens work? The iPhone Telephoto lens lets you "zoom into" or take close-up photos of your subjects or a landscape. The slight protrusion of the lenses is what makes it possible for newer iPhones to have up to 5x digital (and 25x optical) zoom.
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    Author Details

    Olena Kagui's picture

    Author Details

    Olena Kagui

    Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life. In the last 10 years, she has been published in dozens of publications internationally and won an excellence award. Since joining iPhone Life in 2020, she has written how-to articles as well as complex guides about Apple products, software, and apps. Olena grew up using Macs and exploring all the latest tech. Her Maui home is the epitome of an Apple ecosystem, full of compatible smart gear to boot. Olena’s favorite device is the Apple Watch Ultra because it can survive all her adventures and travels, and even her furbabies.