iPhone Lenses Explained: Wide, Ultra Wide & Telephoto (2022)

Newer iPhones like the iPhone 13 Pro models have three lenses on the back and a camera on the front. I’ll help you understand the purpose of each one!

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 13 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 13 Pro Max, has a resolution of 2778 x 1284 and 12 Megapixels with 458 pixels per inch.

Typically, on iPhones with multiple lenses, the bottom lens will be the Wide lens. You can learn more about which lens is which on an iPhone 13 in this article. To learn more about your iPhone’s Camera app, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

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

The Ultra Wide lens can be used to "zoom-out" of the frame before taking the photo. 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, and 13.

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

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, and 13 have the Telephoto lens. The iPhone 13 Telephoto lens is the top one, and it has a focal length of 77 mm, ƒ/2.8 aperture, and 3x optical zoom. What's confusing is that 3x zoom doesn't mean that the image will be magnified three times. The magnification depends on the focal length of the lens.

Every iPhone that has a 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, and the iPhone 13 Telephoto lens has a 3x zoom. This is 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. When shopping for a new iPhone, you may be wondering what iPhone has the best camera? At the moment, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has the best resolution and highest zoom. 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.

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Author Details

Olena Kagui's picture

Author Details

Olena Kagui

Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life who lives in Hawaii. With a BA in International Relations from Anglo American University, Olena traveled the world. She has lived in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, China, and the USA. Olena won an excellence award for a controversial article, got a grant to blog from a war-zone, and published a short fictional story. She hopes to publish a full-length novel and continue writing up a storm on her blog The Travel Bug Bite! When she’s not typing or flying, she is loving on animals, crafting bizarre creations, and devouring all-you-can-eat sushi.