I reckon the single most important feature of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the new "tetraprism" zoom lens, which ups the optical zoom from 3x to 5x and gives you similar results to a 120mm full-frame camera. But unfortunately it isn't in the iPhone 15 Pro, which means customers like me who want the extra zoom power have to buy the larger Pro Max – a great phone, but also a very big one.
If you prefer the smaller of Apple's pro iPhones, the good news is that the lens is coming to next year's Pro. That's according to industry insider Ming-Chi Kuo, who writes on Medium that "Both iPhone 16 Pro Max and the iPhone 16 Pro are expected to feature tetraprism telephoto cameras."
Why doesn't the iPhone 15 Pro have the best zoom lens?
According to multiple reports, there simply wasn't room for it: while the Pro Max may not seem significantly larger than the Pro, when you're talking about optical and electronic components even a relatively small amount of space makes a huge difference to how much tech you can cram in.
However, there may be another explanation: manufacturing issues. Kuo's Medium post talks about "CCM yield issues" for its sole supplier, Largan. CCM stands for compact camera module and yield issues are when there's a bottleneck in production that prevents a manufacturer from making sufficient units of sufficient quality. According to Kuo, Apple has "urgently increased the specifications of the tetraprism lens" to deliver better yields – although he also says that the spec change has also increased the module costs by over 20%, which doesn't bode well for next year's prices.
Whatever the explanation, this year's Pro doesn't have the tetraprism lens so if you want it, you need to go Pro Max. The starting price of that is £200 higher than the £999 of the iPhone 15 Pro, but the most affordable Max does have more storage: 256GB to the Pro's 128GB. That means you're effectively paying £100 more than the equivalent Pro. It's a lot of money, I know, but if you take a lot of photos it may well be worth it.