Mobile Photography

A Photographer's POV on the iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple's recent Wonderlust event debuted the iPhone 15 in four different flavors. The biggest, most expensive model, the Pro Max has many useful features for pro and enthusiast photographers. Let's take a look.

The 5X Telephoto Camera


No doubt that Apple had to increase the reach of its flagship phone. Competitors already have telephotos in the 10X range.

Personally, I'm OK with the 5X version on the Pro Max. Its 120mm focal length at f/2.8 provides plenty of magnification for iPhone photography. Since I am a pro, if I need more, I'm going to use an interchangeable lens camera.

This is a new feature that I've been waiting for. My current iPhone 12 Pro Max doesn't have enough reach, so the new telephoto is definitely a check in the plus column.

Presets for Different Focal Lengths


Maybe because I've used prime lenses for so many years, I do think in terms of focal lengths, especially for my starting position when I initially frame a scene.

My iPhone 12 starts at the wide end, 26mm, which is a bit too much for me. With the iPhone 15, I can start at 35mm focal length that's far more comfortable.

USB 3 vs USB 2


Not all USB-C ports transfer at the same speed. So yes, we're getting the new I/O on the iPhone 15. But the A17 Pro chip, which is only in the two Pro models, supports USB 3 when using a compatible USB cable. The non-pro models will still be at USB 2.

This can make a noticeable difference, especially if you're going to do things like tether the iPhone to Capture One Pro, which you can now do with the new model.

Speaking of under the hood, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max will have 8 GBs of RAM compared to 6 GBs in the standard models.

All of this, plus faster processing and better battery life - Gotta love the A17 Pro.

The Action Button


Personally, I would have added to Action Button to all four iPhone models, but as it turns out, we only get it on the Pros. And I think it's a big deal.

I know about the other tricks for quickly enabling the camera, such as setting up two taps on the back. But none of these will work as well or be as convenient as the Action Button.

Long press and you're in camera mode. Done. Plus, you can program it to enable other features too.

Rolling It All Up


iPhone photographers already know about the other great features, such as automatic iCloud backup, beautiful portraits, and excellent low-light performance. Add what's new with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and we have a camera that we can depend on to augment our interchangeable lens model.

Apple is taking orders now. I'm going to trade in my iPhone 12 Pro Max (for $450!) and buy the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Illustrations complements of Apple from the Wonderlust event.

It's become more difficult than ever for spectators to bring decent camera gear into pro arenas. The one device that doesn't raise any eyebrows is our smartphone. But is it worth the effort to try to capture sports action with an iPhone?

Well, that depends.

Sharks-Pressure-1024.jpeg San Jose Sharks match captured with an iPhone 12 Pro Max. Photos by Derrick Story.

The iPhone does a great job for certain kinds of shots, such as wider overviews, crowd activity, and portraits of friends and family in attendance.

But if you want those pro-caliber action shots, it can't compete with a top-drawer DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. That said, you can come away with some memorable images.

Get the Best Seats Possible

Honestly, the closer the better when it comes to capturing action with a mobile device. The minute you have to start pinch-zooming for a decent composition, the photo game is over. But, if you can frame a decent shot with the 2.5X optical camera on the iPhone, you have half a chance.

Good Lighting Is Important

Bright, well-lit arenas allow for faster shutter speeds (to freeze the action) and for lower ISOs (to help control image noise). Many professional hockey and basketball venues have very good lighting. You can take advantage of this to squeeze a bit more image quality out of your smartphone camera.

Burst Mode Increases Your Odds

Anticipating when something is going to happen and recording a short burst of frames might yield that magic moment. The iPhone allows you to keep the best frame in a series and delete the others. I highly advise taking advantage of this feature.

Sharks-Entry-1024.jpeg I love the mood of this image, but the lighting and motion presented problems for the iPhone. Wish I had my OM-1 mirrorless for this one.

Realize that Some Shots Just Won't Meet Your Expectations

There are often great moments when the lights go down and something special happens. Go ahead and try. But realize that the iPhone is challenged by moving object in dim lighting. You may luck out, but don't count on it.

Final Thoughts

When I don't have my regular camera rig with me, I get the most that I can out of the iPhone. My hit rate goes way down for sporting events, but even if I get one or two mementos from the event, I feel it's worth the effort.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.