Apple iPhones have a reputation for having great cameras. For much of their history, they were among the best, in fact. It started with the iPhone 4 in 2010 (the cameras on the original, 3G and 3GS were more like an afterthought). We already covered this in a Flashback, so we won’t go that far today. Instead, we’ll be looking at the last 10 generations of iPhones starting in 2012 with the iPhone 5.
If you scan the graphs below, you’ll see that there’s not much progress on the resolution front. The iPhone 4 had a 5MP camera, the 4s went to 8MP which stuck around for a bit and it has since gone up to 12MP. This includes telephoto lenses and ultra-wide cameras, which started to appear later. Nowadays, even the front camera is 12MP.
Of course, there are rumors that this is the year Apple will finally embrace the high-resolution sensors that have taken over most Android cameras – 48MP for Pro models, allegedly, while vanilla phones s will probably still stick to 12MP. The Series 14 can also bring autofocus for the selfie camera (until now, all front cameras on iPhones had fixed focus).
iPhones Plus or Pro usually get the best camera hardware (the Pro Max in particular)
Going back to resolution for a moment, Apple’s A-series chipsets are super powerful, but so far no iPhone has offered 8K video resolution. It’s a limitation of the sensors, 12MP is not enough pixels for that.
As for the division between the base model and the Plus/Pro models, that was said immediately. The iPhone 6 series was the first generation to split into vanilla and Plus models and the Plus had optical image stabilization (OIS), unlike the vanilla. This also remained the case for the 6s/6s Plus generation.
Such features take a year or two after their introduction to reach basic phones. The iPhone 7 was the first to have OIS, for example. In 2020, Apple introduced sensor lag stabilization, which was exclusive to the iPhone 12 Pro Max. This technology was later adopted by all iPhone 13 models. Note that the pros, however, have larger sensors and brighter apertures.
With that in mind, it’s not strange that the rumored 48MP sensor is exclusive to the Pro duo. In fact, it’s standard for Apple. The vanilla models never offered a telephoto lens and that might not change this year either.