The iPhone 15 Pro Max isn't getting a new main camera… What gives?

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Render
(Image credit: 4RMD)

All the rumors were pointing to a new primary camera for the iPhone 15 Pro Max – and perhaps a new zoom, too – but now it sounds like there might not be such a big change from the IMX803 48MP module in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.

With its launch coming in just a few months, the iPhone 15 rumors have been coming thick and fast. This latest claim has been reported by generally reliable rumor site GSMarena, but represents a bit of a backward step from the previously expected Sony IMX903 1-inch sensor. If it does come along, the potential advantages are true 12-bit Dolby Vision HDR recording, so we were pretty excited.

• When we first heard the rumor, we talked about why a 1-inch sensor isn't actually 1-inch (or even close)

It also seems that the same M12 display panel will make its way into the iPhone 15 Pro Max, according to the source, Revegus, powered by a 3nm A17 Bionic. That, at least on paper, sounds like an improvement – the iPhone 14 Pro has 4nm A16 Bionic processors, so that's something!

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The iPhone 14 Pro's main camera sensor is a Quad Bayer array of 48MP, though both the wide and 3x tele cameras are 12MP. Arguably the improved optical image stabilization was the main improvement – not the resolution – when the 14 Pro arrived, but a lot of people were excited by the bigger pixel count.

A 1-inch (in so far as that dimension is true) sensor has been used before in a phone: the Sony IMX989 in the Xiaomi 13 Ultra. But the rumor mill suggests that the IMX903, which we might not now see, was expected to cost the manufacturer twice the amount.

Another phone rumor source, Ice Universe, told followers that the iPhone 15 Pro would use about 90% of the area of the IMX903, as Sony had with its Xperia Pro-I

On the other hand, rumors still point to a potentially much better optical zoom (5x or 6x has been suggested). That would necessitate mechanical re-arrangement inside the case, including a so-called periscope lens design (no, nothing pops out). 

On a personal note, every year I tell myself I won't upgrade my iPhone and go through the heart-wrenching process of auctioning the old one and praying it won't get stolen by a porch pirate. This year I really might not have a reason to give Apple a pile of my hard-earned.

Of course, there is another hypothesis that has been discussed. An iPhone Ultra, presumably with a similar price differential to the Watch Ultra, which is nearly twice the price of a standard Apple Watch. Look too at the price differential between the iPad Air and iPad Pro. Apple is not shy of wildly more expensive products, so if you're looking for a higher-spec camera don't give up hope – just temper your expectations.

One option would be to check out other phones in our best camera phones list, and since much of what people are looking for in a high-end device is quality video for filmmaking and vlogging, perhaps check our list of best vlogging cameras instead.

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Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook