Everyone’s talking about an iPhone 15 ‘periscope’ camera — but what does that even mean?

If you’ve followed iPhone 15 rumors or are anywhere near the Apple pipeline, you might have read or heard “periscope camera” a few times in reference to the iPhone 15 Pro Max. This feature has been talked about since before the iPhone 14 launched, so we’re confident that it will come true.

Further leaks have solidified this rumor, and it’s one of the many reasons why the iPhone 15 Pro Max is believed to raise in price by $200. But with all of this blabber about the existence of a periscope camera, not many actually understand the technology. What does “periscope camera” even mean and why should you care that it’s coming to iPhone?

What is iPhone 15’s periscope camera?

Rumors focusing on the phrase “periscope lens” are just describing a technology that is meant to act as a selling point. In practical application, this new lens allows the iPhone 15 Pro Max to zoom 6x optically. Previous iPhone models could only perform a 3x optical zoom, which allows for a far greater hardware-based zoom before it turns into a grainy mess thanks to digital.

iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro

Imagine a traditional telephoto lens, the kind that you see attached to professional cameras. When they zoom, you can see the lens physically get longer, causing it to jut out. This cannot be done with smartphones on a large scale, which is why telephoto optical zoom has been limited for years.

Periscope instead utilizes the reflection of light through multiple lens aligned through the phone’s height or width, reflecting light at a right angle at the final step. Imagine the opening of the lens, but instead of it having to jut outwards to zoom further in, each lens is aligned inside the phone across its body and then reflected through a 90-degree prism to go through the lens.

This technology isn’t simple, but have you ever played with one of those toys that looks like a long rod with two openings at the top and bottom? When you look through the bottom hole, you can see clearly through the top hole, which always blew my mind as a kid. That’s exactly what periscope is. Depending on your age, you can probably Google “periscope toy” and immediately understand.

But this technology isn’t all that new. In classic Apple fashion, the company is…