This year Apple made Night Mode available for the selfie and ultrawide cameras on the new iPhone 12 series – up until now it was only available for the main camera.
But Apple also announced a new longer 2.5x telephoto camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which many expected would be able to shoot Night Mode shots, despite Apple’s deliberate silence on the matter. Well, it doesn’t.
Just like the iPhone 11 Pro series and the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro Max prefers to digitally zoom to 2.5x from its main camera, than use its true 2.5x imager in the dark.
This isn’t new. In our review of the iPhone 12 Pro, we noted – “The 12MP tele camera sometimes works at night and that depends on the available light. If the luminance goes below some fixed point, the phone uses its primary camera and digitally zooms instead.”
And that stems from the difference between the main camera and the zoom camera – in all cases the main sensor is larger than the sensor behind the zoom lens, so many phones use the larger sensor in lower light. The first dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus would similarly use digital zoom from its main camera, instead of using its zoom camera at night.