There was one camera that would revolutionize camera photography until it was discontinued last year by Apple and a little earlier by Google.
Even before ultra-wide cameras became a staple of smartphone photography, Apple bet the house on a new camera feature in 2016: portrait mode! Attempts at portrait mode, which blur the background and only keep your subject in focus, have been made before, but no company has done it at Apple’s scale and dedication.
It wasn’t just a side note: it was the main new camera feature of the iPhone 7 Plus, and to make it all possible, Apple introduced a new camera lens: the 2X zoom. It was just the natural move, no one in the photography world would use a wide angle lens to shoot a portrait (at least not often). Back on the iPhone 7 Plus, a 2X lens came on top of a 28mm main lens, so the 2X came in at 56mm, close enough.
Not long after, the iPhone X switched to a wider 26mm 1X lens, so the 2X lens also got wider to 52mm. Apple stuck to that until last year. And Google, plus a few others, also joined the 2X zoom party.
A surprising realization
Are you telling me that most of my favorite photos were taken with a camera that will no longer be available in 2022?
And here I want to tell you about my little photographic journey. I try to back up my photos neatly in albums on Google Photos to preserve those memorable moments, and as I scrolled through my old photos, I kept finding that the most memorable photos I took were those of someone special, or were a friend or relative. Interestingly, most of them had one thing in common: they were: seldom captured with the main or ultra wide angle cameras! Instead, many of my all-time favorite photos were taken with one lens in particular: the 2X zoom!
Realizing this was a revelation to me! I took a look and flip through a few albums from previous trips where I used phones that didn’t have 2X zoom and remarked, well… if it was a group of friends, photos with the 1X main camera looked good, but for those pictures of one person… well, those looked kinda bad!
Can’t you just use the 1X lens and crop? And what about 3X?
You could, but the broad perspective distortion problem isn’t going anywhere
A 1X camera is great for landscapes, of course, but shooting one person will distort the face and make people look disproportionate and… just not at their best. And who wants to share pictures of themselves or loved ones who looked bad in the past!
As you probably know, most newer iPhones and Galaxy phones come with a slightly longer, 3x zoom. It’s not far from a 2X lens for people photos, mainly because it doesn’t distort either. However, I find it a bit too long-winded.
A longer zoom range works great for pets, but if you’re shooting people, you’ll need to step back quite a bit to even get your subject in the frame! And forget about trying on a group of people with a 3X lens! And when you’re so far away from your subject, you almost have to yell at the person you’re taking a picture of!
None of these problems are present with the 2X zoom, which comes down to about 50mm photographically. You may have heard of the term “nifty fifty” lens used by photographers to refer fondly to their 50mm lenses. There’s a reason this term exists and there’s a reason a 50mm lens is the staple of all camera systems out there: it’s just super versatile! And some people also argue that a 50mm field of view is closest to the way we humans see the world.
Ultimately, this is my plea to tech companies to bring back the 2X lens. It’s an absolutely essential tool in a mobile photographer’s kit, but it’s not the only one. In the next article I’ll tell you what I think the perfect smartphone camera kit would be, but in the meantime let me know what about the 2X zoom? And if you’ve taken some old photos with it, check it out and let me know if you like this 2X zoom look, which also got you some great shots!