Question re optical vs. digital zoom on different iPhones

So…I have an iPhone 12 Pro with a 2X Zoom. I am thinking of getting a new iPhone Pro this year — which I assume will have at least a 3X Zoom.

My question is this: Suppose I decide to take a picture at 2X Zoom. On the iPhone 12 Pro, I would be doing this with Optical Zoom. But on the iPhone 14, I presume I would now be doing this as a Digital Zoom photo. True? And, if so, will the picture quality be worse on the iPhone 14 than on the iPhone 12? Will I be able to easily notice the difference?

The iPhone 13 Pro has 3x optical zoom, and I would imagine the 14 Pro will have at least the same.

I’d say not really. The iPhone camera system can use information from all three lenses to construct a photo. More than likely a 2x photos would be mostly a cropped photo from the 3x lens, but it might also gain light and color information from the 1x lens. It may depend on light conditions as well.

Also see for example this thread: iPhone 13 Pro digital zoom

But we’ll know a lot more next week. The camera may be completely different for the 14.

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Wow. I just read the article you linked. That exactly answers my question and is what I was hoping would be the case. Impressively done, Apple!

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This means I have to shift my whole thinking on Zoom photography on the iPhone.

My traditional thought was: Always take a photo with an Optical Zoom setting. If you later decide you want to enlarge the photo, you can do so via editing software on your device (iPhone or Mac). If you instead use Digital Zoom on the camera, you will end up with the same result. But, with the former method, you will at least have a top quality optical Zoom photo as a base.

The info in the thread you linked turns that thinking upside down. It’s now clear that Digital Zoom produces much better results than a matching cropped Optical Zoom photo. So…for critical photos where I plan to zoom in, I will now likely take two shots: one with Optical Zoom (just to be safe) and one with the desired Digital Zoom. Eventually, I may come to rely just on the Digital Zoom.

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Yeah, I really need to write this up as a full TidBITS article, since my thinking was exactly along yours in terms of preferring cropping an original instead of using digital zoom. I suspect that may have been true years ago when it was just pixels, but computational photography has completely changed the game.