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iPhone and Pixel killed this lens, but it has to come back for the phone’s perfect camera setup

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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 keep only 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, joined the 2X zoom party too.

A surprising realization

You’re 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 neatly back up my photos to albums on Google Photos to preserve those memorable moments, and as I flipped through my old photos, I kept finding that the most memorable photos I took were those of a special someone, or 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, a lot of my all-time favorite photos were taken with one lens in particular: the 2X zoom!

Realizing that this was a revelation for me! I took a look and flipped through a few albums from previous trips where I was using phones that didn’t have a 2X zoom and remarked, well… if it was a group of friends, photos with the 1X main camera looked good , but for those single person photos… 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 in single person shots it distorts the face and makes people look disproportionate and… just not 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 have to step back quite a bit to even fit your subject into 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 the closest we can get to the way we humans see the world.

last words

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 following article I’ll tell you what I think the perfect smartphone camera kit would be, but in the meantime let me know think of the 2X zoom lens? And if you’ve taken some old shots with it, check it out and let me know if you like this 2X zoom look that also got you some great shots!

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