I saw this today: enter image description here

It's not the first time I see it, but I wonder what this is about. Why do they have three big what I assume are camera lenses? And what's the two smaller "spots" in the same area?

Are they for making some kind of "3D" view or what? If so, why three lenses instead of two?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This is in the marketing materials for the phone. The manufacturer damn well wants you to know why something so visible and odd is there. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 0:36

1 Answer 1


The answer depends on what phone this is exactly but here is my best guess for each spot:

  • The three big lenses are to provide different focal lengths.

  • The white spot is an LED for flash.

  • The smaller dark spot is possible the LiDAR.

The LiDAR would indeed help with 3d scanning and providing your phone with the data needed for augmented reality.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Additional info: When analog (film) photography was prevalent, SLR cameras had detachable lenses & each type of lens offered various focal lengths. Smart phones need to be compact, they are not equipped to handle detachable lenses, so they have to have a number of lenses to provide photography for different focal lengths. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 4:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Cameras still have detachable lenses today, and in fact, a good lens can cost orders of magnitude more than the camera. The most expensive telephoto lens in regular retail is the Leica 1600mm f/5.6, which costs a whopping 2 million US\$. The most expensive lens that you can get for normal photography is the Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7 which goes for 23 million US\$ (and change); it was specifically designed for taking photographs on the dark side of the Moon, only 10 were ever made, and you can only rent them, not buy them. Less extreme, a good telephoto lens can go for thousands of US$. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 8:42
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    $\begingroup$ If this is indeed an iPhone 12 pro/pro max (the only ones with LIDAR so the alternative is a clone of some kind) you are not quite right. The small black spot is the LIDAR sensor and the tree big lenses are wide, telephoto, ultra wide going anticlockwise from the top. The lens type is given about halfway down apple.com/uk/iphone-12-pro $\endgroup$
    – Max
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 10:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also while the focal lengths do differ between the lenses the main consumer selling point is normally the differing field of views (the ultra wide) and optical zoom levels (the telephoto) $\endgroup$
    – Max
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 10:55
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ the differing fov is a consequence of different focal lengths combined with similar sized sensors. the optical zoom may be a feature in some phones but is not the reason for this arrangement of multiple lenses. In fact the lack of good optical zoom at this size is why most manufacturers use multiple lenses and sensors. If the optical zoom were easy to build small and cheaply they would choose to do that instead of using more cameras. While this phone does indeed offer some optical zoom this is not very much and multiple lenses and digital zoom are still required for a full range. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 11:11

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