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A Deeper Look at the Cameras on the New iPhone 13

The new iPhone 13 models are here. Let's take a deeper look into the photo and video features of each phone. 

The iPhone comes in four versions this year. The 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max start at $699, $799, $999, and $1,099, respectively. Last year, differentiating the models was difficult all of the phones shared an identical wide angle lens, and the 12 Pro Max was the only phone that had a camera with optical stabilization. Thankfully, Apple has simplified the cameras and features this year and kept things identical for the 13 and 13 Mini, while all of the cameras on the Pro models are bigger and better this year. 

Screens

The quality of each screen seems to be almost identical this year. All of the phones can now display HDR footage, and pixel density is similar throughout the different screen sizes. Although the Pro models can get 200 nits brighter in standard viewing modes, all of the screens are capable of hitting a max 1,200-nit brightness, which appears to point to a purposeful software limitation for the non-Pro models to make the screens in the Pro models appear to be better. 

Pro Motion

This year, the Pro models are equipped with a variable frame rate screen that can max out at 120 Hz to produce smoother animations. I personally am excited about this, but I realize that 99% of iPhone users won't even be able to see the difference versus every other iPhone that maxes out at 60 Hz. 

Ultra Wide Angle 13mm Equivalent

  • New "faster" sensor with better dynamic range
  • f/2.4
  • Fixed focus

Wide Angle 26mm Equivalent

  • f/1.6 (faster than last year)
  • Larger sensor
  • 47% more light-gathering
  • Optical sensor-shift stabilization (only on 12 Pro Max last year)

Ultra-Wide Angle 13mm Equivalent

f/1.8 (faster than last year)

Larger sensor

92% better low-light performance (one stop)

Autofocus (fixed previously)

Macro photography down to 2 cm

Wide Angle 26mm Equivalent

f/1.5 (faster than last year)

Largest sensor ever in an iPhone

2.2X improvement in low light (over two stops)

Telephoto 77mm Equivalent

More length compared to last year's 52mm telephoto

Other specs are unknown

Night Mode

Night mode allows the iPhone to take decent images in incredibly low light. Night Mode will only work on the standard "Wide" camera on the 13 and 13 Mini but will work with all three cameras on the Pro models. 

Cinematic Mode

This mode allows the camera to create a depth map of a scene while shooting video so that you can produce a simulated shallow depth of field and focus racking in post. This feature is available on all four phones, but we are currently unsure of which cameras this feature will work with. It's also important to note that this feature only works in 1080p. If you want to shoot in 4K, Cinematic Mode currently won't work. 

Apple ProRes

Later this year the Pro models will have the option to shoot video in ProRes. This file format should produce higher-quality footage but will also be much larger in size. If you purchase the base 128 GB iPhone 13 Pro, Apple will limit your ProRes footage to 1080p. 

Conclusion

The iPhone 13 is an incremental upgrade that most users will choose to skip, but the camera improvements, especially on the Pro models, will be tempting for avid photographers. I'm not sure if I'm going to buy the iPhone 13 for myself, but I am going to buy it for a more complete review. 

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6 Comments

Don Althaus's picture

Whether you like their stuff or not, you really have to admire Apple - they are about the only organization that can generate so much press excitement about a product that isn't even available to be put in peoples' hands. A "review" on another website seems to be recommending people upgrade without question. A computer magazine has a story asking which version of the new phone you will (should) buy - they all make the assumption that we are all ready to stand at the doors of the Apple store with baited breath ready to throw money at the clerk who unlocks the doors... the (financial) loyalty of the fan bois is absolutely amazing!

Richard King's picture

So a review of a product, that's really a list of the specifications, that hasn't been used in anger by the photographer

Nir Roitman's picture

.

Jeremy Lusk's picture

From the thumbnail it looks like Lee was up all night reviewing this thing.

Maurice Ramirez's picture

7:15 perfect tl;dr. lol Lee.

Burt Johnson's picture

You say you are not upgrading. From which current iPhone? I have an 11 Pro, and on the fence about going to a 13 Pro, or just waiting another year for 14 Pro...