The iPhone 13 range is here and, as is customary, brings a big boost to the cameras for both video and photography.
The iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 Pro/Max all bring considerable, if not groundbreaking improvements over their counterparts. Apple says the all-new Pro model camera array is the best its ever made, as you’d expect.
There’s professional, Hollywood-style video modes, better Night Mode photography with some top Pro features from last year also trickling down to the standard and mini editions. Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer when the iPhone 13 lands range goes on sale later this month.
iPhone 13 camera specs
The iPhone 13 and its mini counterpart include a dual 12-megapixel camera with a Wide and Ultra Wide sensor (1.7 µm pixels, ƒ/1.6 aperture) and an Ultra Wide camera (ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view).
The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max phones also offer a trio of 12-megapixel cameras. The telephoto offers ƒ/2.8 aperture, while the Wide camera ƒ/1.5 aperture.
The Ultra-wide camera may be the star of the show this time around with 3x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out and a 6x optical zoom range overall.
As well as bringing a 92 percent improvement for low-light environments, the Ultra-wide camera also powers the new macro mode on the iPhone 13 Pro range, but more on that later. the standard Wide camera promises 2x low light performance compared to the iPhone 12 Pro.
Available on all four new iPhone models, the new Cinematic mode aims to bring an en vogue Hollywood-style filming technique to your iPhone. It’s arguably the headline camera feature on this year’s models, for those interested in videography.
The feature can intelligently adjust focus based upon the depth in the frame. As Apple showed during the iPhone 13 reveal, the system can focus on one subject within the scene and blur the background elsewhere.
If that person shifts their gaze, the focus can intelligently be transferred to that other area, person, pet or object. It’s also possible to lock the focus to follow a face or item around the scene, continually blurring the background.
The feature also can be adjusted in post-production, shifting the focus after the video has been shot using certain pieces of video editing software.
The iPhone 13 Pro range now includes support for macro photography via the Ultra-wide camera. That’s thanks to the autofocus capability (a first for the ultra wide), along with the new lens design and software enhancements. This will enable photographers to capture detailed images from as close as 2cm. Apple says it’ll also work for video, time-lapse and slow motion modes.
Smart HDR 4
Apple’s computational photography skills are getting better in the iPhone 13 range, offering an upgrade on the Smart HDR 3 tech on the iPhone 12.
In the announcement, Apple said colour contrast and lighting are all being boosted this time around, including for multiple subjects in group photos.
Apple says: “Smart HDR 4, now with improved colour, contrast, and lighting for each subject in a group photo, including in challenging conditions, making images more true to life, as well as improved Night mode.”
Night Mode improvements
Speaking of Night Mode, for the first time ever, the low-light tech will be available on all three of the iPhone 13 Pro’s rear cameras. On the iPhone 13 and mini, Smart HDR 4 and Apple’s Deep Vision tech contributes to improved Night Mode photography. Night Mode in Portrait shots courtesy of LiDAR Scanner remains a Pro exclusive feature at this stage.
End-to-end HDR video
Apple says the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max will offer “end-to-end” pro workflows in Dolby Vision HDR. That means you’ll be able to capture, edit, and share the footage in the high dynamic range standard. Dolby Vision HDR video can be captured at 4K/60fps.
Sensor-shift OIS expanded
Sensor‑shift optical image stabilisation debuted on the iPhone 12 Pro Max in 2020, but it’s available on all four iPhone models this time around. Essentially, it means the sensor handles the image stabilisation rather than the lens, as is traditional on smartphones.
Apple explained last year: “Until now, sensor‑shift stabilisation was only on DSLR cameras “This is the first time it’s been adapted for iPhone. Whether you’re shooting video of your kids as you chase them around the park or holding your iPhone out the window on a bumpy road, you’ll get more precise stabilisation than ever.”
ProRes for iPhone 13 Pro
Apple is announcing what it believes to be another groundbreaking feature for smartphone videography. The Pro models get an A15 Bionic-aided feature called ProRes which the company says is only available on iPhone.
It’s “an advanced video codec used widely as the final delivery format for commercials, feature films, and broadcasts, to offer higher colour fidelity and less compression” that creatives using Mac computers will be familiar with.
Users will be able to capture video at 4K/30fps using the ProRes format, which is well suited for Apple’s own Final Cut Pro video editing software for Mac. It’ll be enabled in a future iOS 15 update.