Apple brings macro, low light and cinema-focused updates to the iPhone 13 Pro camera

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Apple continues its tradition of improving the photography capabilities of consumer devices with today’s announcement of the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro, available on September 24th.

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Last year’s iPhone 12 had two rear camera lenses, while the iPhone 12 Pro had three; The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro follow suit. The iPhone 13 has a wide (f/1.6 aperture) and an ultra wide (f/2.4 aperture) lens, which are the same as the iPhone 12. But the iPhone 13 Pro reveals an entirely new camera system.

Compared to the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 13 Pro improves low-light performance by allowing an aperture as wide as f/1.5 on the main lens, compared to f/1.6 on the previous model. The Ultra Wide lens follows the same trend, with f/1.8 being better than the f/2.4 on the iPhone 12 Pro. These wide apertures should collect more light at deeper settings like bar and concert, hopefully improving image quality. Apple claims the Ultra Wide lens will have “up to 92% improvement in low light,” but… we’ll just have to test it.

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image credit: Apple

Perhaps the most notable lens upgrade is the improvement in the telephoto lens. Although this lens has a smaller aperture than its predecessor (f/2.8 compared to f/2.0), the new telephoto lens is 77mm-equivalent, while the iPhone 12 Pro’s telephoto was 52mm. It allows users to zoom in closer to distant scenes without sacrificing image quality. The telephoto lens now supports Night Mode as well, which was not there earlier.

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Apple also announced Macro Mode, which will be available on the iPhone 13 Pro. The Ultra Wide lens and autofocus system work together to magnify subjects up to 2 centimeters away. These shots are challenging to pull off even on professional, non-phone cameras. Users can record video and even slo-mo at this scale, which should open up some interesting options.

image credit: Apple

Apple also announced Photographic Style and Cinematic Mode, new features available on both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro.

Photographic Styles applies local edits to an image in real time as the photo is rendered, so photographers can compose their shots using one of four presets and see how they look before clicking the shutter button. What will the final product look like? Of course point-and-shoots also have had real-time filters for a decade, but Apple claims that these photographic styles are more technically sophisticated than those, using machine learning to understand why. How to intelligently apply edits without compromising on a subject’s skin tone.

image credit: Apple

Cinematic mode allows users to shoot video, but later alter the background blur and virtual focus of the clip. The feature seems more suited to professional filmmakers – Apple brought in Kathryn Bigelow and Greg Fraser to demonstrate the functionality. Still, Canon and Nikon don’t have to worry — a camera will always have advantages that are a camera, as opposed to a camera that’s a phone — but hey, it’s not like smartphone movies ever did. rocked the academy.

The iPhone 13 will start at $799 (which, for the record, is more expensive than an entry-level DSLR camera and a decent lens). The iPhone 13 Pro — telephoto lens, macro photography and all — starts at $999.

Read more about Apple's Fall 2021 event on TechCrunch

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