Almost every iPhone launch has a significant moment – remember 2020 where an aluminium briefcase opened with the James Bond theme in the background to reveal the iPhone 12 Mini? This year it was the clever Knives Out parody that highlighted the standout iPhone camera feature for the year – Cinematic mode. We loved the camera prowess of last year’s iPhone 12 Pro Max: this year’s iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max up the ante. Is this now the mobile shooter to beat and are there any other significant improvements over last year’s 12 Pro siblings. We break it up for you.
First off, the cinematic mode (that automatically transitions focus while filming in real time and thereby shifting focus when subjects enter or leave the frame) is also available on the iPhone 13 Mini and 13. We’ve been testing the iPhone 13 and the 13 Pro Max for a few days now. We’ll save our impressions of the iPhone 13 for another detailed deep-dive (watch this space) and dive right into the 13 Pro Max. The first thing you will notice is the continuation of the gorgeous flat-edge design. It makes this device nicer to grasp. It’s a tad heavier (240 gm vs 228 gm for last year’s 12 Pro Max) but it’s not something I noticed even though the 12 Pro Max has been my daily driver. This year’s new ‘hero’ colour is the cool Sierra Blue that plays out really well in both the Pro versions.
While Apple doesn’t share battery specs, the extra heft and thickness can be attributed to the more robust battery. Apple claims an improved performance of two and a half hours over the 12 Pro Max. Based on our extensive tests with elaborate camera testing and screen time, it’s not an exaggeration. This might not be a huge deal for those taking the leap from a 12 Pro Max who have already experienced a solid battery performance. But if you prefer the form factor of the 13 Pro, you’re likely to see a significant improvement over last year’s 12 Pro in the battery department. The larger battery and the extra screen real estate are the only major differences between this year’s 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max versions. In 2020 Pro Max users got some camera extras (like a 2.5X zoom) but not this year where the camera systems are identical.
Let’s talk camera. This is where the 13 Pro truly shines. The all-new Wide camera has a larger sensor with 1.9 µm pixels, the largest ever on iPhone, for less noise and faster shutter speeds needed across lighting conditions, producing even more detailed photos. The other key highlight is Sensor-shift optical image stabilisation (OIS) that stabilises the sensor instead of the lens. Images are smooth and video is steady, even when you are not. All three rear lenses get night mode; so, whether you’re shooting ultra-wide or on Optical zoom mode you get much better pictures in lowlight. Cinematic mode (that allows you to edit the depth-of-field effect in video even after recording) was not the only thing that we enjoyed.
Apple’s ultra-wide lens has been tweaked to offer macro photography for the first time on an iPhone. Whether you’re shooting flowers or small plates at a tapas bar with micro greens, you’re likely to get extra love on Instagram. Brands like Apple, Samsung and Google’s Pixel devices have taken a different approach to the ‘tone’ of their pictures often sparking debates about which one’s better. Apple puts a lid on this debate with an interesting new camera option – photographic styles. From Rich Contrast to Warm, there are a few styles that you can choose before you snap the image (unlike a post shot filter).
The rear camera might be the big talking point but there’s one enhancement that you’re likely to experience each time you turn your phone on. The new Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion isn’t just one of the key differentiators between this year’s iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 modes but is something that iPhone 12 Pro Max will notice. Add iOS 15 and the buttery smooth iPhone experience gets even more fluidic. It was terrific to try with games like Asphalt 9 in our tests. The 6.7-inch display (1284 x 2778 pixels) supports an adaptive refresh rate from 10Hz to 120Hz, for fast frame rates when you need it and preserving battery life when you don’t. This is the brightest display ever on iPhone with up to 25 per cent higher max outdoor brightness, at 1000 nits.
This ultra-smooth display is backed by new A15 Bionic chip with a new 6-core CPU with two new high-performance cores and four new high-efficiency cores. This new chip makes the iPhone 13 Pro Max one of the most powerful smartphones and impacts everything from gaming to camera performance. But it’s not fast chips or spec sheets that sell iPhones. The Pro Max is really a smartphone lover’s device. We all do but there are those who like to dig deeper. While it may not be a compelling upgrade proposition if you already own an iPhone 12 Pro Max, it’s still the smartphone to beat. And then there’s the rear cam that can add extra wings even to the most amateur photographers amongst us.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes in four colours – Silver, Graphite, Gold and Sierra Blue and starts at Rs 1,29,900.