Apple iPhone 13 and 13 Pro series review: These are peak iPhones

By Kenny Yeo - 3 Oct 2021


Dolby Vision & Cinematic Mode

Last year’s highlight feature was support for Dolby Vision, an HDR format that’s superior to the common HDR10 because light data is encoded for every frame. This means more realistic and life-like HDR videos. And while it is true that some Android phones now support HDR10+, iPhones are the only phones that are capable of recording in full 4K at 60fps with all of their cameras. 

Take a look at the sample videos below taken with an iPhone 13 Pro Max. Visuals are crisp and the colours are sharp and vibrant. Colour management as the video transitions from the shaded walkway and into the open is as commendable as ever. The sensor-shift image stabilisation also seems to be a little more effective. Last year's iPhones were also criticised for their lens flare issues and they seem to be a little less obtrusive this year. But we need more time with these phones in the evenings and nights to be certain of that.

The big new feature for videography this year is Cinematic Mode which brings depth-of-field effect to videos. It’s a technique that directors and cinematographers use to draw viewers’ attention to certain elements in the film. Apple’s demo video below is a little exaggerated but it’s a showcase of what Cinematic Mode does.

What’s most amazing about Cinematic Mode is how easy it is to use. Select the mode in the camera app and the phone automatically detects subjects in the frame. Tap to change focus. Even more amazing is that you can change the subject that’s in focus in post-production and even the amount of bokeh. This is made possible by the A15 Bionic’s processing prowess. When Cinematic Mode is enabled, the phone is analysing and recognising subjects and records multiple scenes and frames. That said, when recording in Cinematic Mode, the output is limited to 1080p and at 30fps which is immediately noticeable if you typically shoot in 4K like I do. I'm also not convinced it's doing a good job at focusing on subjects. I'll need more time to be sure. In the meantime, check out my demo video.


ProRes Video

Only 256GB and above capacity versions of the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max will be able take ProRes videos.

Video professionals will also be happy to know that the new iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max will be the first iPhones capable of recording in ProRes video. Though this feature is not available at launch, Apple says it will be available later this year. In this mode, they can shoot up to 4K 30fps. However, that’s only for Pro iPhones with at least 256GB storage. The 128GB versions of the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are capped at 1080p at 30fps. Presumably, it's because ProRes videos take up considerably more storage than even 4K videos recorded in Dolby Vision.

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