Caveat: if you have an older iPhone 11 or last year’s iPhone 12 and you don’t shoot much video, you can skip the upgrade. But if you take even the occasional photo and wish you could get closer to the action, the iPhone 13 Pro is worth considering.
The selling points for the new phones start with the improved camera features. There’s also the usual: more powerful processing chip, longer lasting battery and more liberal internal storage.
Here’s why I’m excited:
Cinematic Video. The marquee feature of the 13 series, from the entry-level $699 Mini and $799 iPhone 13, to the $999 13 Pro and $1,099 13 Pro Max, is a whole new look to iPhone video that removes the “everything in focus all the time,” flat cellphone video look.
You know that blurring of the background effect that’s so popular in Portrait Mode? Now it will be available on video, bringing more pro-level quality to iPhone recordings, which was already great. With Portrait mode like adjustable focus to iPhone videos, the clips will look like they do in the movies, with the lead subject in focus while the background is not. Best of all, the focus can be re-adjusted after the fact, like the blur effect in Portrait Mode. This is a big deal and something I can’t do on my big Sony.
77 mm Zoom: The “Portrait” lens on the Pro models expands from 65mm in the 12 Pro to 77mm, giving us a much stronger telephoto, getting us closer to the action.
Since, like many photographers, my go-to lens for my Sony A7III is 24-70mm, I’ve now got the holy grail of zooms on a little phone in my pocket. (Sidenote: I shoot most portraits on my 70-200mm zoom at the 100mm+ mark, so the phone lens still has a ways to go.) And granted, an iPhone 12-77mm will never be as sharp as my $2,100 Sony G master lens, but what a treat to have it on my walk around camera, which is the one that fits into my pocket. (Equal time: I heard from several photographers who welcome the extra zoom on the iPhone, but note that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a more longer zoom, with the equivalent of a 200mm+ throw.)
Macro: Again, this feature is only on the Pro models, allowing us to get ultra ultra close, to capture objects as close as 2 centimeters from the phone. That’s a close-up!
Aside from that, the new phones look pretty identical. Except for a smaller notch on the front and a redesigned look to the camera lenses. That’s 2 on the entry level iPhone 13 and Mini editions, and 3 for the Pro and Max versions. And the 4 new models all start with a way more generous 128 GB of storage, which is important. You shoot a lot of high-resolution photos and videos, download a lot of apps and such, and you’ll need as much storage as you can get. Remember just a few years ago when new phones had just 16 GB?
The Big Question?
So if you have an iPhone 12 Pro Max do you need to ditch it for the new models? I would for the video, telephoto and macro, but that’s me. I think it’s a pretty easy decision. I use the iPhone professionally, for shooting my Photowalks travel photography series, and believe me, the pro looking “Cinematic” focus will really be handy, as will the expanded telephoto and macro.
(Of course, let’s see how it all works out when we get the phones for review.)
One of the great things about new iPhones is seeing older phones getting their prices lowered. The 12 is now $100 off at $699, while the geekier 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max models, the ones with better cameras, have been discontinued. So if you have an older phone and its upgrade time, you really have no choice but to go forward with a 13 Pro.
iPhone 13 Mini: $699
iPhone 13: $799
iPhone 13 Pro: $999
iPhone 13 Pro Max: $1,099
The older iPhone 12 at $699 is actually $749 once you upgrade the storage to 128 GB (which you’ll want) so at that rate, why not spend the extra $50 and get the newer iPhone 13 model?
Photography focused folks are looking at $1K for the Pro, others may be happy with 2 camera lenses instead of 3.
And if you don’t feel like upgrading at all, but want great new photo features for your iPhone, check out my recent post on what’s new for the iOS 15 operating system upgrade for photographers. These features are free to all. The software update will be available on 9/20.
The new iPhones begin pre-order Friday at 5 a.m. PT, and will be in stores on Sept. 24.
Apple also introduced two new iPads. The entry-level $329 iPad has a more powerful chip and better camera, the iPad Mini gets a bigger screen and a $100 price boost to $499.
Questions? Shoot away.