For all of the iPhone 13’s new features, it’s the camera that’s the star of the show

The new cameras on the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro are more camera than most people will ever need

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Image credit: Apple)

This week’s Apple event unveiled new models for the iPad, Apple Watch and iPhone, with improvements across the board. We saw a new A15 Bionic processor, larger batteries and a range of useful advanced features for everything from exercise to filmmaking.

There was one area however, where the new features were pronounced across (almost) all models and that was in the camera units. With exception of the Apple Watch, each new model sported a new camera design, furthering their abilities to provide better video calling, photography and movie making.

The most advanced new camera units were once again on the iPhone Pro models, particularly on the new iPhone 13 Pro Max, but thanks to an element of drip down technology, all models have benefited from upgrades.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)

So, let’s start with the best. The iPhone 13 Pro features three brand new camera units on the rear and a new TrueDepth camera system on the front that’s 20% smaller. On the rear the three sapphire crystal lenses include a new 77mm equivalent telephoto lens, offering a 3x zoom, an ultra-wide lens with an f/1.8 aperture and a wide lens with an f/1.5 aperture and a 1.9um pixel size.

The wide lens is Apple’s largest sensor to date – the previous wide lens on the iPhone 12 Pro Max featured a 1.7um pixel size, which is around a 12% increase in size. At a guess, this would mean it’s using a 1/1.7in sensor rather than the previous 1/2in model. The aperture is also wider, allowing more light to reach it, so this should be even better in low light.

The 77mm telephoto features on both the Pro and Pro Max models, while the iPhone 12 Pro used a 52mm on the 12 Pro and a 65mm on the Pro Max. While this new lens does have as wide an aperture, the extra length could be even better for portraits.

The final lens is the ultra-wide. This seems to offer the same 120-degree field of view as the previous model but once again, with a wider aperture to allow more light in. This lens also provides macro photography, allowing you to capture subjects at really close range – down to just 2cm from the lens.

The 6x optical zoom quoted is a little misleading, as it is a 3x zooming in and a 2x zooming out but does demonstrate that this is a greater range than the 12 Pro offered.

Apple iPhone 13

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini feature a new dual camera system, powered by the A15 Bionic chip. As on previous models, this includes a wide and an ultra-wide but not a telephoto lens. The wide lens appears to be very similar to the one featured on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, as it features the same 1.7um pixel size and f/2.4 aperture. It also comes with the same sensor shift technology that the iPhone 12 Pro Max used for a steadier shot.

The new ultra-wide camera is not the same as the one on the new iPhone 13 Pro but again bares similarities to that on the iPhone 12 Pro range. This is a new unit though, so while it shares the same f/2.4 aperture and 120-degree field of view, the results should look even better.

Apple iPad 9th gen

(Image credit: Apple)

Finally, it would be unfair to talk about the new cameras without mentioning the new iPads. The new 9th generation iPad and 6th generation iPad mini both feature new ultra-wide 12MP front cameras with 122-degree field of view. With this wider lens, they also both now support Center Stage, which allows the camera to track you to keep you centered in the shot during video calls. This originally only featured on the iPad Pro models, so it’s nice to see it featured in these more affordable models.

These camera features can be easily lost among the specs but when you really examine them, it’s clear these are a huge step forward. It’s the reason why I can’t wait to try out these new devices, and why I’m even less likely to use my DSLR in the year ahead.

Mat Gallagher
Mat Gallagher

As T3's Managing Editor in the US, Mat is a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, cars, music or travel. Originally from the UK, he has written about technology since 2003 and is now based in Chicago.