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Apple iPhone 13 Pro Camera review: Outstanding video

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137
camera

The iPhone 13 Pro is the second model from the top in Apple’s 2021 smartphone line-up. The main difference to the top-of-the-line iPhone 13 Pro Max is the smaller 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display (versus 6.7-inch on the Max). However, both models are powered by Apple’s latest A15 Bionic chipset and come with up to 1TB of internal storage. They also share the same camera which has been improved in several areas compared to last year’s iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max models.

The primary camera module features a larger sensor and faster aperture than on the 2020 models. It also uses sensor shift OIS which last year was exclusive to the Pro Max device. The ultra-wide camera comes with a same-size sensor as last year but has gained a faster aperture and and a PDAF autofocus versus the fixed-focus lens on the iPhone 12 series. Sensor size remains unchanged in the tele module but Apple has increased the focal length and the tele now offers a 3x optical magnification compared to the primary cam.

Read on to find out how the all new iPhone 13 Pro camera performed in our DXOMARK Camera tests.

Key camera specifications:

  • Primary: 12 MP sensor, 1.9µm pixels, 26 mm equivalent f/1.5-aperture lens, sensor shift OIS, Dual Pixel AF
  • Ultra-wide: 12MP sensor, 13mm equivalent f/1.8-aperture lens, PDAF, 2cm macro
  • Tele: 12 MP sensor, 77mm equivalent f/2.8-aperture lens, OIS
  • 3D sensor
  • 4K at 24/25/30/60 fps, 1080p at 25/30/60 fps, HDR video recording with Dolby Vision
  • Cinematic mode for recording videos with shallow depth of field (1080p at 30 fps)

About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 3000 test images and more than 2.5 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary


Apple iPhone 13 Pro
137
camera
144
photo
76
zoom
119
video

Pros

  • Accurate and repeatable target exposure
  • Nice color and white balance
  • Nice skin tones in most light conditions, even in complex  backlit scenes
  • Fast, accurate and repeatable autofocus
  • Good detail in indoor and outdoor conditions
  • Accurate and stable target exposure with fairly wide dynamic range in video
  • Well-managed texture/noise trade-off in video
  • Accurate white balance indoors and outdoors, smooth transitions in scene changes
  • Good autofocus tracking and smooth refocusing

Cons

  • Luminance noise on primary, ultra-wide and tele, especially in low light
  • Limited dynamic range in challenging high contrast scenes
  • Artifacts including flare, slight  ringing, and color quantization
  • Limited detail in long-range zoom shots
  • Occasional pink white balance casts in some conditions and some white balance variations in videos
  • Lens flare and ghosting, especially in low light video
  • Some loss of texture in video, especially on faces in daylight and indoor conditions
  • Sharpness differences between video frames and strong residual motion in video that is recorded while running

With a DXOMARK Camera overall score of 137 the Apple iPhone 13 Pro mingles among the very best devices in our camera ranking. The overall score is compounded by an excellent Photo score of 144. Like for all iPhones color rendering is vivid with nice skin tones and a slightly warm touch and the camera is generally very reliable, consistently producing high-quality images in all shooting situations. Overall Photo performance is quite similar to the 12 Pro we tested last year but improvements have been made in several areas.

Color and contrast have been improved on backlit portraits and images show higher levels of detail, especially when shooting under typical indoor conditions. It looks like Apple’s camera engineers have managed use the new sensor’s bigger pixel pitch to improve detail preservation but, like on the 12 Pro, luminance noise is still visible in most shooting situations.

The camera’s Zoom score of 76 isn’t quite up there with the very best but performance has still been improved over the 12 Pro, thanks to the longer 3x optical zoom versus 2x on the older model.

The outstanding Video score of 119 puts the iPhone 13 Pro at the very top of this sub-ranking, thanks to several improvements in key areas. Tone mapping instabilities that were very visible on the iPhone 12 series model have been fixed and exposure is now generally very stable. Autofocus performance has been pushed as well, thanks to better tracking a very smooth refocusing at the right moments. Our testers did not spot any unwanted focus breathing either.

Overall it’s fair to say Apple has managed to get the most out of its imaging hardware as most higher-positioned devices in our ranking come with larger and higher resolution sensors in their primary cameras.

Photo

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro achieves a Photo score of 144. In this section, we take a closer look at each sub-attribute and compare image quality against competitors. Please note the iPhone 13 Pro camera comes with a set of photo styles and users are asked for their preferred option when launching the camera app for the first time. You can choose between pre-defined photo styles or customize your own, using Tone and Warmth sliders. These settings modify both color and exposure. We skipped this option for our tests and used default settings as usual.

Exposure and Contrast

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

101

111

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (111)

In these tests we analyze target exposure, contrast, and dynamic range, including repeatability across a series of images. Tests are undertaken in a wide range of light conditions, including backlit scenes and low light down to 1 lux. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro produces accurate and repeatable target exposure in most tested conditions. However, dynamic range is often limited, resulting in highlight clipping in high-contrast scenes. It’s also worth mentioning that in the gallery app highlights in photos are rendered almost “aggressively” bright which can contribute to the impression of clipping. On a standard screen the effect is less pronounced.

These samples show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s exposure performance in a backlit scene.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, accurate face exposure and contrast but highlight clipping
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, contrast on face slightly too low, highlight clipping
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, good exposure on face but slightly worse contrast, wide dynamic range

Color

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

107

Highest Score

In these tests we analyze color rendering, skin tones, white balance, and color shading, including repeatability across a series of images. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

The Apple’s color rendering and white balance are generally pleasant and the camera captures very nice skin tones. Especially in high-contrast scenes the iPhone 13 Pro’s skin tones are better than the competition’s. It seems like the camera uses adaptive color rendering that adjusts to the captured skin tones and light conditions.

These samples show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s color performance in a backlit scene.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, nice skin tones
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, slightly less vivid skin tones
Huawei P50 Pro, cool cast, less vivid skin tones

Autofocus

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

106

109

Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders
Best: Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders (109)

In these tests we analyze autofocus accuracy and shooting time, including repeatability, in the lab. We test focus failures, depth of field, and tracking of moving subjects using perceptual analysis of real-life images.

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s autofocus is fast, accurate and repeatable in most conditions. Depth of field is slightly limited which is due to the larger sensor compared to the iPhone 12 series. Unlike Xiaomi on the Mi 11 Ultra Apple does not apply any image processing to increase sharpness of background subjects.

This graph shows the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s autofocus performance in the lab at a light level of 100 lux, with the camera mounted on a tripod.

Autofocus performance in indoor conditions (100 lux) on tripod: fast and accurate autofocus with negative shutter lag, even in high dynamic range conditions (EV 7). 

These samples show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s depth of field.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, depth of field
Apple iPhone 13 Pro, crop: limited depth of field, subject in the back out of focus
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, depth of field
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, crop: both faces in focus
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, depth of field
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: both faces in focus

Texture

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

104

111

Xiaomi Mi 11
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 (111)

In these tests we analyze texture on faces and objects, including objects in motion, in a range of light conditions, using several lab test setups and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

Detail in the iPhone 13 Pro is slightly higher than on its predecessor iPhone 12 Pro but still slightly below the best in class, such as the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. These samples show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s texture performance in daylight conditions.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, outdoor texture
Apple iPhone 13 Pro, crop: good detail
Huawei P50 Pro, outdoor texture
Huawei P50 Pro, crop: good detail
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, outdoor texture
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: good detail

This graph shows the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s texture performance in the lab across varying light levels.

Texture: detail is slightly higher on the 13 Pro than on the 12 Pro Max in bright light. However, it is still below the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

 

Noise

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

74

99

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (99)

In these tests we analyze noise on faces and objects, including objects in motion, in a range of light conditions, using several lab test setups and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

Luminance noise is visible in most conditions, especially in low light, and stronger than on some competitors. However, we’re mostly dealing with very fine grained luminance noise here which is much less intrusive than bigger noise “blobs” and can even result in an impression of better detail.

This graph shows the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s noise performance in the lab across light levels.

Noise comparison (smaller value is better): slight noise is visible in all conditions and quite similar to the 12 Pro Max. The competitors manage lower noise levels except in extreme low light where all devices are very close. 

These samples show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s noise performance in indoor conditions.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, indoor noise
Apple iPhone 13 Pro, crop: noise, especially in the shadows
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, indoor noise
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, crop: noise, especially in the shadows
Huawei P50 Pro, indoor noise
Huawei P50 Pro, crop: very low noise

Bokeh

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

75

80

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (80)

For these tests we switch to the camera’s bokeh or portrait mode and analyze depth estimation, bokeh shape, blur gradient, and repeatability, as well as all other general image quality attributes mentioned above. The score is derived from perceptual analysis of real-life images.

The iPhone 13 Pro camera produces a nice bokeh effect but slight depth estimation artifacts can be noticeable. Given the blur effect is quite strong, even small errors are quite visible. Color rendering is more pleasant than on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. These samples show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s bokeh simulation in daylight.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, bokeh mode
Apple iPhone 13 Pro, crop: nice blur but slight depth estimation artifacts around the head
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, bokeh mode
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, crop: slightly less intense blur, less vivid colors
Huawei P50 Pro, bokeh mode
Huawei P50 Pro, crop: good depth estimation, nice blur

Night

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

72

82

Huawei Mate 40 Pro+
Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ (82)

In these tests we shoot a selection of images in pitch-black darkness as well as with city lights in the background providing some illumination. We shoot sample images with the camera at default settings in both flash-auto and flash-off modes. We analyze all image quality attributes but we pay particular attention to exposure, autofocus, and color. We do not test night modes that have to be activated manually.

In night images the iPhone 13 Pro captures good detail in faces when the flash triggers. However, dynamic range is limited which leads to highlight clipping and underexposed backgrounds. These samples show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s night performance in flash-off mode.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, flash-off: limited dynamic range
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, flash-off: wider dynamic range

Artifacts

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

67

75

Google Pixel 4
Best: Google Pixel 4 (75)

In these tests we check images for optical artifacts such as vignetting, flare, lens softness in the corners, distortion, and chromatic aberrations, as well as for processing artifacts such as ghosting and fusion errors, hue shift, and ringing.

Image flare is frequently visible in all conditions. The same is true for ringing, aliasing, ghosting and color quantization. However, compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max the latter has been reduced. This image shows an example of the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s most common artifact (flare).

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, artifacts
Apple iPhone 13 Pro, crop: flare

Preview

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

80

Highest Score

In these tests we analyze the image quality of the preview image and the differences between preview images and captured images, particularly in terms of exposure, dynamic range, and bokeh effect. We also check the smoothness of the field-of-view changes in the preview image when zooming with both buttons or when using the pinch-zoom gesture.

As with previous iPhones, the preview rendering is mostly very close to the final captured image. In this example the iPhone 13 Pro preserves highlight detail noticeably better than the Huawei P50 Pro.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, preview
Huawei P50 Pro, preview
Apple iPhone 13 Pro, capture: capture and preview are very similar
Huawei P50 Pro, capture: highlight clipping on preview but not on capture

Zoom

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro achieves a Zoom score of 76. The Zoom score includes the tele and wide sub-scores. In this section, we take a closer look at how these sub-scores were achieved and compare zoom image quality against the competitors.

Wide

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

44

57

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (57)

In these tests we analyze the performance of the ultra-wide camera at several focal lengths from 12 to 20 mm. We look at all image quality attributes, but we pay particular attention to such artifacts as chromatic aberrations, lens softness, and distortion.

On the iPhone 13 Pro night mode is now available on the ultra-wide camera. The camera also automatically switches to the ultra-wide when a macro scene is detected (2-20cm shooting distance) which cannot be disabled. Neither of these two features is currently covered by our test protocol, though.

This sample shows the performance of the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s ultra-wide camera in outdoor conditions.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, ultra-wide: limited dynamic range
Huawei P50 Pro, ultra-wide: good exposure
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, ultra-wide: accurate exposure but slight distortion

Tele

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

97

140

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (140)

In these tests we analyze all image quality attributes at focal lengths from approximately 40 to 300 mm, paying particular attention to texture and detail. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

Compared its predecessor the iPhone 13 Pro’s tele zoom has been improved at medium range settings but with its relatively short optical tele still shows limitations at long range. Like for the ultra-wide it’s worth mentioning that night mode is now available on the tele lens but this is not currently tested under our protocol.

These samples show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s performance at a long-range tele setting.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, long-range tele
Apple iPhone 13 Pro, crop: loss of fine detail
Huawei P50 Pro, long-range tele
Huawei P50 Pro, crop: good detail on faces
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, long-range tele
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: good detail on faces

 

Texture score comparison at long range tele: the iPhone 13 Pro achieves better results than the 12 Pro Max in bright light. However, the competition is still doing better at long range.

Video

In our Video tests we analyze the same image quality attributes as for still images, such as exposure, color, texture or noise, but we also include such temporal aspects as speed, and smoothness and stability of exposure, white balance and autofocus transitions.

NOTE: The sample video clips in this section are best viewed at 4K resolution. 

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro achieves a Video score of 119. A device’s overall Video score is derived from its performance and results across a range of attributes in the same way as the Photo score. In this section we take a closer look at these sub-scores and compare video image quality against competitors.

Exposure and Contrast

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

118

Highest Score

The iPhone 13 Pro’s video exposure is accurate all around, with smooth transitions in changing light conditions. These sample clips show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s video autofocus performance in indoor conditions.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, stable exposure, wide dynamic range

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, slight instabilities, limited dynamic range

Huawei P50 Pro, low face exposure, limited dynamic range

Color

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

105

Highest Score

White balance is accurate in bright light and under indoor conditions, with smooth adaptations when the scene changes. In low light pink casts and slight instabilities can be noticeable. These sample clips show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s video color in an outdoor scene.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, nice color rendering

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, nice color rendering

Huawei P50 Pro, low face exposure, nice color rendering

Autofocus

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

109

Highest Score

The iPhone 13 Pro’s video autofocus has good tracking capabilities refocuses smoothly when the scene is changing. This can also be seen in Apple’s new Cinematic Mode” which automatically switches focus between foreground and background subjects, based on scene content. This new mode is not covered by our current test protocol, though.

These sample clips show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s video autofocus performance in daylight.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, good tracking

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, good tracking

Huawei P50 Pro, good tracking, slight focus delay on background after model is out of shot

Texture

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

93

97

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (97)

The iPhone 13 Pro manages the texture/noise trade-off well in video but texture rendering artifacts can be visible, especially on faces when recording in bright light or indoors. These sample clips show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s texture performance in low light.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, loss of fine detail

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, loss of fine detail

Huawei P50 Pro, good detail

This graph shows the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s detail preservation in video under different light conditions.

Video texture comparison: texture acutance has improved compared to the 12 Pro Max but the level of detail in low light is still low compared to some competitors.

Noise

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

105

Highest Score

These sample clips show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s noise performance in low light.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, very slight noise

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, noise

Huawei P50 Pro, slight noise

This graph shows the Apple iPhone 13 Pro noise performance in the lab.

Video noise comparison: noise level is quite low in all tested lab conditions

Artifacts

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

72

94

Oppo Find X2 Pro
Best: Oppo Find X2 Pro (94)

For video artifacts, we check for the same kinds of artifacts mentioned in the Photo section, along with such video-specific artifacts as frame rate variation in different light conditions, judder effect, and moving artifacts (artifacts such as aliasing, color quantization, and flare can often be more intrusive when moving than in a still image).

This video shows a flare effect in low light.

Strong flare

Stabilization

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

101

102

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (102)

In these tests we analyze residual motion when handholding the camera during recording, as well as when walking and running with the camera. We also look for stabilization artifacts such as jello effect, sharpness differences between frames, and frame shift (abrupt changes of framing).

Sharpness difference between frames is sometimes visible and strong residual motion is visible in running motion. These sample clips show the Apple iPhone 13 Pro’s stabilization performance in daylight.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, strong residual motion when running

Huawei P50 Pro, slight residual motion when running

Videos

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