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iPhone 13 Pro: Why this pro photographer is excited for Apple's new phone

From macro skills to ProRes video, there are some good reasons for photographers to crave the iPhone 13 Pro.

Apple Event new iPhone 13 cameras
Screenshot by CNET
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple.

The iPhone 13 Pro cameras aren't a total overhaul from those found on the iPhone 12, but there are some neat tweaks that make a pro photographer like me pretty excited. Here's what's got me popping. 

I've used the iPhone 12 Pro Max since it launched, and I'm always impressed by the quality of the shots I can take with it. That's especially true when I'm using ProRaw and editing my shots in apps like Adobe Lightroom. So I'm interested to hear that the main camera has an even larger image sensor with an f1.5 aperture. That's going to allow it to capture a lot more light. And more light means better photos.

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The telephoto zoom has been bumped from 2.5x to 3x, which is welcome too. I use the telephoto zoom a lot on my phone to find more interesting compositions in the landscape that might be lost if I just shot all the time with the wide-angle lens. Still, I'd have liked to have seen an even bigger zoom boost to put it closer to the Galaxy S21 Ultra's amazing 10x optical zoom. 

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An example of macro, taken on the iPhone 13.

Screenshot by CNET

Super-wide and macro

Then there's the super-wide-angle lens, which has a much wider aperture and improved night mode for better shots in the dark. That's great, because the 12 Pro Max's super-wide shots weren't always that good at night. The super-wide also has a new macro function, letting you capture shots of objects as close as 2 centimeters (a little more than three quarters of an inch) from the phone. I love macro photography and can spend hours crawling through the undergrowth looking for things to shoot, so I'm really keen to see how the 13 Pro compares with my usual macro setup. 

But it's the video skills that have been given possibly the biggest updates here. I've shot hours and hours of video with my 12 Pro Max and regularly use it as a vlogging tool for my own photography YouTube channel. The 13 Pro's wider apertures and bigger telephoto zooms will already go a long way to improving the overall quality of video you can capture, but the new Cinematic Mode could help add an extra pro touch to your filmmaking. 

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Cinematic Mode

In Cinematic Mode, the camera will dynamically hold focus on a subject's face as the subject moves through the scene. If the person gazes away from the camera, the focus will move too -- just like how focus would be shifted manually on pro cinema cameras. You can also tap to shift focus and tap twice on a face to lock focus on it. But that focus and depth data isn't baked into the video clip -- you can go back and edit the amount of bokeh and the focus points in your video after you've shot it. 

Apple Event new iPhone 13 cameras

The iPhone 13 Pro was shown in use for capturing cinematic moments in tough places. 

Screenshot by CNET

Apple ProRes

I'm also super excited to see that Apple ProRes will come to the 13 Pro later this year. For those of you not familiar, ProRes is a video codec Apple developed that compresses the video file but retains excellent image and color data, allowing for much greater control and quality when it comes to postproduction. It's frequently used for commercials and feature films, but this'll be the first time it's been seen on a mobile device. 

The 13 Pro will be able to shoot in ProRes at 4K resolution at 30 frames per second, and I can't wait to see what sort of professional cinematic quality it's possible to achieve in your phone videos. Am I keen to see if I can give my little weekend YouTube channel a major cinematic overhaul? Damn right I am. 

Of course the brighter, faster display will be helpful when shooting in sunny conditions, the 1TB max storage option will be useful for storing all those 4K ProRes videos, and I guess the new A15 bionic processor is the beating heart that's processing all that fancy new video. 

So no, this isn't a revolution in photography, and I'm a little disappointed not to see an even bigger zoom lens. But the iPhone 12 Pro Max was already superb for photography, and the 13 Pro takes all the elements that made it great and gives each one a nice upgrade. It probably won't be worth the upgrade over the 12 Pro Max, but if you're running an older handset and looking for the ultimate in mobile photography and videography, the iPhone 13 Pro may well be the phone for you.