OPINION: The Xiaomi 13 Pro is a top-end performer not only in terms of speed but photography, with a main rear camera backed by a huge 1-inch sensor – one of very few on the market in 2023. However, it’s not the main lens that has impressed me most; that would be the telephoto lens.
When the Xiaomi 13 Pro was revealed alongside the Xiaomi 13 at MWC 2023, the company primarily focused on showcasing the main 50MP rear camera – and it’s clear to see why. It boasts impressive tech including a 1-inch IMX989 sensor larger than most of the competition, including the Galaxy S23 Ultra, along with a decent f/1.9 aperture, large 1.8um pixels and the ability to shoot in Dolby Vision HDR at up to 4K@60fps – a beloved feature of recent iPhones.
It’s not hard to see why people were excited about the tech either; the main camera is certainly capable in a variety of lighting scenarios, though I did find that it didn’t suck in quite as much light as I’d like, especially compared to the Vivo X90 Pro’s 1-inch camera sensor.
Still, it was much faster at capturing night shots than most of the competition, and there’s something to be said for the true-to-life look of the results.
For most people, that will be the go-to camera when out and about – but I found more joy from using the 50MP telephoto lens, and that’s not something I’ve found with any phone I’ve reviewed recently, if ever.
Usually, it’s the main sensor that gets all the attention, with additional lenses serving more niche purposes, but that’s simply not the case with the Xiaomi 13 Pro. Maybe that Leica partnership is more than a gimmick after all…
The 3.2x telephoto lens boasts a 50MP resolution, which is fairly high for a telephoto lens and allows it to use pixel-binning tech to improve detail and light, but that’s not what makes it so impressive. It’s down to Leica’s OIS-powered floating telephoto camera tech which essentially allows the camera module to move around to adjust focus and make sure your subject is always sharp and clear.
This means that, as well as providing a narrower 75mm equivalent lens ideal for portrait photography, the telephoto lens is just as capable when used as a macro lens. In fact, it takes some of the best macro shots I’ve seen from a smartphone, with exquisite amounts of detail and a natural DSLR-like bokeh effect.
The use of the floating camera system meant that shots were always in focus with very few, if any, need to re-shoot close-ups upon inspection. It works with subjects as close as 10cm away, which is admittedly a little farther than some dedicated macro lenses, but the increased 3.2x zoom means there’s parity with the competition.
For the first time, I actively looked out for potentially interesting subjects to shoot up close because I knew the results would look great. It’s such a stark difference to using a low-res macro lens or a crop of the ultra-wide camera, as many alternatives tend to do.
It’s just as performative when shooting portrait photography. Aside from the ideal 75mm crop for portrait photos, the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s ProFocus tech doesn’t just detect faces but eyes in particular, with on-screen tracking to let you know that it has recognised the subject’s eyes. This allows the phone to perfectly focus on the eyes of the subject for maximum impact.
It also has some of the best edge detection tech I’ve seen from a portrait lens with very few, if any, errors, even when it comes to hairlines and glasses. Bundle in a natural DLSR-like bokeh and Leica’s Authentic photography style that delivers true-to-life colour reproduction and you’ve got a capable portrait lens.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the most expansive telephoto lens around, sporting a rather short 3.2x zoom compared to other top-end 2023 phones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and its 10x zoom, but in terms of overall quality and sheer versatility, I think Xiaomi’s telephoto lens is unsurpassed.