Zooming into the Macro Mode on the iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro series is a pro at getting up close and snappy
- Although other brands have been coming up with sensors dedicated to macro (super close up) photography for a while, Apple has steered clear of having any macro mode on its iPhones.
- With the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, Apple has, however, now brought macro photography to the iPhone.
- Although there is no visible macro mode or button on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, the devices are now capable of taking some excellent close-up shots – shots that can compete with the best in the business.
On paper, there does not seem to be too much difference in the cameras on the iPhone 13 Pro series as compared to their predecessors. Three sensors on the back? Check. The same physical arrangement as last year? Check. All three sensors on the back being 12-megapixel each? Check. One primary sensor, one ultra zoom, and one telephoto sensor? Check.
But beneath those very similar sounding specs are a number of improvements on the cameras of the latest iPhones. Most are subtle, but there is one in the Pro range that jumps right out at you – the macro mode. For the uninitiated, the macro mode is used to take extreme close-ups – shots that you take from literally an inch or two from the subject. Those amazing insect or water droplet close-ups? Those are macro shots.
No dedicated macro mode, but the iPhone can now do macro shots…
The macro mode is prevalent among phone photographers, which is why many brands have included dedicated macro sensors in their phones, and some others have made ultra-wide sensors double up as macro ones. Apple, however, had steered clear of putting a macro mode on its iPhone cameras. As a result, the only way to get macros on the iPhone was to see how close you could get to the subject without losing focus (generally about four to five inches – well short of typical macro mode) or taking a picture and then cropping it to highlight something tiny. Some third-party apps let you take macro snaps, but they were a bit hit and miss.
That changes with the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max.
The latest Pros in the iPhone series come with macro capabilities that can make a significant difference in your photography. Mind you, it is not apparent straight away from the user interface – there is no option labeled “macro” out there. But move your iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max closer to your subject, and suddenly you will notice you are able to get close – amazingly close – and still getting really clear shots.
There is no macro mode activated when you take a photograph – you just see the phone switch lenses (it goes to the ultra-wide), and voila, you can suddenly get into the classic macro distance. From our experience with the iPhone 13 Pro Max so far, you can get as close as a couple of centimeters. And well, you can actually get closer, but at that stage, more often than not, the shadow of the phone tends to fall over the subject.
Not perfect, a little buggy, but capable of macro magic!
Yes, there has been some talk of how “inelegant” the switching of sensors can seem when you start getting close to your subject but honestly, we are not too bothered by this. That is because what the new Pros in the iPhone range serve up are incredibly detailed and very clear macros. Macros that are taken by the main sensor and not a secondary (or third-ary or fourth-ary) 2, 5, or 8 megapixel one, which in most cases seems to exist more to add numbers on the back of a phone than actually to deliver great close up snaps. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max deliver proper 12 megapixels close-up shots in all their glory so that you can edit them, and well, if you insist on an even closer view, even crop them without losing too much detail. This is pretty close to specialist camera territory.
No, they are not perfect. The switching of lenses can seem a little jerky and awkward. As you get closer to your subject, Apple’s famed optical image stabilization seems to lose some of its effectiveness as a lot of camera “shake” creeps in as you start getting closer. There is also no real way of knowing when you are too close – you have to keep a sharp eye out to notice when the details start getting blurred. And while you can switch lenses as you get closer (one might get tempted to switch to telephoto and get even closer to the subject), we would advise against doing so. Finally, the mode is still just a little buggy – sometimes, you can keep getting close to your subject, and the camera just does not seem to focus at all.
But judging from what we have seen so far, we would go out on a limb and say that the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max take perhaps some of the best macro snaps you can get from a phone today. And in best Apple tradition, they have done it quietly and without creating a massive fuss or even making you hit an extra button. That said, we think having that extra button to hit would have been slightly more visible and would have let users know that the mode exists – right now, it just jumps out at you.